BS, wine rankings and why you should ignore the experts
There’s no doubt that gold medals, wine show trophies and high ratings from wine critics and judges are worth big dollars to wine makers and wineries. And it’s not just in Australia that producers scramble to attract the attention of the influential critics and “experts”.
Around the world, wine companies compete, jostle and hustle for a few extra points for their wines that might make the difference between earning a shiny gold or silver sticker to adorn their bottles or to simply brag about to interested consumers.
But should we place our trust in the judgment of the “experts” and the malarkey they trot out as descriptors for the wine in their glass? Or are we consumers just being duped by the poppycock and gibberish of the authors of works of oenological fiction?
Now I should preface my comments by admitting to being guilty of occasionally using the vernacular of the “wine wankers” that make an industry of terminology that makes a glass of vino sound like something you’d find at the Toowoomba Festival of Flowers. And there’s undoubtedly a place for adjectives, superlatives and descriptive words but unless you’re in the industry’s inner sanctum, how would you know whether “funk” had positive or negative connotations or if a “fat” and “flabby” shiraz was worthy of serving to your discerning guests at a Saturday evening dinner party?
Most wine drinkers I share a glass with are more concerned with value and if a bottle has earned a few medals or 95 points from Parker or Halliday there’s a perception that it must be pretty good and therefore worthy of parting with a few extra sheckles to put it in your basket. But I’m not sure that’s always the case. And a case in point is the Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz which most of the experts score highly yet at the $44 asking price, I struggle to see the value!
At the lower end of the price spectrum there are wines that put big shiny gold medals on their label to attract the bower bird purchsers who are often duped in to thinking that a medal must mean terrific quality. But if you’re about to pay $11 at Dans for a bottle of the Down the Lane Shiraz Tempranillo 2018 that has a big Gold Medal above its label, it might pay to also notice the medal was earned in class 217D at the 2019 Rutherglen Wine Show. Whislt an achievement worthy of some flexing, the accolade might not result in your glass being filled with wine of the lofty heights you anticipated!
On the other hand, there are underrated wines like the Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2018 that are seemingly spurned by the big-name judges and often self-proclaimed experts yet if you ask me (and those who I have served it to) are eminently drinkable and represent terrific value at the $28 price point.
Humans are fallible and some research shows that if an experienced judge unknowingly blind tastes the same wine 3 times on the same day they will usually give 3 different (and often wildly disparate) scores; so what confidence can we have in a process that is more art than science? My advice: forget what the “experts” say or what shiny trophies appear on the label ; buy and drink what you enjoy and don’t be concerned if the wine wankers wave their forefingers and scold you like a school-child. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!