Saturday, February 24, 2007

Using the JoeScore

For most of my tasting notes I publish a score. Early on I debated whether or not I should publish scores, but I use a score sheet (that evolved from the score sheet we use for our Formal Tastings) for writing notes and I figured that the scores are as much for me as they are for anyone else. I like that I can track wines over time, reviewing old notes and comparing scores, and I hope to see how my tastes change, or how different conditions change my thoughts. If you find them helpful, that's great, but please refer to the tasting notes as well.

While scoring is subjective, at the very least you should be able to see from my blog that, for the most part, I love all wines, with a wide variety of grapes, regions, styles and price ranges represented. I am not stuck on one style or grape or price point - I believe every wine has a perfect time, place, food pairing, and friend to share it with.

As a background, the following describes how I taste my wines and what I believe the scores mean.

How the wines are tasted:

In our Formal Tastings, these wines were decanted and tasted blind, unless otherwise noted. For my everyday tasting notes the wines are decanted (except Pinot Noir, whites, bubbles, and some inexpensive reds) and tasted - unblinded - in a standard INAO glass.

What the score is supposed to mean:

I reviewed my scores over the past year, and I would broadly use them as follows:
  • 20: Perfection, haven't found that yet, or if I have I am not yet ready to use this number.

  • 18 to 19.5: The world's greatest wines, with unbelievable depth and complexity, exceptional balance, and lots of aromas and flavours to ponder. (~10% of my scores)

  • 16 to 17.5: Excellent wines, balanced and interesting. This is probably a range to find some great values. (~70% of my scores)

  • 14 to 15.5: Good everyday wines, generally interesting or balanced, but not both. Don't overpay for these. (~20% of my scores)

  • 12 to 13.5: Reasonable "Vin de Table"

  • <12: Liquids, with varying semblance to real wine. Likely available in a large format container, and may feature at a wedding. May be suitable for mixing with other beverages.

Key Caveats:

The most important caveat is that I am unblinded when I score. As a science guy, this is not ideal, as we all bring a bias to that bottle of wine. Thus, I like our Formal Tastings are a truer test of a wine vs. my palate.

Another key caveat - should you think a 15.5 point Pinot is worse than a 17 point Syrah? I would be cautious in comparing scores from unlike grapes, and maybe even from different regions.

So where are the crappy wines? No, I do not have any 11 point wines on the blog. I do a lot of research - reading, tasting, talking to friends - it is unlikely I will ever end up with such a wine in my cellar. When I have had a wine that tastes like it should score in that range, I am usually out of the house at some event where scoring is impractical, or if at home it is usually a wine that is corked or cooked - no need to damn a wine because of its storage history.


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