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Sep 14, 2010 06:26 PM

Wine Spectator Ratings.......

Love it or hate it....we all read the WS.

I for one, always turn to the ratings pages in the back and see "what is hot" that month.

I DO NOT purchase wines based on the WS scores, but it is always fun reading. I do however, for the most part agree with the ratings if I drink something that they have reviewed.

A few years back I purchased a 2003 Simi Cab Alexander Valley. before drinking it, i couldn't help to look it up and WS gave it an 82.

When I opened the wine I thought it was much better than an "82". . Tonight I opened another and the wine is not just good, it is awesome!!

Yes, it is 7 years old now and has revealed alot more with age. Is WS too quick to pull the trigger??

Does the WS influence your purchases? How often has everyone out there disagreed with the WS after tasting a wine??

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  1. The thing about WS ratings, or any ratings for that matter, is that they are really only valid for that wine on the day it was tasted. Wines evolve and change in the bottle, so the review from 6 months ago may have little relevance to today. I have had a very similar thing happen to me - a Santa Maria Valley Pinot which I loved was rated an 82 or 83. Obviously the reviewer caught the wine on a bad day because the wine absolutely rocked when I had it.

    And for another glaring example, WS panned the 07 Willamette Pinot Noirs early on, but those who waited for the wines to mature in the bottle were rewarded with a terrific vintage. Every 07 I've tried (and I've tried a LOT) that had at least a year in bottle was fantastic. Just goes to show that WS is merely a guide, not a bible.

    1 Reply
    1. re: orlwine

      I had a WS experience that was completely opposite! When the 1988 Mouton Rothchild came out, they raved about it and gave it a perfect 100!! So I bought a few. As the wine matures, the rating started to come down. Now, not only was this wine no where near perfection, it has dropped to a merely good 88-90 ( RP-WS ). After learning my lesson, I now refer to at least 4-5 sources ( Decanter, Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson...etc ) before pulling the trigger!

    2. we all read the WS ??

      Other wine forums are full of people who have stopped.

      Orlwine's first sentence says it all.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gussie Finknottle

        Who they kiddin!!!! Oh they read it all right..........the WS is like a bad accident on the much as you don't want just gotta look!!!!!

        1. re: tito

          Speak for yourself. When I first started collecting wines I read the Wine Spectator but quickly came to realize that it was a lifestyle magazine more than a wine magazine, that its collective palate was skewed toward big, internationalized wines and that much of the advice it gave was laughably bad (e.g. drinking windows). Would guess that the last issue I bought was in the mid-'90s. I doubt I've even leafed through an issue since the turn of the century.

          1. re: carswell

            "it was a lifestyle magazine more than a wine magazine"

            Even much less!

            It's worth re-reading the celebrated WS "Awards" fiasco not too long ago:


      2. I used to read them and I still consider them when the ratings are included where I buy wine, but I don't necessarily hold much stock in them. Here are my reasons:
        1. I typically cannot find the wines that are highly rated
        2. Once they get the rating they are typically out of my price range.
        3. It is subjective and I found that my tastes did not coincide with their evaluators.

        Since I live in Washington State I have access to a lot of quality wine that WS will never taste so I typically just try a lot of different wines. It is always disappointing when one of my favorites ends up highly rated in WS and then becomes too expensive.

        1. I don't read WS. Not with any regularity, and I put little to no stock in not only their ratings, but anyone else's other than my friends and colleagues. I'm more interested in what I think of the wine.

          There are those who feel that WS often takes into consideration other factors than the taste of the wine they are sampling when reviewing.... for example, they look at the dollars the wine's owners spend on advertising in WS before they assign a rating. I'm not saying that is so, just that it is a point of contention among many wine people.

          1. I tend to drink Italian wines mostly, and James Suckling's career is marked by his promotion of and preference for a globalized style and the use of non indigenous varietals in Italy. For myself, his legacy has negatively impacted Italian wine making and my personal enjoyment of wine. Yes, he's "retired" now, but his opinions are those I most associate with WS.

            At the end of the day, I understand this is a disagreement over personal preferences. If you love excessively ripened cabernet sauvignon primarily aged in new French oak barriques, then why shouldn't Italian winemakers pull up all the Sangiovese vines, chuck all their old Slovenian oak barrels, and try to appeal to your palate? I'd say because we'd be losing a hugely important part of human culture, and replacing truly elegant wines reflecting a wide diversity of place with soulless, homogenized juice. But, of course, that's just my opinion.

            Nonetheless, for me, Suckling personifies the most negative impact of the (mostly US) wine consumers' slavish following of the critical establishment. And, so, Suckling/WS are irrelevant to me in terms of their opinion when I select wine, but excessively relevant in an almost wholly negative way in terms of the legacy of wine.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

              Bravo--well said.

              My enjoyment of a wine is generally inversely proportional to its WS/WA rating.

              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                Thomas Matthews similarly sniffs after extracted internationally styled Riojas, and clearly does not appreciate the traditional style (except, with some measured words of approval for Lopez Heredia.)

                1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                  I observed something disheartening in Italy this last March, the wine shops were prominently displaying the WS ratings and promoting them over the Gambero Rosso and other Italian reviews. Evidently, the Italian customers are starting to follow these ratings.

                  1. re: BN1

                    Check this out. Suckling's wine. The favorite of King's and Pope's. I almost thought it a hoax:

                    "Called One Wine One World, Suckling created it on a whim. ‘I wanted to blend Californian and Mexican wine,’ he told, ‘and then I thought, Why not make it a political statement – why not make a global wine?’ The red is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault from Roussillon, Zinfandel, Grenache and Petite Sirah from Mexico, and Cabernet Franc from Wente Vineyards in California. The white contains Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia, Friulano and Pinot Grigio from Italy, and Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Hungary."


                    A political statement, indeed.

                    Again, I know - personal preference and all that. Suckling's globalized, homogenized approach, although utterly misguided to my mind, is non objectionable except to the extent that it displaces centuries of winemaking expressing unique terroirs and varietal typicity. And that's exactly what's happening, largely as a result of attempts by winemakers to appeal to the palates of influential reviewers like Suckling and tap into that lucrative market that his opinions influence and move.

                    Why anyone would prefer an Italian "bordeaux blend" in the global style with gobs of new oak over a traditionally made Barolo or Brunello aged in old Slovenian casks is something I'll never understand. But some people certainly do. And this has seemingly created great anxiety among Italian winemakers, many of whom are clumsily aping this globalized style that so appeals to Suckling.

                    Barbera growers in Piemonte are intervening to reduce the high, palate-cleansing acidity traditional to these wines - and which makes them so food friendly - and applying new oak regimens that cover up that grape's inherent sour berry/dark fruit typicity with toast, toffee, mocha and vanilla. It's the wine making equivalent of dumping those harsh, artificial tasting syrups in your cappuccino, Starbucks-style. Obviously, many Starbucks customers prefer this. I'd wager it's those who don't exactly like the flavors of coffee.

                    Or consider our own RicRios' "Strange case of a case of 1999 Clerico Barolo Percristina" Here we have a wine from one of the great traditional Piemonte winemakers from one of the 2 or 3 best Barolo vintages of that strong decade. It should have aged gracefully for 30-40 years, ultimately becoming one of the finest wines in the world. Instead, this wine Ric now considers undrinkable. So much so that he's donated the rest of his bottles to chowhounders for the purpose of determining what went so wrong. I don't think it's surprising to discover that 1999 was smack in the middle of Clerico's adventures in modernity, even using a 100% new French oak aging regimen. And I don't think I'm courting controversy by suggesting that Clerico's shift to this style was motivated by a misguided and clumsy attempt to appeal to 'important' palate's like Suckling's. Perhaps even specifically Suckling's. And, of course, to that vast segment of wine consumers who follow him.

                    This, to me, represents WS's unfortunate legacy with respect to Italian wines: short-lived, non typical, homogenized wines made in an interventionist style that disregards tradition in favor of current trends. When young upon release, they score well among the Suckling's of the world, are bought up by the case by wealthy consumers pushing their prices ever higher, and then die young due to their inherent lack of balance, or fall out of favor with the fickle tastes of the global market. We are then left with this mess (alert RicRios, check this out):

                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                      Looking back at the 1999 Per Cristina ratings, the very Italian Duemilavini 2005 gave it their top 5 / 5 stars. Anticipating "best after 2010".

                      So probably this is not so much a WS-related phenomenon, and more of a global trend.

                      On the producer's side: make whatever gives you high scores; get praises; sell high; repeat.

                      On the critic's side: surf the high-water marks; be on top of the wave; sell subscriptions;

                      Unfortunately, real traditionalists ( case at hand Luigi Baudana from Serralunga d'Alba, a winemaker true to centuries old tradition ) can't survive current trends, and/or his limited output of 25,000 btls. Since last year, both land and cantina run under new ownership.

                      Sad picture, indeed.