How and why I score wines
Welcome to The Wine Bottle. By now you may have navigated the site for some time, or be a complete newcomer. Either way, you might be wondering how and/or why I score wines.
I think it is very important to have conversations about the wines we drink, but of course not all of us want to have a long chat about everything. So that’s why it’s important for me to have a small discussion and/or note on each wine, accompanied with a score. Because some of us want to get to the point, some of us have a bit more time on our hands. For those of you with not much time, down below I have made a little table to help you understand how I score a wine. For the rest of the readers, I like to give credit where credit is due – making wine is not easy, and I know I don’t know all there is to know about wine. You know? So I spread the word, trying to tell you what the winemakers and the press releases tell me. On top of that, I tell you a bit of what I know about the wine and how it’s made. Winemakers, and everyone associated with getting the wine from the vine to the bottle to the shelf, make huge efforts to produce a good product. The least we can do is learn about their craft and their vision, instead of just whipping out a score.
Which brings me to the scores. There are all sorts of systems, but I use the 100 point scale because it allows for flexibility, diversity, and comparability. I don’t start wines at 50 or anything like that (so technically I could score a wine 0, but that will never happen). I break it down like this:
Colour – is it appealing? Is it the way that the grape should look in the glass? Does it look right for its age, or is it off somehow? I rank this out of 10.
Nose – does it smell good? Does it smell appetising? Does it smell the way it should, or is it closed/corked/reductive/off in some way? Do I smell the fruits and notes that I should smell for this type of wine? Is it good or bad? I rank this out of 20.
Taste/Palate – what does it taste like when it hits the front of my tongue (the attack)? Is that good? Does it coat my tongue, burn it, caress it, tickle it? Does it taste like that variety should taste? Does it go above and beyond the normal taste for that variety? Is it special in some way that makes it stand out? Is it abnormally high in alcohol? Does the alcohol volume suit the type of wine? I rank this out of 30.
Finish – Is it long or short? Does it make me want more or want to spit it out? Is it rich? Is it burning? Does it finish like a wine of this variety should finish? Could it be enhanced/changed/improved? Do I like how it leaves me feeling/tasting? I rank this out of 20.
Overall – a combination of all these factors. I take all the above into account, then ask if I would drink this again, if I would recommend it, and if the winemaker has done justice to the grapes. Are there any mitigating factors? Was the vintage bad? Is it better/worse than the wines of the same vintage from the same area? I believe that wines are best analysed alone, but most people will need something to compare it with. We often hear “I thought this was better than the other one..” or “it’s not the same as the other Pinot”. You get it! I rank this out of 20, bringing the total to a score out of 100.
I previously used a system of simply asking myself: “How good is this wine, on a scale of 0-100?”. But I found people wanting me to break it down, asking how I came to just a number. I found that I wanted to give more possibility to accurately rate a wine, because there are so many that simply giving a score in the 85-100 range didn’t tell you a lot. Of course some may disagree, but that’s just how I work! You could argue that the 'overall' score should tell you the wine's quality, but then you neglect nose, palate etc. See the predicament?! You can ask for explanations at any time.
House of Arras E. J. Carr Late Disgorged 2002
Total: 97 points