Professions develop their own
Often these standards reflect their self-interests and hide serious
Unfortunately the wine ranking systems which are widely in use don’t
reflect the inherent qualities of the wine in question.
This is the case for both the 100 point US system and the 20 point
The main problem is that many mediocre wines receive at least 15 or
16. (I believe the 100 point-system is basically a 20 pointer since
no wine receives a lower grade than 80.)
The prevailing system is favorable to bad products (which should be
called wine-products rather than wine), and consequently it is
biased against truly great wines because it presents the gap between
the two as a minor quantitative difference. That is, the very best
receives a 19.5 whereas many wines which should be dumped in the
sink receive a 16 or even a 16.5.
It is often the case that many wines from the new world which lack
character receive a higher ranking than a much deeper, more complex
wine. This is because wines seem to be rated in comparison with
other wines from the same region and type.
For instance, I have seen quite a few over-extracted unbalanced
Zinfandels receive a ranking in the low 90’s,while the same writer
may give a Grand Cru Bourgogne which reflects well its terroir from
a very good producer a lower ranking.
I became more aware of the inherent flaws of the system after
reading Jancis Robinson’s evaluation of Turkish wines. I was
dumbfounded by her ratings, and I wrote a brief piece which I
Following the publication I received a message from a Swiss
enologist, Ines Rebentrost, who was disturbed by my comments on Ms
Robinson’s views. He wrote: “you should stick to one of the
worldwine ranking systems instead of confusing winelovers and also
winemakers even more with your personal French-based-system.”
I think the real confusion is created by the so called wine
professionals. The current wine ranking systems are not unlike the
ZAGAT guide, which gives a higher ranking to a sandwich shop in
Sacramento CA then to, say, restaurant Arpege in Paris.
But at least ZAGAT lays out its methodology, and it is based on a
(questionable) survey in a given location. But the situation is
utterly misleading for wine professionals.
I wrote to Ms Rebentrost that the present system is akin to grade
inflation in schools and general dumbing down of the education
system in the US. It is not SELECTIVE. While we are trying to
protect bad wines (and mediocre enologists which are mass producing
pop sodas), we end up penalizing those who are trying to excel.
The standards utilized here are akin to the 20 points ranking system
of restaurants in gastromondiale.
Below 10 means bad, unbalanced or faulty.
10-12 means just ok.
12-15 means the wine is fine, has acid-tannin balance and some
character. Basically it is an “honest” wine but has limited depth.
It may reflect its terroir, but given that the terroir is not
particularly suitable to produce great wines, even the best wines
from this appellation/terroir/wine growing area cannot exceed 15.
15-17 means good. The wine has good balance, some depth and it
reflects its terroir.
17-18 very good. For a wine to exceed 17, it should have some
18-19 excellent. Complex, has depth, combines power and elegance.
20 unforgettable. A legend.
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