Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Wine Critic Critique!

Are you every contemplating how people critique wine?  Do you ever wonder what those numbers really mean on the wine shelves?

As I see more people picking up on my wine recommendations, I wanted to make sure we all remember that the wines I post here are suggestions for consumers to buy.  When I was in California, I tasted a lot of Californian wines... so I rated a lot of Californian wines.  When I was in Florida, I added Floridian wines to the list.  Now I'm in Pennsylvania so I can easily find attractive, well-made Pennsylvanian and eastern wines.  I think these wines are worth sharing because many do not try them! 

Wine critiquing is hard!  What? Why?  How hard can judging a wine really be?

Well, when you consider that each one of us has different taste genetics, varying taste preferences, and sever predispositions or wine biases, I think there are a lot of variables that you can say makes wine critiquing difficult.

Generic Wine Scorecard from Temecula
(Photo from Wine In Temecula)

No wine critic has received as much attention as the infamous Robert Parker.  Despite what your views on him, he has popularized the use of a scale.  Americans like their numbers.  In fact, as many wine critics point out, a number is:
- simple and well recognized
- easy for wine stores to post while advertising wines
- a quick opinion that any wine drinker can understand

The problems with numbers:
- what's the real difference between an 85 and an 86?
- is a 96 really that much better than a 92?

Robert Parker
(Photo from Google Images)

This has become the popular American way to taste and describe wines - with numbers.  You'll often find the popular press magazines (e.g. Wine Spectator, Decanter).

However, other wine critics find that words are more useful than numbers, as you can actually see what the wine is supposed to taste like.  However, like the numbers, words can have varying meanings.  As Natalie MacLean points out: "Is brilliant better than outstanding?  Is zesty better than refreshing?"

Natalie MacLean
(All photos from Google Images)

I'm somewhat in agreement with the fact that words are just as, if not more, important than a number.  However, I know many people enjoy having a number to evaluate, which is why I include them here in my blog for you, which a break down of points.  My only hopes is that you have noted I also include my overall opinion, and usually try to give some advice on what to food to pair with "x" wine.  Regardless of how we try to keep wine critiquing unbiased, it is, indeed, a very biased process.

Which is easier for you to read and select a wine for purchase?
Wine Scores

Wine Words
(Photos from Google Images)

You'll find that many wine critics, such as Jancis Robinson (she was the featured editor from "The Oxford Companion of Wine" a few weeks ago...) offer up your suggestions, comments, and opinions on wines.  I think this is important.  What you like matters!  And every individual is different.   These wine critics know that what they like may not be what you like and that every voice matters.  You can read more about Jancis Robinson at the attached link. 
Jancis Robinson

 Please remember, I'm not famous... I'm not a professional wine writer.  I write about wines that I'm lucky about to taste an share.  I also try to find things that I know all of us can buy.  Sometimes, I review a wine simply because someone brings it to a gathering or someone asks me to taste it.  How can I say no?  If we refer back to what the "D-2010 Scale" means...

"I rate my wines on a 30 to 100 point scale.  (Every wine deserves 30 points for trying!)  A wine in the 90s is unbelievably good with lots of redeeming qualities that I believe many of my readers will find enjoyable, a wine in the 80s is a good wine that may have some sort of component that is out of balance or missing, but still worth purchasing, a wine in the 70s is probably a 1 time purchase for me but I'm glad I tried it, a wine in the 60s would be difficult for me to purchase again... and I will probably not purchase anything below 60 again!  Each component (appearance, aroma/bouquet/flavor, taste, balance, length of the finish, and packaging) has a scale that I follow to rate my wines and at the end, I add up each component to get a grand total.  [Please note that I do not include this scale on my blog for all the readers to see at this time.]  I will always give you the grand total when I rate each wine posted on "Denise's Press Fractions."  Following this total, I'll give you my opinion.  This means your opinion of the wine may differ from mine, and I invite all of my readers to comment on the wines I post.  I know that what I like, you may not like, and vice versa.  So I am open for discussion."

Quick recap on the D-2010 Scale:
90+ = super good wine, please buy!
80-89 = good wine, worth a purchase because maybe there's something I don't like that you will!
70-79 = a decent wine, but a 1-time purchase for me
60-69 = it tastes like wine, but I probably won't buy again
<60 = not so good... in my humble opinion

As I do not get paid to endorse wines, nor do I want to endorse individual wines by excluding others, I have tried to find varying resources that may be helpful while looking for wines.  These include:
- The Wine and Food Matcher widget (attached from Natalie's website that will be discussed on Thursday)
- Snooth
- Jancis Robinson's website
- Nathalie MacLean's website/newsletter
- Tim Hanni's consumer preferences website
- Wine Blogs - there are thousands out there!

Over the course of time, I hope I will find more valuable resources for all you to indulge and explore your individual preferences.  

I'm not going to lie to you - my tastings are not bias-free.  I know what wines I'm tasting, sometimes I know the producers, and sometimes I just like the packaging a LOT.  I think these are all valid points worth sharing.  Sometimes I also include notes from what several people were saying while we tasted the wine... After all, the point of wine is to share a moment, and I hope that all of you will get that my from continuing blog.  Cheers!

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