Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Comparing wine ratings from different sources


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

I noticed in the Morrell catalog that there are ratings included from a variety of sources: Parker, Wine Spectator, Tanzer, and even Morrell's own tasters. They're all 100-point-scale ratings but I wonder how comparable they are. Does anybody have a feel for what kind of weighing and discounting needs to be performed to bring rough equivalency to wine ratings from the various major sources? I'm not thinking to buy any wine based on this, but I am trying to get a feel for the price-ratings equation.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In general, people who are fanatical about wine would probably agree to the following about each of the three you mentioned. Parker's ratings are biased in favor of powerful, overripe, overextracted and oaky wines. When he gives a wine a high rating, it almost always impacts the price at retail. At the low to medium end, a Gigondas made in the style he prefers can sell in the low $30 range where most quality Gigondas sell for about $10 less. His impact on market price can be felt much more at the high end and on low production wines, especially wines where there is a secondary market where they are resold by collectors at auction. In fact the auction market revolves almost solely on his ratings. The Wine Spectators ratings are worthless to serious collectors except for the rare occassion where they get serious about it and champion a wine. In those instances, it's worth taking note, but you have to discount their recommendation by 20-30%. Even wines that they annoint as "Wine of the Year" like 1998 Ornallaia and 1996 Ducru Beaucaillou are good wines, but sort of leave people scratching their heads as to why they are WOTY. But the title added 50% to the market price of Ornalaia, from around $100 to $150. Otherwise, I'm not sure how much they affect prices. I think there are two places where they make the most impact. Helping people distinguish between hundreds of indistinguishable California chardonnays and mid-level cabernet sauvignons which are already overpriced and need help selling through to consumers, and articles about entire regions who did well in a particular vintage. I understand from certain retailers that the WS is driving sales of 1997 Brunello nased on their review of the vintage which means, people who don't normally buy Brunello are buying. Tanzer is probably the most balanced of the three, but lacking any significant personality. Only on the rarest of occassions do his ratings move prices at retail. In the time I've been collecting wine, I can recall it happening twice. Hope this helps.

.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And how about the Morrell ratings? I'm sure the Morrell people have good palates, but when a retailer starts rating its own inventory that raises a credibility flag for me.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unless I know the individual at a store doing the rating, I just ignore it.

Many, many wines would get a high rating if you looked at enough ratings. The difference between ratings can be 10 points, even after accounting for conservatism/liberal ratings.

beachfan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am chairing a '97 Brunello tasting,dinner and though I normally never include a wine that I have not tried myself I did take the advise of one of my suppliers and bought 6 bottles of the Le Macioche because Tanzer had given the wine a 95. Lo and behold the Wine Spectator gave it a 79. (that is low and scarey) So, I opened a bottle with 4 wine friends and our average score was 93.5. Once again, for perhaps the hundreth time I have sworn not to ever read the WS ratings of wines.

They rarely get it right while I rely and trust Tanzer, plus my friends and people like Steve on this forum.

Hank

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must concur with the thoughts on the WS ratings, they are rarely accurate in way of taste and unnecessarily account for an increase in price on low end wines. I also find it incredibly unnerving that any wines they suddenly "showcase" and glorify are also the same wines buying pages and pages of advertising. The almighty dollar rears it's ugly head once more at the cost of common sense and taste.

But, I'm not bitter. :hmmm:

"Expect nothing, be prepared for anything."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find Parker's ratings almost useless because his tastes are so different from mine. Same for Wine Spectator, because they have so many different tasters and I don't know their tastes.

Reading reviews of my favorite wines, ones I've had many times in many vintages, I very often (maybe 50% of the time) find myself asking, "were they drinking the same wine I was?"

As with grades and SAT scores, discursive descriptions are more useful. If I find more than one reviewer using my favorite words (including, for instance, tobacco, leather, smoke, earth, fragrant, berries, rich, floral, spice box, complex), or words that hold promise of same with ageing, I start considering a wine. Sometimes they'll use a bunch of those words, then give it a low score. I still take a look. (If I hear "vanilla" or "toasty oak," I run screaming.)

If I hear something like "a spicy fruit bomb" describing a Cotes du Rhone, I figure, "okay, a good-quality, one- or two-dimensional, standard Rhone, like dozens that are available for a great price. (Or even cheaper from Languedoc.) How much is it?"

Maybe we should do a thread where people list off the words that describe their favorite types of wine. I, for instance, prefer berries to cherries (hence, in general, rhones over italians). We'll each be different, but it might help us all read deeper than the ratings, to find wines that fit our tastes. It might also help us get wines that, for us, outperform their ratings and their prices.

And of course, we have different preferences for different situations. My favorite words, for instance, don't describe the Tavel rosé that I enjoy so much on a hot summer evening in Provence....

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Parker's Choices are excellent but a might big for my palate. However I must add that as my palate becomes more refined - I come to agree more and more with his ratings. As far as Wine Spectator - I find I'm in closest harmony with James Laube, James Suckling and Harvery Steinman and farthest from the ratings of Per-Henrik Mansson.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sfroth, by all means start an adjectives thread.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Parker's Choices are excellent but a might big for my palate. However I must add that as my palate becomes more refined - I come to agree more and more with his ratings. As far as Wine Spectator - I find I'm in closest harmony with James Laube, James Suckling and Harvery Steinman and farthest from the ratings of Per-Henrik Mansson.

You are consistent if nothing else, as Laube and Suckling definitely prefer New World styled wines that also receive high scores from parker. As I have said before, if your palate matches his, Parker is a great resource.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Parker's Choices are excellent but a might big for my palate. However I must add that as my palate becomes more refined - I come to agree more and more with his ratings. As far as Wine Spectator - I find I'm in closest harmony with James Laube, James Suckling and Harvery Steinman and farthest from the ratings of Per-Henrik Mansson.

You are consistent if nothing else, as Laube and Suckling definitely prefer New World styled wines that also receive high scores from parker. As I have said before, if your palate matches his, Parker is a great resource.

I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in total Parker sync in the next 5-10 years. I do think Mansson is in-accurate though. I could take 6 of his highest recommendations and 3 would be great and 3 would be average at best. Happened on more than one occasion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of good posts on here that are full of good information. However, don't forget the influence of the retailer. Tasting notes are provided for one reason: to get you to buy a product. I work in the business for a medium-to-large retailer and we provide tasting notes for each wine, spirit and beer that we sell. We scourge every latest magazine for the best rating (not the most sensical or the one from the most consistent source, just the best score) and that is the tasting note we use. If we cannot find a note, then we taste the booze and rate it ourselves. (Now, given, that I am pretty adept at spirits and our wine guy is more than adept at wine). So you must consider motive. Also, if the notes are not being directly sampled, you have to check for omitted words that some might not find palatable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to follow Parker, especially for Bordeaux. For my taste, I find his scoring for Rhones to be incredibly inflated and out of the ballpark. For a Guigal single vintage Cote Rotie from a good year, a score of 97 would be low, and although I certainly like them, they're not that good. His assistant Pierre-Antoine Rovani who does Burgandies and a few other areas is even better than Parker. I find his ratings of white burgandies to be definitive.

I agree that the Wine Spectator verges on worthless. They are totally inconsistent and engage in obviously flawed practices such as merging scores derived from horizontal tastings into a vertical rating system. Looking at the scores for the 1982 versus the 1988 Haut Brion's is a good example.

Clive Coates is another serious wine rater who wrote a comprehensive review of Bordeaux a few years back. He rates on a 20 point system. He is well respected and considered serious. I believe that he has a genuine aesthetic and point of view, but I personally can't relate to his scores at all. I'm curious as to others' opinions on this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...