Wine Talk

Snooth User: jamessulis

Wine ratings

Posted by jamessulis, May 24, 2012.

The other day while rating a Jettlynn Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon a thought entered my head. With Snooth's system of 1 to 5 we know pretty much of how we are going to rate our tasted wines. My favorite wine is a Malbec which I reserve the number 4 in the rating system. This Jettlynn 07 Cabernet was also a 4 in my mind. This is where my questions began. What would it take to give a wine a 5? It would mean the best ever tasted? How would you know because there may be a better that you haven't tasted yet. . I was wondering if fellow snoothers would publish their number 5 ratings, I would love to know what you guys and girls think is the best. I once long ago had a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothchild which was given to me by my wife and I do remember it as being the best because it clanged bells that I didn't even know I had. Looking back the Lafite would have earned a 5.

Lefty The Great Pacific Northwest


Reply by Terence Pang, May 25, 2012.

James, what ratings reflect of the quality of the wine (let's ignore the issue of appropriate use of ratings altogether) is such a controversial topic (Wine is full of them isn't it? what happened to just enjoying your drink?)

I think to say that a rating of 5/5 constitutes a wine that is (in the taster's opinion and experience) in perfect harmony i.e. it has complexity of aromas and flavours, balanced with fruit weight and acidity. I don't include tannins in that bracket because that influenced by the age of the wine and subject to influence by the storage conditions.

I think with wine ratings, it is important that we do not regard them as a test/exam score. The winemaker, the region, the vintage, all that is not under scrutiny. They're not going to fold, close up shop or be taxed more just because one vintage might fall below a particular quality level. I rate wines by how much pleasure they provide me in that tasting session, and by saying that, of course it becomes entirely subjective.

You say the Lafite has provided you a great memory. If it was of high quality and exuding all the properties of an excellent wine, then those two aspects in combination should definitely confer it a 5/5 in your books.

Reply by JonDerry, May 25, 2012.

Good honest question that inevitably comes up when thinking about scoring wines.

For me, there are a couple wines that come to mind but the essential part of a top wine is the power and pleasure you get out of it, and these wines typically have a remarkable finish, which makes the wine complex the second it hits your palate. If it smells great too, all the better.

Many people have hesitations about scoring wines 5/5 or 100/100 because it's hard to be sure what the best possible wines taste like without an unlimited budget or without the benefit of having tasted wines for hundreds of years. It's probably safe to not score any wines as perfect before you have plenty of experience under your belt. Kind of feel that you'll know when it hits you, and if you later have some 5's or 100's that you think are even better than what you previously scored the same, well we've all done the same for various 80's & 90's we've come accross along the way.

Reply by jamessulis, May 25, 2012.

As Terrence Pang stated:

James, what ratings reflect of the quality of the wine (let's ignore the issue of appropriate use of ratings altogether) is such a controversial topic (Wine is full of them isn't it? what happened to just enjoying your drink?)         


Great comments Terrence however I disagree with your first paragraph above. I do need a system that tells myself which wine I liked better than the other . It may be a number system, a letter system or I liked it alot, I liked it a little, I loved it etc. I feel the number system is an easy statement used to describe the pleasures of a particular wine and I often refer back to it here at snooth after rating a wine. The enjoying tasting and remembering wine is the first part of the entire philosophy of wine drinking, the second part is how well did it score with my palate and wine enjoyment.

Reply by JonDerry, May 25, 2012.

A possible solution could also be to keep trying new wines, only go back to previously tasted wines when your memory of the experience calls for it.

Reply by EMark, May 25, 2012.

This is one of those topics that is very satisfying to discuss, but never yields a satisfactory conclusion.

I personally never rated any wines until I started playing in the Snooth sandbox about a year ago.  I post ratings on Snooth semi-regularly, and for me it is just fun.  I like the Snooth 5 point (10, really, since halves are allowed) scale because I can easily put a wine into a "Great," "Very Good," "Good," "Neutral" or "Unacceptable" category.  As an enthusiast, not a professional, this is quite sufficient.

I have posted previously that I do not "taste" wine so much as I "drink" it.  So, when I post a review of a wine, it is an impression of that wine in the context of that particular moment, although on a few ocassions, I have amended a review the next day.  I have not rated any wine a 5, because as Jon D. has suggested, I suppose I want to leave myself some room.  My highest rating, so far, was a 4.5 for a wine that was quite easily available to consumers at a fairly inexpensive price.  It did have a few years of age on it in my cellar, but it was an excellent wine and, most importantly, it made an entire dining experience quite memorable.

In my experience I have probably had one 5/10/100 (depending on the scale) wine.  That experience was mine, alone.  A mid-range California wine that played tremendously on my palate and perfectly complemented the sliced apples and cheese that I was eating.

I think the above paragraph shows my bias when rating.  I'll never have that moment again, I'll never have that wine again, but I will continue to do the research--testing more wines in convivial environments with good food

Reply by jamessulis, May 25, 2012.

All comments appreciated but was hoping for someone to name an actual wine. The ones that I feel are suited to my palate is some of the Washington state wines. Of course, I live in the state of Washington and the wines are very easy and mostly inexpensive. I do relish all the reds from Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle and many of the wines that come from Walla Walla. To name a few that score big on the Snooth chart with me are Owen Roe Cabernet, Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet, Columbia Crest Cabernet, Layer Cake Malbec from Mendoza Argentina, Rodney Strong Cabernet, Paul Newman Cabernet. I am on my third glass of of wine I opened yesterday a 2007 Jettlynn Cabernet Sauvignon out of San Miguel, California and I am finishing the bottle today, it had time to breathe and oxygenate and I will go back and change my rating to a 5. Yep, I've decided it's the best tasting wine I have had in years and why not give it a 5, I hope there will be others that I feel the same about. Comon Snoothers name your best!

Reply by outthere, May 25, 2012.

James, I have never rated a wine perfect because I don't feel like I have ever had one. The 5 point scale is a tough one for me because I could rate everything I drink a 3-4  but that really doesn't do anything to separate one wine from another.

As for your Washington wines, last night I opened an 06 Doyenne from DeLille that was a solid 4 but on a 100 point scale I probably would have given it a 93 which is extremely good for me as I have never rated any wine I have had above 95. Really solid bottle of Washington Syrah.

Tonight it's a younger syrah in an 08 Copain Halcon Vineyard that is a completely different beast being an ultra cool climate high elevation syrah. In a couple years it may score higher with me than the DeLille so what do I do? Score it high or score it where it stands and not on its potential? That's why I find scores very hard to serve up. My tasting notes say far more to me about the wine and how it appealed to me. My notes can also tell me if the wine will improve with bottle time where a number will not.

Just one mans view on the subject.

Reply by GregT, May 25, 2012.

James - people argue about this endlessly and in the end it doesn't matter. Your rating is your rating.  I try to keep that in mind as I watch the people who work for me eat fast food and snacks and crap.  Most of the things would make me retch, but they actually seek out the stuff. Or just listen to pop radio - most of the people "singing" are off key but people call them "artists". You can't worry about what someone else might find acceptable. 

In the same way, a wine you love may be one I hate and vice versa.  Whether it's 100 or 5 or 20 or ***** doesn't matter - those are only ways of indicating an opinion.

So if you think a wine is the greatest thing you've ever tasted, by all means, rate it as such. There are some things that we can agree on objectively - balance, complexity, etc., but even those are not as clear as one might think.  I've tasted wine with people who love a particular wine and it's clear as hell that the wine is corked or has bacterial problems or out of whack VA or whatever.  And they think they're finding the "terroir" or something like that. 

Whatever.  If I found a wine to be perfect, I'd say so. It's only an opinion after all. Critics make a living offering opinions, but that doesn't mean they're right.  I'm drinking a Cab from Henry's Drive right now - it's syrupy, sweet, still woody, has an herbal note on the nose, and it's medicinal and a mess at 10 years in.  I'd give it 85 today. A few years ago I was still put off by the wood, which has integrated much more now. At 8 years it was just about right but I kept a bottle for the 10 year mark.

Here's someone else's opinion, but that was several years ago:

The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is a sexy, hedonistic, dark plum/purple-hued effort displaying a rich, sumptuous bouquet of cedar wood, licorice, new saddle leather, dried herbs, and creme de cassis. This is Australia’s version of a hedonistic vintage of Lynch Bages that includes a Rhone Valley herbes de Provence note. Seductive, fleshy, and succulent, it should be enjoyed over the next 5-7 years. 92

Reply by zufrieden, May 26, 2012.

As many of us have often tried to suggest,  wine appreciation is an amateur sport - although it does have a convergence factor.  If I were to present several wines to GregT, Jamessullis and JonDerry (e.g.), I have a fairly good feeling that we'd converge to a certain feeling about quality.  But it would be the convergence of experience, training and interest - not the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) of taste.  But even the LCD of taste is nothing to criticize in the most absolute sense.  Even if it could be "empirically" determined (e. g.) that fast food was inferior to the best that NYC has to offer, it would not stop the stampede to the snackbar.

Got it?

Reply by GregT, May 26, 2012.

Zuf - it's true.

Except about the food of course!

James - here's an experiment you can do.

" Owen Roe Cabernet, Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet, Columbia Crest Cabernet, Layer Cake Malbec from Mendoza Argentina, Rodney Strong Cabernet, Paul Newman Cabernet"

Columbia Crest for example, makes a Reserve Cabernet and something called Walter Clore, which used to be their Red Reserve. It's a blend of Bordeaux grapes. Try those and see if they're better to you than the basic bottling. They're the same company as Chat St. Michelle, which also makes a reserve bottling and an "Ethos" bottling and also has a joint venture with Antinori under which they put out Col Solare.  Try that and see how you feel. 

Or, look at some other wineries.  For example, Cougar Crest or Seven Hills. Both make a few bottlings.  For something a bit more expensive, the Long Shadows wines are made by winemakers who are well-known for their work with particular grape varieties and most are sourced around Walla Walla.  And for something a bit more expensive, try Buty, or Pepper Bridge, and of course Woodward Canyon.  All of those turn out really good wine - I recently tried a number of the wines from Pepper Bridge and they're wonderful. 

Whether they're better or worse than the wines on your list is an open question for you. They need not be. But some of them are considered quite good. Some are more expensive and as you know, price is not correlated tightly with quality. But then sometimes it is.  We're just sticking with Walla Walla right now, but if you went down to Napa, it would be hard to find better Cabs than those put out by Shafer, for example.

Are they perfect? Maybe not, but tasting them side by side with anyone else's, I'd have to say they're some of the best I've had. Thus, on my scale, I'd rate them even higher than some of the others, and I'd rate some of those pretty highly. 

Then you need to consider cost. For what you get, Pepper Bridge and Woodward Canyon deliver super quality.  Shafer Hillside is assuredly even better. But what you pay for a single bottle will get you a case of the others and multiple cases of something like Layer Cake. So the question becomes whether the extra oomph is worth the great increase in price, and whether you figure that into your rating.

Anyhow, it's fun finding those things out. Best!

Reply by jamessulis, May 26, 2012.

Outthere (nothing wrong with having two fives?), GretT, Zufrieden (I got it) ,  Thanks for all the comments and the tips, great reading. GregT wasn't aware of the names you mentioned but will seek them in my wine journeys. Information gathered here at Snooth continues to be a great experience.

Reply by Terence Pang, May 27, 2012.

Hi James,

I wasn't suggesting that the use of ratings are unnecessary or inappropriate. I think they help put a lot of wines into perspective for anyone who hadn't tried a wine before. For those who "get" ratings, it can be a bane debating about them. correct me if I'm wrong, but I think ratings are great for marketing wines to casual drinkers who would almost instantly associate anything 8 or 9/10 or > 90/100 with a wine of good-high quality.


I have scored a couple of wines 100/100 in my book.

1) Sine Qua Non On Your Toes Syrah 2001 (Central Coast, CA) and 2) Standish The Relic Shiraz Viognier 2004 (Barossa Valley, South Australia).


I am tempted to include the 1879, 1884 and 1907 fortifieds I tried from Seppeltsfield, but really, what could do justice as a comparator to more than a hundred years of time?

Reply by jamessulis, May 28, 2012.

Hey Terence, I do get where you're coming from, thanks for all the good notes on your post.

The ratings I use are for my own reference. I do establish a number with a wine to create a memory of the wine as being acceptable within my enjoyment range. If the wine is not acceptable to my taste, it gets a number 2 which means I will never purchase it again, anything receiving a 3 is worth re-purchase. Anything over a 3 will become a habit.  I try and not let other people's ratings sway me as I feel I must be the taster and the judge of my own palate. Someone said here in summary that one man's wine is another man's whine.. 

Enjoying the search for pleasurable wine!

Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest

Reply by GregT, May 28, 2012.

James - I think you have it exactly right. There's an elegance to your system - never again, re-purchase, habit, that many wine writers would do well to emulate! My wife is pretty much the same with her opinions.

Reply by JonDerry, May 28, 2012.

My all time favorite scale is the 0 - 1 scale. A (1) you would buy again, a (0) you wouldn't.

I guess there'd have to be room for great wines, a 1+

Always good to hear about Shafer Hillside Greg, I'm the proud owner of 2.25 L of the 07'

Reply by jamessulis, May 29, 2012.


What a philosophy, I liked it, I didn't like it LOL. Wish life was so simple, nothing ever to ponder.


Reply by edwilley3, May 29, 2012.

One of the best blind tasting methods is a 1/0 sampling of a large variety.  At the end, you are sure to find that basically no one agreed exactly with anyone else. You reveal the top samples and wow people with what they actually liked.  

Another variation could be 2/1/0: 0 is for those you'd prefer not to drink again if you're the one paying; 1 is for those that you would be if the price were reasonable; 2 is what you'd actively seek out.  

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