Wine ratings: a numbers game or useful information?

Wed May 2, 2012 1:56pm EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Looking for a good bottle of Merlot, Pinot Grigio or Bordeaux? Ratings by experts may help narrow the choice but do they really make a difference?

Wine experts say the scores and descriptions they give a vintage will differentiate a good bottle from a mediocre one but in a recent study consumers who tasted fine Bordeaux rated the wines lower than the experts.

"The consumer can look at it (the rating) and say, 'OK a panel of experts has looked at this wine and evaluated it and I know it won't be plonk,'" said Lisa Granik, who holds a Master of Wine (MW), one of the highest standards of expertise in the wine industry.

Wine experts, magazines and judges in competitions give wine ratings, which are used as marketing tools by the vineyards. Competitions charge a fee for each product entered in the contest.

Granik, along with five other MWs and other wine experts, spent three days last week tasting and rating 700 wines for the Ultimate Wine Challenge, which gives ratings for wines that make the grade ranging from good/recommended to extraordinary/ultimate.

Doug Frost, another MW who took part in the challenge, believes ratings offer reassurance to consumers about the quality of the product.

"If not a third party endorsement then (if offers) at least some measure of security that at least some people have tasted this and at some point in the past have found it delicious," he explained.

But Ed McCarthy, another judge and the author of "Champagne for Dummies," said many good wines never enter competitions and don't get rated.   Continued...

Ultimate Wine Challenge 2012 judges Lisa Granik, Doug Frost and Ed McCarthy are seen judging wines in a handout photo. REUTERS/Handout