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How do you relate wine scores to your own taste?

Wine scores and reviews are confusing.  It is hard to understand how the same wine received 92 points from one reviewer and only 88 points from another.  Or how to equate a 20 point scale to a 100 point scale.

Just like movie reviewers, wine reviewers have different preferences.  It is usually best to find a single reviewer who has similar taste preferences as yours and then follow their recommendations.  And you may even want to choose a different reviewer for different regions …

Someone who is adept at describing Bordeaux may not be with Burgundy.  Buy a few various bottles that reviewer recommends and see if you agree.  Examples of individual wine reviewers would be: Robert Parker, Steven Tanzer, Allen Meadows, Jancis Robinson.

Wine reviews that are achieved by group consensus should be taken as an overall indication as to the quality level of the wine.  In a group setting you may have one reviewer give a wine a 88 points and another give the same wine 92 points – so the average (and what get’s printed) is the consensus score of 90 points.  Examples of consensus reviews would be (when an individual reviewer is not noted): Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast.

When a wine is being reviewed, whether blind or not, it is often tasted in a group with other wines of a similar nature.  The wines are compared against one another and what is typical for that region or style.  It is important to follow a reviewer who has a good deal of experience with that particular region or style, as they will be comparing the wines reviewed to their own internal database.

Wines will often receive different scores based on how they are tasted.  Often times when tasting a group of wines, the wine that is the most robust will stand out and receive higher scores.  Those that are more delicate or those that need time to open up, do not always show at their best.  Wines also change in the bottle as they go through various stages of development.

It is difficult sometimes to make sense of the words that are used when reviewing of a wine.  If more reviews focused on the components and/or structure of a wine, I think we all would find them more helpful.  The acidity, tannin, residual sugar and body of a wine can be easily defined in simple, clear terms – but yet they are often left out, or only alluded to.

You have to do some detective work to translate what the words are implying about the wine.  Then you have to determine if the writer’s descriptions match up with your own understanding.  For example – when I see the words “clean, fresh, crisp” I would assume that means higher acidity levels and little or no fermentation aromas.  If my internal definitions do not match with the wine writer’s, then I would be unlikely to follow this reviewer.