- Asian Food & Wine
- By Jeannie
- Wine Reviews
Introduction to Jeannie's Ratings & Reviews
Wine reviews and ratings are never a precise science because good wine is a living thing – changing and evolving over time. Thus wine notes are useful as a guideline and are an impression or snapshot of one moment in a wine’s life. The better the wine, the more the wine will evolve and change, especially wines made with great precision and finesse.
I think often and deeply about the entire wine rating/reviewing process: What is wine quality? How does quality differ by style, region and vintage? What is the benchmark and reference point for quality? I know that having tasted the very best examples of each style, from different regions and vintages, is a good start to defining and understanding wine quality. I also realise that experience, frequency of tasting a range of wines and depth of knowledge about regions, producers and vintages also helps tremendously. Reviewing and rating wines is a journey of discovery, of learning with each sip and each note that is written.
A wine’s flavour at a given moment in time is just one expression of the wine’s potential and this present moment is captured in the wine ratings and conclusions. However, wines that are too young can be closed, devoid of any real expression, only revealing hints of potential and promise. Thus for every young wine that is not at its peak, I include a Peak Rating on the upper right hand corner of the main rating. This rating indicates how the wine will taste when it has reached its peak expression and maturity. All wines have varying levels of expression during their lifetime and this number attempts to capture how the wine should show at the very optimal maturity level in its life. Pinning down the peak year or range of years is challenging because each wine, each bottle, can have its own unique evolution. However, given experience and familiarity of wine’s evolutionary cycle, it is possible to predict with modest accuracy when a wine may peak. I do not offer years when a wine will start to fade because that is much harder to predict. I have been pleasantly surprised to find 60, 70, 80 year old wines that are still expressive and a pleasure to drink. If a wine is fading or just peaking, I indicate that information in the Conclusion for each wine. To repeat, our peak range years offered only indicate when the wine will start to reach its peak, not when the wine begins to decline or how long it will remain at its peak.
I have been rating wines for myself for nearly twenty years; my little brown wine journal never leaves my side and is a familiar sight among family and friends even in social settings. I have found it useful to keep a wine journal and the ratings I gave to each wine (out of 100 points) were convenient numerical reference points for myself so that I can easily and quickly go back to see what I thought of a wine. Every wine critic has their own way of rating wines and I want to be clear that my wine ratings are extremely stingy. In my notes dating back to early 1990s, I have less than 50 wines which I gave a 100 points and all wines over 90 points are those I recommend highly.
Guide to my ratings:
1. ‘Rating’ is the wine as it tastes now while the ‘Peak Rating’ is how the wine will likely taste at its peak.
2. The ‘Peak Range and years’ is the range of years when the wine will reach its optimal drinking window.
3. All flavour and colour descriptors were extracted and shown separately so that the conclusion is succinct and focuses on just the quality assessment of the wine.
4. My standards for wine quality are high, perhaps from tasting many great wines that set a very high benchmark. But I believe high standards are always a positive thing for any industry. Thus any wine over 90 points is an excellent wine that I would recommend to my friends without hesitation.
5. I try to taste as precisely as possible so even for en primeur (barrel samples) samples, I try to determine how wide the quality range is likely to be when it is in bottle. Some wines have very large ranges (say 91-94 points) while others are more limited (91-92 points).
6. I consider the dimension of time when tasting – extra points are given for wines with good ageing potential and if I am lucky to have an hour or two to come back to wines, I always consider how the wine evolves in the glass.
7. I value wines of different styles: Modern styles with ripe, concentrated fruit and power have their unique balance of power, density and concentrated expression. But I equally appreciate traditional styles which whisper rather than shout and like to reveal themselves slowly over time and are more finicky about sharing their characters and expressing themselves. One is not better than the other and both styles have their role in offering pleasure to wine lovers around the world. Trying to remain objective and critical means asking, ‘Is this a good wine’, not, ‘do I like this wine’.
Let’s not forget though that wine is about pleasure. Reviews are guidelines to wine quality but the pleasure of wine is found beyond what is inside the bottle – much pleasure can be captured from a simple wine with a modest rating with the right company and setting.
Wishing you all much pleasure in life,
Click here to understand what the actual scores mean.
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