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28 October 2005

Wine Reviewed En Masse

Reviews_3"The wine review methods practiced by major wine publications and many influential wine critics are mightily flawed.  Generally speaking wines are reviewed en masse.  This means a critic or group of critics get together and taste a host of wines in a short period of time.  They’ll taste 40, 60, or even hundreds of wine during a single tasting session.  Are wine critics able to properly evaluate a wine if it is the 59th wine evaluated during a two hour tasting session? I think not.  Sure, the critic may be able to judge the wine to be generally good or generally bad.  But, at this point in the tasting, who honestly believes the critic can discern between an 89-point wine and a 91-point wine?  Imagine the review that Citizen Kane may have received if it had been a critic’s sixteenth film viewing of the day:  “Citizen Kane; it’s a decent film.”

Wine reviewed en masse - Good thing?  Bad thing?  Who cares? 



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For the big tastings i generally use the good, limp or bad denotation.I suggest they all switch to this type of system.. or maybe even Hustler's full boner for the best of the best.. I am at work so I can't do this justice........... but I'M with ya.


Honestly, standing after 59 wine tastings in rapid succession, even with spitting, sounds like a challenge to me. A wine maker once told me to expect spitting to approximately triple my tolerance, and I think he was about right.

I know the quality of my tasting notes takes a dive at a certain point, and it's not always the alcohol. Sensory fatigue is a well-documented physiological phenomenon.

Related rant: I really dislike 100-point ratings. A rating system should have useful dynamic range. The fact that any drinkable wine will receive at least 70 or so points is ridiculous, unless you're also using the scale to rate the flavor profile of raw sewage, "The run-off from this poultry ranch is particularly offensive today. Only 12 points. [sounds of retching]"

I think my favorite review scales are your 5-star (or 10 half-star) scale, and Kate's (of Accidental Hedonist) 3 point scale. They communicate more to me than an 89 or 91.


I much prefer tasting at home to the mass trade tastings. I can give the wine much more attention without the panic of knowing there is another 40 odd wines to come.

I think this reflects in my notes - one liners at trade tastings; more indepth elsewhere. However trade tastings are vital - you meet the winemaker and/or retailer and there is no way you would ever be given such a wide range of wines to taste in a few hours if it wasnt for such events.

Even with spitting alcohol is absorbed through the mouth and it is likly a small ammount is swolled. Even with spitting I managed to get pissed. Oops did I say that out loud!


Bill - Now that would be an interesting scale. You're right though, after 10 or so wines, I'm simply able to say good/bad/ugly.

M - I'm with you on the 100-pt system. It's really more of a 25-point scale since almost any wine will be receiving a defacto 75 (or so). It's meaningless. That said, I'm toying with the idea of eliminating the "halfsies" in my 5 star system. I think the simpler the better. I will however, keep 5 stars - I believe I can defend a 5 point scoring system (I fear 4 or 3 would be too limiting).

It's funny, any time I see a shelf talker with an '88' or '89' I have to consciously resist the urge to write the wine off as just OK. What these scoring systems have done for most consumers is turn us into 90-point trophy hunters.

Andrew - I agree. I literally spend an evening with most of the wines I review. I want to know how they evolve in the glass over an hour or so. I also want to know how a wine will behave with food. And yes, even with spitting, marathon tastings can make one mighty tipshy!


Oh boy, loaded subject this one.

If I'm tasting mass wines, I only make note of the cream. As in that which rises to the top. Keeps me fresh.

And I taste WITH food. Not doing so is an exercise in futility and an asinine American pastime, ranking everything like a G.D. sports team.


Talk about your loaded post!

If I'm "working" I taste as many wines as I can blindly agasint the same varietal (or similar blend depending). If I'm attending a larger event, where there are X number of wines being poured, I'm more likely just to write down the names of wines that really stand out...without trying to rate them at all.

I too enjoy spending an evening (or even two days) with wines when possible. In an ideal world, I like to open a wine, taste it, take some notes. Then sip it/them with dinner that night...and then taste it again the following morning to see how it has changed/held up.

These en masse tastings...I just don't get it. Parker spends what...30 seconds with each wine? How can you get to know a wine in that short a time...let alone judge it?

Can you look at a painting or sculpture for 30 seconds and know all there is to know...notice all the nuance...the shading...the composition. I think not.



Great point: "ranking everything like a G.D. sports team"

I wonder how many of Wine Spectator's Top 100 or Whomever Else's Top X were tasted individually and/or with food.

I agree - minus food, it's nearly impossible to fairly & completely evaluate wine.

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