Wine X Staff
Do wine reviews and ratings really mean anything?
It seems like every wine you see now has some sort of award or high rating. And of course, Wine X is part of that game too. Guilty. The whole industry has become saturated with “98’s” and “Blah Blah’s Wines of the Year” awards. Most people who work in the industry don’t take much of this seriously. The only people who seem infatuated with the numbers and awards are the people on the marketing side of the business who turn an award into shelf hangers, website claims, or other “POP” merchandising. Not judging. I’ve yet to find a wine that caught some judge’s attention that was undrinkable. So if you’re just getting into wine and find yourself at the grocery store staring a lot of unfamiliar bottles, grabbing one of these winnahs really ain’t a bad strategy.
Rollback time. Wines were originally rated and compared internationally with very high standards, often using a very methodical process. Back then, even a great drinking bottle might score low if it wasn’t “typical” of its region. The community of wine raters that had any real standing and share-of-voice was pretty small and was organically self-policing.
Fast forward to today. A lot has changed. The first and most obvious difference is that the internet and affordable self-publishing have radically expanded the universe of wine rating options available for marketers to choose among. Second, the American pre-disposition to WIN has, I believe, inflated wine scores. Here’s what I mean. Let’s take west coast pinot for example. Twenty years ago, a 90 pt bottle was viewed as amazing, and an 85 was perfectly delightful. Today, the number of 92-95 point west coast pinots is overwhelming. To be fair, the region’s commitment to pinot and collective winemaking wisdom is, in my opinion, making better pinots. No doubt. But I think the other thing in play is that the consumer’s mind just can’t get their heads around an A- grade being an elite score. Flame away if you disagree.
Of course, seeing a high score or awards from a notable magazine or an influencer that you trust typically does mean that the wine is of some quality. It’s even better if the verbiage gives a few tasting notes that match up with flavors you like. Totally rational buying decision. Agonizing just delay your first pour. Commit. Just go for it.
Here’s my caveat though: Some of the best wines out there are from smaller wineries that have a fair price and no advertisements. For example, we just tasted some of the Maple Creek Vineyard Artevino offerings that were all delicious, and for the most part unreviewed. Honestly, a quick look at their website would jump me past a ratings-based-decision and then subsequently jump a couple of bottles into my shopping cart. Family-owned, great personal story, an espoused philosophy on what wine means to them…… oozes coolness. Buy Buy Buy
If you do want another opinion on certain wines before you purchase, visit forums online or wine blogs that give unbiased reviews, commentary, etc. Even a search on Twitter is worth it. See what others said & how that bottle added to the poster’s enjoyment of their day.
When it comes down to it, the best wine is the wine that you enjoy drinking. And coming back around full circle, don’t underestimate your own reach. Do a winery a good karma thing – when you enjoy a bottle, post about it somewhere in your social universe. Someone else will benefit you from your thoughts.
Rant over. Cheers!