Tasting & Scoring

Why score?

Scoring is undoubtedly the most controversial subject when it comes to wine. The valuation of something so many people call subjective.

Wine has been defined as both an art and science. That was the first mistake! Then you’ve been told that your tastes hold no right or wrong, just an opinion that only you can define. Kind of true!

Art and\or Science?

Music and art are constantly compared to wine because of its ability to evoke emotion. Food, wine, art, music: all have the ability to make us feel something. Depending on your experiences in life that reaction may be positive or negative. Thus the controversy over giving a score to an experience that may be positive to one person and negative to another. How do you ever draw a base line or standard of ranking.

Is the world of wine more related to art or science? I say it takes an extreme amount of science to evoke emotions that feel like art. It takes science to define the why and how, but it takes art of literature to relate that experience to someone who just wants something decent to have with dinner. It takes science and years of dedication to understand your palate, but it takes the passion and the art of life to keep your opinions and appreciations clear on whether you simply like it or not.

In other words, wine is science with the façade of wanting to be art. Wine is built on the foundation of chemistry and biology but is all about stimulating our senses that is expressed in our passion for the art of literature.

What about tasting? How is that defined?

Tasting is all about that fundamental reaction of yes or no. Do I like it, or not. Everything that happens after that split second is what confuses this subject. The moment you are awe struck by a flavour, or disgusted by its experience, our minds want to rationalise it. We want to know the why and how, we want to know if we will ever experience that again and when or how not too. We want answers to our food and wine experiences and they are not easy to define.

Why I Score.

We, as humans, naturally construct order around us. On a daily basis we organize, list, rank, and prioritize our lives. Why is wine any different?

Scoring is my way of cataloging, my way of ranking what I have tasted. Subjectivity is the difference between two wine tasters when one has experienced 100 different wines in their life time and the other has experienced 10,000. They both gave a wine 89 points but the score means something completely different to each other they both a different frame of reference. Have either of them ever awarded 100 points? If the inexperienced taster has only awarded 91 as their highest score, then 89 is quite high?

Tasting Template Summary

After wanting to know where each point went and why, I was disillusioned to learn that there is no standard or frame of reference. Points were picked out of the air without defining context, environment, frame of mind, scenario – nothing! So years ago I started to define each point, it’s a standard I call “VOTO” for Visual/Olfactory/Tactile/Overall. It defines each point and starts to differentiate the differences between wines that have been unexplainable in the past.  The Template above is a summary form that shows the breakdowns.  Its very possible for two wines to score the same points and have completely different personalities or strengths and weaknesses.  This has yet to be distinguished before in wine reviews.

There is a still a margin of error to be considered, as there is with anything that gets measured. What’s important is getting that margin of error as small as possible. The VOTO method supports the smallest margin of error on wine scoring to date.  I have defined 55 of the 100 points for still wine and 60 of the 100 for sparkling wine. The remaining points are awarded for “showing up”, for all the effort prior to that wine getting to your glass. If you have ever worked a harvest you know what it takes to even get bad wine into a bottle, its worth every point and more. I am of the belief that no winemakers has the intention of making crap wine. Many pour their heart and soul into that juice, to have an honest mistake, sometimes from the FNG (fucking new guy) that alters the path of what was destined to be the best wine in the world. Many people also forget that wine is a business and is still centered around making money. There are times when a wine must be released even though its not what the winemaker intended. Then it becomes the marketing departments job to romance the wine into something that sells. A good wine critic is no more important than a second opinion that helps consumers sort through the the often thick layers of salesmanship and give credit where credit is due.

I ask, actually I implore you, to discover your own palate and likes and dislikes. Use my scores no more than a guide to help you discover some amazing wines and personalities behind those wines.

Happy tasting.


2 thoughts on “Tasting & Scoring

  1. Hi there…I am a co worker of Dave’s. I was intrested in your comments. can you recomend any big Reds with big berry nose and taste with little to no oak and between $12.00 and $16.00 a bottle.

    • Hi Doug,
      A big red in that price range with little to no oak is not going to be too common. There are two reds that come to mind and the first is Summer Night from Gehringer Brothers. Its a blend of grapes that is more about a smooth taste with lots of flavour. The other wine that suits that bill is Latitude 50 red from Gray Monk. Both of these wines are $14 and good value. Depending on where you live, they are usually available at your local VQA Store. Click here to see if any are close to you. Enjoy.

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