Wine Ratings and Price
A common question on WineMakingTalk is, “If I make XXX, how does that compare to a $$$ wine?”
What is the Yardstick?
This is an impossible question to answer, as the price of the wine does NOT indicate the quality. I’ve had $50 bottles that were totally meh, and $8 bottles that were pure gold. I rarely spend more than $15 USD on a bottle, as I focus on the low price gems. I go by rating — considering where the wine ranks on a 100 point scale. This is subjective, but it cuts the $$$ (or your local currency) out of the equation.
Generally speaking, a producer charges what they believe they can get for the wine, or as much as their inflated ego says it’s worth. Recently I had a a Beaujolais that cost $12 USD, and this wine is far superior to a California Cabernet Sauvignon that was double the price. The Winexpert Reserve (10 liter) Cabernet Sauvignon I made for my son’s wedding reception was better than the commercial Cabernet Sauvignon, but not as good as the Beaujolais. [Folks at the reception certainly enjoyed the wine!]
As much as we want a yardstick to compare against, with wine it can be tough. Instead of price, consider using wine scores from reputable entities.
If the Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast rate a wine as 80, I expect a decent table wine, acceptable, but noting special. If a wine is 85, it should be very good, and if a wine is 90? I expect (and get) a superior wine. Note that the scores are based upon the tastes of others, but they work as a general measure.
The Wine Spectator scale is:
|95-100||Classic: a great wine|
|90-94||Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style|
|85-89||Very good: a wine with special qualities|
|80-84||Good: a solid, well-made wine|
|75-79||Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws|
Of course, this assumes that you know what a given wine should taste like, but that comes with experience.
Folks trying to make a 95-100 point wine? I regret to inform you that you are going to fail. If the major wineries that have access to the highest quality grapes, the best equipment, and highly trained personnel can’t do it consistently — the likelihood of any of us doing it is rather remote. Also keep in mind that these high end wineries will produce *1* wine in a year that is highly exceptional — often their other wines are lesser. Likely very good, but still not in the same category as their front runner.
This is not intended to be a downer — it’s simple reality.
I set my goals realistically — for me, the target is 85 or above. If I achieve that, I’m highly pleased. If I could hit in this range every time, I’d be ecstatic.
If I make an 80? I’m ok with that — it’s a daily drinker that I’ll use up sooner than later, and will use in cooking. Reality is that available fruit, natural processes, and “stuff” limit what I can produce. I accept this while striving to produce better.
If I make a 90? I’m completely overjoyed and hoarding that wine!
There are numerous rating systems, and some are easier to use than others. It doesn’t matter which is used, as long as it makes sense, and produces a result that works.
Following is copied from the wine scoring sheet used by the Missouri Valley Wine Society. A friend on WineMakingTalk sent me a copy. I like this one as it has good descriptions of the scoring values.
Keep in mind that while Clarity has 3 values listed (0.0, 0.5, and 1.0), it’s perfectly fine to rate one wine at 0.35 and another at 0.75. While I wouldn’t go too crazy in finely rating a category, it’s reasonable for a one wine to be brilliant in clarity (so it gets a 1.0) while another doesn’t quite look as good, so it gets 0.9.
|Clarity (1 Point)|
|brilliant, star bright, crystal bright||1.0|
|translucent, slightly dull||0.5|
|cloudy, hazy, sediment, turbid||0.0|
|Color (2 Points)|
|typical for type and age||2.0|
|nearly typical, attractive||1.5|
|off, maderized, brown, no color||0.5|
|Aroma/Bouquet (4 Points)|
|complex, flowery and fruity||4.0|
|fruity, pronounced, developed||3.0|
|clean, pleasant, scented, delicate||2.0|
|simple, underdeveloped, elusive||1.0|
|Total Acidity (1 Point)|
|slightly low, or slightly high||0.5|
|flabby, insipid, or tart, vinegary||0.0|
|Body/Texture (2 Points)|
|smooth, even, pleasant||1.5|
|thin, heavy, uneven, awkward||1.0|
|rough, course, clumsy||0.5|
|Flavor/Taste (4 Points)|
|fruity, layered, robust, rich||3.0|
|agreeable, clean, simple||2.0|
|off, chemical, lacking||1.0|
|Bitterness (1 Point)|
|normal, balanced, appropriate||1.0|
|off, bitter, harsh||0.0|
|Finish (1 Point)|
|long lasting, (10 – 15 seconds)||1.0|
|tapering off (5 – 10 seconds)||0.5|
|short, (brief, abruptly ends); harsh quality||0.0|
|Quality (4 Points)|
|noble, elegant, grand, distinguished||4.0|
|charming, stylish, fine, graceful||3.0|
|skillfully made, finesse, sound||2.0|
|no exceptional features||1.0|
|Total Score (of 20 Points)|
|Double Gold||18.50 – 20.00|
|Gold||17.00 – 18.49|
|Silver||15.00 – 16.99|
|Bronze||13.00 – 14.99|
Like with any activity, scoring wine gets easier with practice. But don’t lose sight that the goal is the enjoyment of the wine.