What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

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What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:05 pm

When putting together the hand-out for our neighborhood tastings, I cull descriptions for each wine from all over the internet. Been doing this for about ten years now and where once upon a time Wine Enthusiast ratings were pretty thin on the ground, they now pop up with as great or greater regularity than The Speck or Parker, and though the scores are sometimes equal I've been slowly gaining the impression that the WE score is typically a point higher than the higher of the other boys. Do understand that I don't live by points--I don't rate wines numerically myself nor do I think a 92 pt wine is better than a 90 pt wine, but points are the currency of the realm these days and when putting together information for big group events the system's pretty unavoidable.

Anyway, have I just been incidentally looking at the wrong wines, or does WE tend to skew higher? What do others here think of WE ratings?
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:17 pm

Haven't read Wine Enthusiast in perhaps 5 years, so I think nothing of them.

Overall they are irrelevant.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby James Roscoe » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:35 pm

Points may be irrelevant to you and me David, but to the hoi poloi out there they truly matter. Try selling a bottle of wine that you think is great that got 87 points versus an 89 point wine. It doesn't matter who gives the points, just sell the darn wine and let the buyer be happy.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Dale Williams » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:09 pm

Does Joe Cz still work there? Very good taster, plenty of integrity.
I don't really pay much attention to WE, but have noticed some surprisingly high scores. But that might be because stores mainly only use WE if considerably higher than better known WS or WA, so it could be a non-representative sample.
I believe WE uses panel scoring
Some issues about WE blurring advertising and editorial, can't remember details.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:19 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Points may be irrelevant to you and me David, but to the hoi poloi out there they truly matter. Try selling a bottle of wine that you think is great that got 87 points versus an 89 point wine. It doesn't matter who gives the points, just sell the darn wine and let the buyer be happy.


That's exactly right. And when putting on tastings for 40-50 people like I do, people who aren't geeks, people who have never written a tasting note of their own and never will, this stuff matters. When doing my handouts, I'll put down any score over 90 but avoid mentioning anything lower--sure I bought the wine for the tasting and believe in it's merits, but I know my tasters will be adversely affected by any number under 90. In spite of my efforts to educate, they don't know any better.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:21 pm

Dale Williams wrote:Does Joe Cz still work there? Very good taster, plenty of integrity.


Unquestionable. Also my friend Paul Gregutt, who I learned since posting this earlier today is also an Enthusiast reviewer.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:26 pm

So I asked my wine shop manager friend which sells more wine, a Wine Spec/Wine Advocate 90 or a Wine Enthusiast 95. He said Spec/Advocate hands down. He says he puts up WE ratings when he wants to highlight a wine that has no ratings from anyone else.

James - I was not saying points are irrelevant, just that WE is.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Tim York » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:04 am

Jenise, I would like to think that the participants in your neighbourhood tastings are getting more confident in their own judgement as their experience grows and therefore less reliant on a guru's points. Is that naive?
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Brian Gilp » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:42 am

Slightly off-topic but back when I looked at points I was always suspicious of a wine for which only one score was reported and it came from a "second tier" source. No idea if the WE of today falls into the "second tier" category. What I wanted to see then and would today if looking at scores would be scores from multiple sources so I can see if they are consistent or have a significant range.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:50 am

Tim York wrote:Jenise, I would like to think that the participants in your neighbourhood tastings are getting more confident in their own judgement as their experience grows and therefore less reliant on a guru's points. Is that naive?


Likely a good point except for the never ending problem of their being way too many wines for an individual to try them all. Critics (their points and notes) serve a purpose, even for the experienced, in terms of culling the herd so to speak.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Tom Troiano » Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:12 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Points may be irrelevant to you and me David, but to the hoi poloi out there they truly matter. Try selling a bottle of wine that you think is great that got 87 points versus an 89 point wine. It doesn't matter who gives the points, just sell the darn wine and let the buyer be happy.



A friend in the wine business often says "I can only sell wines if they receive between 90 and 95 points". Below 90 and nobody will buy them and above 95 and I can't buy them.

I've never read/paid attention to The Wine Enthusiast but I'm sure their ratings are accurate within plus or minus 20 points.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:19 pm

Tim York wrote:Jenise, I would like to think that the participants in your neighbourhood tastings are getting more confident in their own judgement as their experience grows and therefore less reliant on a guru's points. Is that naive?


To a degree, yes. That one night a month may be the only night of the month that they drink $20+ bottles; when they buy for themselves they typically spend half that and critical opinion is a non-event. For them the tastings are more a social outing than an attempt to become more serious in wine--which is entirely okay.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Victorwine » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:30 pm

Hi Jenise,
WE knows how to throw a good party! (Toast of the Town NYC)!

I’m in Brian’s camp when it comes to wine “scores”. One shouldn’t focus on a single critic or wine publication. Best critic is yourself. (I believe “calibrating” ones palate to that of another person is very difficult). I would include a wine that scores under 90 (that you see merit in and think the group (that’s a mighty big group though) might enjoy, but instead of including a TN from a “major” wine publication or “famous” wine critic (WE, WS, WA- RP, ST, JR, etc), just write your own TN (signing it with just your initials). (Maybe they would confuse you for JR or just think you are another “famous” wine critic).

Salute
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:21 pm

Victorwine wrote:Hi Jenise,
WE knows how to throw a good party! (Toast of the Town NYC)!

I’m in Brian’s camp when it comes to wine “scores”. One shouldn’t focus on a single critic or wine publication. Best critic is yourself. (I believe “calibrating” ones palate to that of another person is very difficult). I would include a wine that scores under 90 (that you see merit in and think the group (that’s a mighty big group though) might enjoy, but instead of including a TN from a “major” wine publication or “famous” wine critic (WE, WS, WA- RP, ST, JR, etc), just write your own TN (signing it with just your initials). (Maybe they would confuse you for JR or just think you are another “famous” wine critic).

Salute


Vic, whenever I can put my own review in, I do--it will be more current to the state of the actual wine served than whatever most critics might have put down a year or two ago. The problem is, often times I haven't pre-tasted any of these wines myself. So what I tend to do is not quote one critic entirely, but put together a pastiche of the best descriptors from both critics and winemakers. I'd like to get away from providing any scores at all--but the guy I inherited the club from started things that way and it's kind of expected by now.

Anyway, doesn't matter. I don't have a problem with scores one way or the other. I just realized in a month where mostly Washington wines were invollved in what I do that the scores seemed just slightly higher, so I wondered if that was an actual trend others had noticed.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby John S » Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:17 pm

FYI, Sean Sullivan (WA Wine Report blog) just announced he will be writing for the WE. He gets all the 'leftover' regions in WA and OR. Paul Gregutt still gets all the main regions from these two states (e.g., Walla Walla, Yakima, Willamette Valley). It's his (well deserved) entry into the 'big leagues', but it's gotta suck dealing with only the peripheral regions.

Frankly, I think the WE is a solid but second rate source, often with higher scores than the other sources (and that's saying something, as there is grade inflation everywhere now).
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Hoke » Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:30 pm

I've always thought the WE did a fairly good job on critiquing the wines. Joe Cz and his crew do quick thumbnail sketches of each wine---which is not always easy and is sometimes close to an art form---and without too much bloviation, a common thing in wine descriptor circles.

Once they shifted over to point scores, I stopped paying a lot of attention though. When the points are in big font and the words are in small font, I lose interest. Then it's all about numbers, and I can't read anything much into numbers attached to wines.

I agree that WE has much less "clout" or influence than other mags. But that's not necessarily due to the wine scores.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:02 pm

John S wrote:Frankly, I think the WE is a solid but second rate source, often with higher scores than the other sources (and that's saying something, as there is grade inflation everywhere now).


Do you think that's their intention? Or does it come naturally via the enthusiasm of certain reviewers? Since I live here, I tend to see/notice WE's reviews on mainly Washington wines, so the slight grade inflation if it exists could be localized to Paul Gregutt's naturally positve and upbeat nature, and I might not be aware of the difference.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby John S » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:37 pm

I don't think grade inflation only happens in one magazine or reviewer. I agree that a keen, local reviewer can sometimes provide higher scores than a non-local might, but again I think this can happen to any reviewer who gets too involved in any one region or producer(s). Blind tasting can help with this, but how many people use real blind tasting? So the WE is no better or worse than most other magazines in terms of grade inflation or 'home' biases.

The general creep of points awarded to wines seems - in part - to be a way to ensure that the reviews are read and the writer acknowledged. Low scores aren't used in the retail sector, nor are they enjoyed by either consumers or producers. I think reviewers are well aware of this unwritten rule. The only reviewer who seems to use the opposite approach - low scores - to get attention is John Gilman, who seems to revel in giving very low scores to 'Parkerized' wines. Otherwise, few if any wine publications will dare to provide scores under some cut off point (usually 85 points). Also, award shows won;t usually list the wines that don;t get at least a bronze medal. I think they both know they would piss off too many producers if they did that.

Antonio Galloni has recently stated why he gives wines higher points now - basically because better wine is being made now. I think it's a good and valid point, but you could also state a lot more bad (i.e., commercial plonk) wine is being made as well. But, even if better wine is made now, then why not change the scoring system to fit the new reality? I think it's mainly because the reviewers can't 'go back' to use lower points now: points mean money, for both reviewers and producers - and, unfortunately, for consumers in terms of higher prices!
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Victorwine » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:37 pm

Hi Jenise,
Sean Sullivan looked into this back in 2009 (you might of seen this already).
http://www.wawinereport.com/2009/11/com ... r-and.html
http://www.wawinereport.com/2009/11/com ... nd_13.html
http://www.wawinereport.com/2009/12/com ... r-and.html

Personally I think there is a lot less “bad” wine being produced. Just by looking at the descriptions of the various point ranges I would say wine magazines such as WE and WS are geared more for the consumer whereas WA is geared more for the industry or for the “insiders”. WE and WS more or less “force” you to read the TN to make a decision to buy or not. (Like David I haven’t subscribed to these magazines in years).

Salute
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:00 pm

Jenise wrote: And when putting on tastings for 40-50 people like I do, people who aren't geeks, people who have never written a tasting note of their own and never will, this stuff matters. When doing my handouts, I'll put down any score over 90 but avoid mentioning anything lower--sure I bought the wine for the tasting and believe in it's merits, but I know my tasters will be adversely affected by any number under 90. In spite of my efforts to educate, they don't know any better.



I thought 'point creep' was the wine reviewer....

I'd start putting scores in like BP (Blaine Prophet) or NN (Nakat Nudnik) 95 and they wouldn't know any different. Or go the Gambero way and offer scores as bicchierie (although having it be referred to later as "That was a darned good 3 bitch wine" might be offputting).

You'll never get away from reliance on points by the insecure, but seriously, if you rated things "A Jenise 3 out of 5 stars', I bet they'd go for that.
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Re: What do you think of Wine Enthusiast ratings?

Postby Jenise » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:11 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
You'll never get away from reliance on points by the insecure, but seriously, if you rated things "A Jenise 3 out of 5 stars', I bet they'd go for that.


They might; but overall their taste is different than mine. Sweet and oaky go over big with this group, but they're also forever changed by the first wine they taste so I just make sure I don't put the sweetest, oakiest wine in position A--because as long as A isn't scary-tannic, it will win. Like it did last Friday night. In fact, best to worst? The group voting went: A, B, C, D, E and F, right down the line, although technically B C and D were only one point apart each so essentially equal, where E and F were 20 points lower and A was 20 points higher. B is second place more often than D, E and F put together. I get it, and there's no fighting it. Like I said, it's more a social group.
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