Wines and ratings
October 15, 2008
I constantly receive plenty of emails from wine sellers, I guess the moment someone notices that I import and sell wine, they see me as a potential buyer and therefore add my name to their mailing list and I receive emails from all over the world, not only UK based businesses.
However, these emails have one thing in common, they always include wine critics' rating and better than that, they use the ratings to sell the wine. All they say is the name of the wine and the rating, mentioning only the highest. For a few wines, as an exercise, I searched for wine critics' ratings and found that not all wine critics gave the same rating to the wines and the wine seller only reported the ones who rated the wine the most choosing one or the other according to the rating given but the real question here is what is the value of a rating for the wine drinker.
Wine critics can play an important role, offering information that will not be otherwise available and at the same time, can make the world to discover new regions and producers however, simply tasting a few highly rated wines from the same critic, we can guess the critic's preferences and therefore see that their ratings are influenced by their palate. And not all wine critics think the same, there are plenty of cases were wine critics disagree on rating a vintage or a wine. Still, wine consumers do buy highly rated wines otherwise they will not be given so much importance.
Is a high rated wine a safe purchase? Are we going to like the wine simply because it was given 90 point? Do we like an artist simply because the critics love him/her ? No, this is the answer. But whilst for the artist we are happy to say what we think, for the wine, we don't, we are afraid of saying our opinion when different from the wine critic's one. Why? And what is the difference for a wine drinker between an 88 point and a 90 point wine? The rating will never tell us whether we like a wine or not and will never be a safe purchase and the two points difference that makes such a big difference in the critics' wine world, for a normal wine drinker are irrilevant.
Ratings are given based on a tasting in a specific day, under certain circumstances, in a certain mood, amongst certain wines. If we change any of the above, the result will likely to be different. Selling wines by their rate is an easy way of selling wine, we can all do that, we don't need any knowledge or skills, and we will all be selling the same wines and many of the email I receive do, with the only difference being the price but an highly rated wine normally brings an inflated price. Also, plenty of fantastic wines never get to be tasted by wine critics and if we only be drinking the highly rated wines, we will stop enjoying wine and will all have lost something. Wine retailers should not rely too much on wine critics, they should do their bit to promote wine and educate wine consumers selling unknown and unrated wines.
Wine consumers should listen, read but then buy the wines they like and not the ones that someone else does.
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