HOW TASTINGS WORKThe 100 Point Wine Scoring System and Blind versus Sighted Tastings
Michael Fridjhon's ratings, which form the heart of the database of wine quality assessments utilised by Wine Wizard, are based on a 100 point scoring system which has taken over thirty years to perfect. It is central to the website which has itself been designed to direct wine drinkers to the best available wines, within a particular category, at a given price point, and for a specified occasion. All wines are tasted blind under controlled conditions in the Wine Wizard tasting room. Michael is often invited to pre tasting events of major auctions such as the annual Nederberg Auction or the Cape Wine Makers Guild Auction. These wines are tasted sighted.
When Michael began the process of developing it, there were a number of different ways of calibrating wine quality. These included the 7 point, the 10 point, the 20 point and the 5 stars system. Later American critic Robert Parker created his own 100 point system (which is actually only a 50 point score card, with only 20 points on the spectrum contributing any information of significance), a scale which was then adopted by the Wine Spectator.
Michael's objective had always been to add greater nuance and precision in a field where the very subjective nature of the judgement discourages this approach. He argued that a 100 point system, in which no wine ever scores under 80, is nothing other than a 20 point system where all quality wines will be bunched together within 10 points of each other. This view was vindicated recently when Parker acknowledged that the 2009 Bordeaux vintage was so good it forced a re-calibration of his 100 point system.
Michael's 100 point system identifies 'medal-quality' wines across a 30 point spectrum ranging from 70 - 100, where:
- Below 50 points descends into the realm of overt faults - rendering the wine undrinkable
- 50 - 59 is a very ordinary wine
- 60 - 69 is considered good enough commercial wine
- 70 - 79 is a BRONZE MEDAL, which is good to very good
- 80 - 89 is a SILVER MEDAL, an excellent wine of distinction
- 90+ is a GOLD MEDAL, a superlative world class wine
The wider spread of scores is clearly of benefit, as much to the judge as it is to whoever accesses the information, wherever it is important to highlight the quality difference within a particular class or bracket.
While a score of 70 - 79 designates BRONZE MEDAL quality, not all wines worthy of this accolade are identical in quality. Some have just made the grade, others are comfortably in the class, while others are reaching close to silver medal territory. A range of ten points in which to tease out this difference is obviously of greater use than the 1,5 to 2 points available to critics using the 20 point system (or any of its variants - including those which nominally appear to offer more detail).
While everyone would want the GOLD MEDAL wine (World class) as a first choice, very few bottles ever win this accolade, and they are often very difficult to track down.
SILVER MEDAL quality (Wines of distinction) while less rare, are also not necessarily that easily found, and may be priced beyond the reach of the everyday drinker. BRONZE MEDAL winners are still wines of discernible quality, free of faults and may, at the right price point, represent the ideal purchase for the occasion.
The Value Calculator
Among the opportunities presented by the Wine Wizard to the country's wine enthusiasts is the discovery of the inherent value in a wine scoring, say 76 points and selling for R35-00 and to aid this, a value calculator which cross-tabulates each wine's score with its price, is on the site.
Using the Value Calculator ratings, the wine buyer can tell at a glance if a bottle represents good value for money or if the purchase should be approached with caution. The prices on the value calculator are approximate retail prices and those prices have been sourced from various authorities such as the wine producers website, online retailers and traditional retailers.
A Word of Caution
The approxmate retail prices on wines are exactly what they say they are. They can't take into account fluctuations such as wine show promotions, end of bin promotions and bulk purchasing arrangements.
In the same way, the approximate retail prices are not restaurant prices which in many cases are higher as restaurateurs take various factors into account such as the amount of time they cellar wines for, before putting them onto their wine lists as well as the effort and capital outlay required to secure wines for your enjoyment.
The Tasting Note
The tasting note which accompanies each wine tells a story about the wine. It starts with the colour of the wine, then describes the aroma, then the taste. It gives you an idea of what to expect. Look for clues in the tasting note such as "Toasty" indicating wood treatment or "Peppery" which can often denote attributes of Shiraz or a high percentage of Shiraz in a blend.