Wine Ratings: Why They Aren’t The Best Barometer

A Pregnant Palate Pause Leads One To Conclude That Wine Ratings Are Useless

I’ve taken a pregnant pause from tasting wine for a very good reason. In that period my husband and I got to meet the most wonderful person; our daughter.  I’ve managed to dabble again in wine tasting with some surprising thoughts. When you take a break from tasting wine and return, it becomes apparent that a certain amount of group think has besieged the wine critiquing populace.

It appears that when some taste and rate many wines for a living, their heavily used palate develops blind spots to certain characteristics of wine. This then encourages bad behavior in winemaking that has led to some Pinot Noir becoming almost indistinguishable from Syrah because some critics seem to enjoy this type of flavor profile which leads to a higher rating and more sales.

My return to tasting was a bit of a shock as it was marked by many wines that seemed polluted by heavy oak influence that to the frequent imbiber most likely is perceived as a hint of vanilla, but to my reborn palate felt as if the heavy toast barrel had come to punch out any enjoyment from the moment. Taking a “pregnant” pause from wine reaffirmed my fervent belief that winemakers should allow the wine to reflect its roots with as little intervention as possible.

Great wine is truly made in the vineyard.

In this vein, I have found myself migrating to less trendy varietals in new world wines where critics ratings bear less weight and thus allow winemakers more freedom. Food friendly wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Pinot Gris, California & French Sparkling, Sangiovese, Cab Franc, and Grenache strike me as the value and excitement in this current market and where I think the average wine drinker will find the most interesting offerings at bargain prices.

So many flagship varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir have become hard to gauge in value and often taste little like the actual grape and more like a heavy toast two year old oak french barrel. The average wine consumer looking for guidance cannot be well served or may well be turned off by wines rated highly by critics who through frequent tasting, have formed blind spots to some heavy handed interventionist techniques. It then appears logical that wine ratings and wine critics are perhaps not the best source of information for the general wine consumer.

So what is the best source of guidance for the average consumer? The best advice remains that one should always drink what they enjoy and if they do not like what is in their glass, try something else.

Branch out past your Cabernet and your Pinot to try some other varietals. Continue the hunt for what makes you raise an eyebrow and finally pay attention to what is in your glass. You will learn best through your own adventures.

Life is too short to drink bad wine. Cheers!