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Understanding Wine Ratings Part 2

OD-AV904 WINE P G 20130301123200At its best, the art and science of wine blend together and become a compound inseparable from each other, and thus, like art, wine at times often transcends our ability to measure its quality empirically. Sometime ago I wrote an article called “The rating of wine … where does one begin?”

This article, now almost two years old, has been visited over 178,000 times. It seems clear to me that the topic of wine ratings, and understanding the power and influence they possess, underscores many of our biases, desires and behaviors when it comes to selecting, purchasing, collecting, investing and even choosing which wine to imbibe.   

In my previous article I describe the 20 point scale that intends to offer an empirical process for applying a measurement scale to the qualities of wine. I also promised to visit and write about the 100 point scale utilized and made popular by wine critic Robert Parker Jr. My intention here is to briefly discuss the 100 point wine scale with the goal of expanding upon my opinions rather than presenting some kind of thesis on this Needless to say, wine ratings are important and do have measurable effects on the economics of a wine. wine-ratings1

In the late 1970’s a relatively unknown attorney in Maryland fell in love and traveled to Alsace, France to pursue his future wife. In the late 1970’s, Mr. Parker began chronicling his wine tasting musings and critiques and conceived of producing a resource for wine enthusiasts, which is now called (formerly known as The Wine Advocate). Mr. Parker along with his friend Victor Morgenroth popularized a 100 point rating system.

This rating system gained rapid popularity and clout because it parroted the academic scales (A, B, C etc.) that practically everyone can readily identify with. Thus the application of a 100-point system promoted the natural belief that 90 points and higher meant quality. To me it means “A” grade. And who doesn’t want to enjoy an A grade wine?

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The rating of wine: where does one begin?

Wednesdays, at, will be devoted to discussing various wine reviews while also attempting to empirically describe and rate the wines we review. We intend to engage in these reviews in an unbiased and objective fashion. Since we believe that wine expresses itself much like art, where it is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so we must recognize that like art, the beauty and intrigue of a particular wine lies, after all, in the “Palate of the Taster".

“Empiricism” is defined as a theory of communicating knowledge primarily from measurable sensory experiences. So, how then are wines “rated” in an empirical fashion? understanding wine ratings

Applying empirical methodologies upon subjective experiences like our human sensory experience of evaluating wine can assist us in describing the experience to others without their need to taste that particular wine themselves in order for them to form an expectation of the particular experience prior to the reality of their experience. We shall therefore seek to describe a wine in terms of objective measurements so as to convey both the real and qualitative characteristics of a wine-tasting experience.blind wine tasting

This article will discuss one of the earliest wine rating systems established in the United States. This was a “point scale system” established in 1959 at the University of California, Davis, by Dr. Maynard A. Amerine. Dr. Amerine (1911-1998) is revered as the pre-eminent Professor of Enology, who, along with his staff, created a 20-point system that was used as a guide to describe and rank the large number of experimental wines that were being produced at the university.

Dr. Amerine's system, commonly referred to as "The Davis System" assigns a certain number of points to each of ten distinct categories. These points are then totaled to obtain an overall score for a particular wine.

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Rebecca Barbee
Thanks for the informative post - it was fun to learn what a 90pt wine actually means. Looking forward to exploring wines and lear... Read More
Saturday, 02 February 2013 4:04 PM
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