Wine By the Numbers

We’ve all seen those little tags on the bins where wine is merchandised, indicating the selection has been rated 90 points by one of several wine rating systems. But what exactly do those numbers mean, and where in the world are they coming from? Here’s a little background for you to review.

The renowned wine writer Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate is credited with creating the basic 100-point scoring system, which he first introduced in his newsletter back in 1978. The system became widely accepted after The Wine Spectator adopted it for their publication, as well. Today, the current ratings systems used by the “big three” wine publications, The Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast and The Wine Advocate are all based on this 100-point scale, which is not unlike a standard high school grading system with some variations.

Listed below is The Wine Advocate’s 100-Point Scale, which includes a general description of what each score indicates:

• 96 – 100:  Extraordinary; a classic wine of its variety

• 90 – 95:  Outstanding; exceptional complexity and character

• 80 – 89:  Barely above average to very good; wine with various degrees of flavor

• 70 –79:  Average; little distinction beyond being soundly made

• 60 – 69:  Below average; drinkable, but containing noticeable deficiencies

• 50 – 59:  Poor; unacceptable, not recommended

While The Wine Spectator uses the same scale as above, The Wine Enthusiast has a similar scale, with the exception that they never publish ratings on wines that score less than 80 points.

As for the tasting methodology, the basic approaches to rating the wines are the same. Wine tastings are conducted “blind,” usually in a group setting, and the tasters are given a minimum of information about the wines, usually only the general type of wine (varietal or region) and the vintage. Tasters are never told who made the wine, nor are they ever given any indication of the wine’s price, thus ensuring that the wine’s rating is based solely on the quality, and the taster’s well trained palette(s). Additionally, most wines are tasted a number of times before a cumulative score is rendered and the ratings made public, as these scores can greatly affect the sales, and in some cases, the price of the wine.

So, should you consider a wine’s rating when making a purchase decision? While we fully respect the opinions of the experts, we at Wine:30 believe that the number one consideration for any purchase should be your own preferences and personal tastes.

Interesting Finds

We have found a few very interesting wines over the last few weeks we would like to share. With literally hundreds of grape varietals, the fun part of our jobs at Wine:30 is finding those “not so common” wines at reasonable prices!

Torrontés is the characteristic white wine grape of Argentina, producing fresh, aromatic white wines. The following torrontés is from Susana Balbo, the most prominent female winemaker in Argentina.

• Crios Torrontes Mendoza Argentina 2008

Appearance:  Pale yellow/gold in color

Aroma:  Enticing peach, pear and citrus notes

Flavors:  Nice balance of fruit and acidity

Finishing Notes:  Has plenty of body that carries through all the aromatic characteristics to the long finish

Where To Try:  Restaurant Sauver and Trio

Where To Buy:  Top Shelf, Siobhan’s Wine Shop and Main Street Market

Mencia is a grape varietal that is thought to be related to Cabernet Franc and produces wines that can be powerful, while nuanced with red fruits and earthy richness. The following wine is from the Bierzo Northwestern region of Spain.

• La Mano Mencía Roble Bierzo Spain 2007

Appearance:  A deep and cloudy ruby color

Aroma:  Black pepper spice and raspberry scents

Flavors:  Chewy and spicy on the palate, with dark fruit flavors coming through

Finishing Notes:  Plenty of depth and fruit from start to finish

Where To Try:  Mission Grille and The Whistling Swan

Where To Buy:  N/A

The next wine is a blend of three intriguing grapes; tempranillo, garnacha and syrah from the Cariñena wine region in Spain. It is situated in the province of Zaragoza and covers an area of 16,600 hectares, consists of 60 vineyards (Bodegas) and produces 72.6 millon liter of wine annually. 

• Caré Red Blend Spain 2006

Appearance:  Inky amethyst color

Aroma:  Smoky nuts, blackberry preserves and black pepper aromas

Flavors:  Rich velvety blackberry and blueberry tones, also a toffee characteristic

Finishing Notes:  Round and supple, leads to a fair amount of tannins on the finish

Where To Try:  Mission Grille

Where To Buy:  Door County Bakery, Siobhan’s Wine Shop, Serves U Right and Madison Avenue Wine Shop

Information about “Where to Try” and “Where to Buy” these selected wines was provided by the local wine purveyors and vendors. If you happen to also serve or sell these wines, email [email protected].

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl is the general manager and self-proclaimed “sous” sommelier for the Mission Grille. Former restaurant executive and Door County native Jody is happily under-employed as a Mission Grille food server and a member of the local band Northbound. They are both long time residents and first time contributors to the Peninsula Pulse.

Wine Wiki: Herbaceous

Denotes the taste and smell of herbs in a wine. A plus in many wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, and to a lesser extent Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Herbal is a synonym.