Do you find wine reviews confusing? by John Gerum

There are many questions when it comes to how wines are reviewed and scored by wine critics. When reading a wine review some people become more confused. If you’re not familiar with a few basic wine terms then the task of deciphering a review is made even more difficult.


A basic question may be, “How do you get all those smells and flavours in the wine?” Many think that the winemaker adds all these flavours to the wine like a cocktail recipe where you add pineapple and lemon juice to vodka and stir. Flavours are not added but are a result of the type of grape used, the fermentation and aging process, and whether it is aged in an oak barrel or the bottle itself.

When a reviewer states that the wine smells and tastes like black cherry, does that mean it tastes exactly like a black cherry? The short answer is no, it is the closest flavour that the reviewer can describe to the reader. A hundred years ago this system of describing wines by associating them with fruit, flowers, and woodsy flavours did not even exist. Wines were either feminine or masculine; now don’t ask me how that system came about! At least now you have some idea about the written descriptions of wine

The more confusing aspect of some wine reviews is the number score. You have probably seen a score between 80 to 95 points assigned to some wine reviews. This scoring system was developed by Robert M. Parker Jr., the most influential wine critic in the world. A lawyer by trade, he devised a scoring system that was based on the perfect wine obtaining 100 points. All wines have points taken away from them according to balance, colour, smell, aging potential and taste. The wines are all given 50 base points, so the worlds’ worst wine would score 50 points. Wines scoring 70 to 80 are below average to average in quality, wines scoring 80 to 90 points are above average to outstanding, and wines over 90 points are in a league of their own as the worlds’ highest priced and most sought after wines.

There are certain problems with this system. One of them is what is the real difference between an 89 point wine and a 90 point wine? Probably not much when you consider that the scoring depends on the exactness of every reviewer. That is why you will see the same wines scoring 86 points from one reviewer and 90 points from another. It is for that reason that I don’t put a lot of stock on wine scores, it is a tool to the general quality of wine but I believe a thorough description of a wine is more helpful to the reader. The last but most important factor is how does the score matter to someone who does not like a full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon? Even if that wine is given 95 points that person will not enjoy it. So the score is up to you, if you think it is a great glass of wine feel free to give it 100 points.


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