Wine is one of those areas where people can become remarkably poncey and affected when really the crux of the matter is do you, or do you not, like this wine. The problem is that without cracking it open it’s rather hard to tell so wine ratings are great – they distill all that data into a set of numerical values. It’s a simplified guide and a shopping tool. And it’s fun for wine geeks to see if they agree with the wine ratings.
But can a bottle of wine (or for that matter any experiences like books, plays, films…) be so easily pinned down?
Should price be a consideration? If a wine is worthy of a 95 point score but costs R1,500 is it comparable to a bottle with a score in the mid 80s at R90? And then of course there’s the argument that an average score can mean that a perfectly drinkable bottle gets glossed over for something with bigger points.
Winemaking itself has been changed by the rating system…and not always for the better. Winemakers take note of the qualities of those wines receiving higher scores and start emulating them. Wine critic Robert Parker, is associated with this issue; ‘big’ and ‘oaky’ wines are sometimes nicknamed as “Parkerized.”
There’s quite a process to go through to be one a fully fledged wine review; usually critics have a two-year apprenticeship and then blind taste the wines in groups so the reviewer doesn’t know what they’re drinking and can be more objective. Some (like the Wine Spectator) even put a ‘ringer’ bottle (a bottle the reviewer has previously critiqued) into the grouping – the idea is that if their option changes dramatically it might be a sign that they’re palate is off that day.
If you want a guide to the guide then stick with bottles rated in the high 80s that cost under a R100 – they’re likely to be good and value for money.