Reconsidering Wine Ratings

by Tim Elliott on April 10, 2007

With all this attention to ethics and disclosure over the past few days, I have also been thinking about wine ratings. No, not writing descriptions about wines and if I like them or think they are good values, but the numerical score.

Quite by chance, I received an email today that included a link to a wine review site I had not visited before, Pointless Wines. The author’s thesis is pretty simple. He reviews wine and does not award points like some of us do. There are also some interesting articles about the 100-point system that, when I triangulated with a post Ryan did a few days back, gave me pause as I return to writing reviews.

How important is the score to the reader of the review?

I know, we have discussed this subject before here but, without beating a dead horse, would it really matter too much if I just left those scores out from now on? After all, “The web should be something different.

Food for thought, anyway.

  • http://www.catavino.net ryan

    I say go even further. Let’s redefine the tasting note. Our post for April’s virtual tasting at Catavino attempted to do that with a video. Not sure if it worked, but we’ll keep trying, that’s for sure!

  • Doug Smith

    Well, I think that wine ratings do provide essential information about the wine, when taken together with a well-written tasting note. Without the rating, the question really is how well the person actually liked the wine, in comparison with other (perhaps similar) wines that he or she has tasted in the past. People who do not use explicit numerical ratings tend to rely on less accurate “verbal” quasi-ratings like “excellent/very good/good/bad”, which in this case is simply a four point scale.

    Now, I am willing to consider the possibility that some people don’t read wine reviews in order to learn if they ought to buy the wine or not. For some people, wine reviews are a sort of “creative sharing” or art form in themselves, that are intended to enhance the whole wine experience. But for the rest of us who read reviews in order to make wine buying more rewarding, ratings play a necessary role.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Ryan: Nice video and an interesting way for presenting wine reviews. I think Gary’s method at winelibrary.tv also works well but he still uses scores. So I’m not sure if the “web-way” will be a mixed-media deal or something else.

    Doug: Read you loud and clear which will make any change difficult for me. I do think scores are useful in distinguishing wines tasted at the same time but the 95 pointer at the beginning of a large tasting is not always equal to the 95 pointer after 60 wines. So I’m going to continue scoring wines until I arrive at whatever this new format is for wine reviews that will emerge from wine blogs. My guess is it will be closer to movie reviews than what is currently going on in the wine press.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Ward Bell

    If we start with the idea that “… the web should be different …,” perhaps we should be exploring ways to make ranking and ratings more meaningful and useful?

    It seems to me that while it requires work and discipline, that we can find ways to compare wines and use those ranking and comparisons to drive recommendation engines. In other words, refine the process of building “collaborative filtering” databases to match the tastes of participants in ways that yields statistically significant recommendations.

    Let’s find a way that you can taste and rate a wine and I and many others can taste and rate that same wine and through some appropriate (and probably complex) algorithm, turn those ratings into recommendations for those who share similar ranking/ratings on some significant number of test points.

    Requires some new thinking and a good deal of work but might prove to be very interesting.

  • Doug Smith

    Ward, that sounds like the kind of thing that Eric LeVine should be working on with his website cellartracker.com …

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