Let Your Own Palette Be Your Primary Guide When Selecting Wine

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Last time we looked at wine scores and how well they can be relied upon as an indicator when selecting wines. Some wine scores are from reputable sources (e.g., Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate) while others are less dependable. And, when it comes right down to it, a wine may receive a high score from a reputable source but not be something you care for.

And, the fact that you don’t care for a highly rated wine doesn’t make the rating “wrong.” It just shows that professional wine tasters have a different palette from yours.

So, let your palette be the primary guide when selecting a wine. If you are a big fan of particular varietal of wine or wine region, stick with them. But, if you are looking to select a wine from your favorite varietal or region, and you see one with a good wine score, give it a try. You’ll usually be pleased.

Next time we’ll take a look at wine prices and how well they correlate with quality. Until then, Cheers!

Ever Wonder? Are the Wine Point Systems Really a Good Indicator?

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You’ve seen them. The wine scores posted alongside the bottles on the shelf. 90 points. 88 points. 92 points. But what does it really mean? Is it a good indicator for making your wine selection?

Well, the old adage “Buyer Beware” certainly applies when it comes to wine scores.

One reason is that there are some reputable wine rating systems (e.g., Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate) and then there are wine ratings from “The Crew” at the local market or “Bob’s Favorite” at the Big Box wine store.

Let’s look at Wine Spectator scoring system that follows a 100-point scale:

  • 95-100 Classic: a great wine

  • 90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style

  • 85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities

  • 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine

  • 75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws

  • 50-74 Not recommended

This seems like a nice broad spectrum from which to differentiate wines. But, you probably aren’t going to come across a whole lot of 95-100 point wines in a typical store. And, you’re unlikely to find anything rated 84 points or below anywhere. Because those scores just don’t sell wine. So, you’re going to see some wines scored in the 85 - 89 “Very Good” range and most rated wines will be in the 90-94 “Outstanding” category. But you’ll also be faced with all those other wines on the shelf that don’t have any ratings! What about them?

Even with a 91 point score from Wine Spectator, you’ll have to ask yourself if your wine palette is similar enough to these professionals? Yours is likely different. So, you may try a 91 point Cabernet Sauvignon and say “No, I don’t care for that at all.” And that’s OK.

Another thing to beware of is the actual bottle on the shelf versus the one that received the rating. I see this all the time. The sign says “Wine Spectator 90 Points.” But, then you read the fine print and learn that it’s the 2013 that received that score. And, the bottle on the shelf is a 2015. The 2015 may be drastically different.

So, buyer beware. The wine scores from reputable organizations certainly are an indication of the quality of the wine. But, don’t let that be the only factor you use when choosing wine. Let your own palette guide you. And we’ll get into that a bit more next time.

Cheers!

Where You Drink a Wine Affects How it Tastes

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Have you ever noticed that wines can taste really good at a restaurant, wine bar or especially at a winery? It's the whole experience, not just the aromas and flavors, that affect our sense of taste.

As I've discovered, a $15 bottle of wine, when served in a high-end restaurant (where they charge you $45 for that $15 bottle), will taste especially good. Somehow, the lavish surroundings, the great service and the wonderful company at the table just makes the whole wine experience so much better.

And, at a winery it can be even more powerful. You are typically in a beautiful setting surrounded by vineyards and being served by someone who is very knowledgeable about the wine or maybe even the winemaker. This experience can significantly heighten the taste of the wine.

This fact is well understood by the publications that do wine ratings. So much so, that they don't allow their tasters to review or rate wines at wineries or restaurants.  They ensure their tasters are in a neutral setting in order to allow them to focus only on the wine (which, by the way, they are tasting 'blind' with no knowledge of who produced the wine or what it costs).

So, keep in mind that the amazing bottle of wine you recently had at that fancy restaurant was probably made even better by all the other glamour around you. And, that's exactly what the wine experience is all about. Cheers!