parker, jancis and the #7wordwinereview

Take a bold Aussie red – in this case d’Arenberg’s ‘The Footbolt Shiraz 2006’ – expose it to just two of our myriad well-known wine critics, along with a #7wordwinereview, and this is what you get:

Lastly, the 2006 The Footbolt Shiraz (which contains a bit of Grenache) offers fragrant aromas of wood smoke, game, and blueberry. Layered and balanced, it will evolve for several years and drink well through 2017.

90+ Points, Jay Miller,

Blackish crimson. Intense and tarry on the nose. Very soft at the beginning then quite piercing on the finish. Quite a bit of polish though the amount of acidity dictates food is absolutely necessary with this. 2008 to 2012.

16 Points, Jancis Robinson

A phenomenal balance of fruits and spices.

Renee Vimmerstedt (@RVimmerstedt), #7wordwinereview

One wine, but a trio of differing reviews, confusing if only because one says drink it now, while the other says it’s okay until at least 2017.  With such contrasting opinions, it has always been a little tricky knowing whose judgement to trust, especially when it comes to serious wine investment.

More about that in a moment, but surely the most pleasing thing about wine reviews is that, no matter how professionally objective each tester is – and despite Neal Martin’s grandiose statement that in order to truly appreciate wine, we should first taste all the 1982 first growths all at the same time no less, ( – it is clear that even the top critics won’t always agree.

When it comes to wine, one’s own opinion is surely the most important factor – a point made well by the big man (Robert Parker) himself who, in handing down his own hyper-valued commentaries, wisely adds: “There can never be any substitute for your own palate, nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.”

Nonetheless, for most of us, studying wine reviews is an essential starting point, and should be accessible and basic reading for everyone who takes the subject seriously.

I personally like the ‘#7wordwinereview’ (created by @12x75). It’s clear, concise, offers no score and makes it very easy to establish whether or not the wine was enjoyed. Not that even the best critics always stick to their own precise scoring criteria and evaluation methods since, in recent years, average scores on eRP appear to have crept upwards, while notes on one 90-point wine can imply an excellent wine, notes on another equally scored wine can imply something just marginally better than average.

Wines at a recent #7wordwinereview meet up

One question often asked of critics is whether wines should be tasted blind in order to get a completely unbiased opinion. Surely the answer is obvious; all wine should be tasted and scored in the same way – whatever that is -  be it a Lafite or a Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ recommendation. I suspect many would agree with this but then, when judging any good wine, don’t we also need to know exactly what it is we’re drinking, in order to understand why it tastes the way it does? Just like writing a wine review, there is no right or wrong answer to this. But, what we do know is that a combination of these measures offers a true insight into what the wine is all about.

Which leads me to wonder how we can improve the reliability of wine ratings, or at least, move more towards a single industry standard for measuring their quality. But, while this should be easy enough to achieve, obvious practicalities get in the way . .  .

For instance, imagine the benefits of holding one giant annual tasting event, with all the wines from a specific region or regions up for assessment, and the wine regions changing each year to make the whole exercise vaguely practical.

Every recognised wine critic (of which there are more each year) would be given a set criteria with which they were required to conform to – including a standardised numerical baseline of, say 100, or 50 points.  The criteria would establish fixed parameters for the wine’s various attributes along wine advocates’ guidelines so, for example, colour and appearance would be worth up to 5 points, aroma and bouquet up to 15 points, flavour and finish up to 20 points, and the overall quality or potential, another 10 points.

In this hypothetical mass event, we would start with Bordeaux 1982 – all classed growths and top St Emilions, Pomerols and the like – first blind tasting the wines and then non-blind, before taking an average score of all ratings. Wouldn’t this give us a great insight in to how good any and every wine this really is, as well as highlighting the differences that can arise between blind and non-blind tastings? And, if the results ruffled the feathers of just a few critics – would that be such a bad thing?

Having persuaded myself that, practicalities aside, the notion of a standardised annual mass tasting offered far more positives than negatives,  – I tried a little experiment with Parker’s scores on the top wines of Bordeaux since the 2000 vintage, up to and including the 2011 vintage – taking an average of the scores for each year to see if any are consistently performing above their price point.

The results are illuminating, as the top 50 (listed below) clearly shows. Just one example of a wine really punching above its weight is the fifth growth Pontet Canet, whose average scores over 11 years puts it into second growth territory. Similarly, Pavie and Haut Bailley are amongst a pleasant list of surprises, when their ratings over a decade have been aggregated.  Using this method, here’s the top 50:
















Haut Brion






Mouton Rothschild



Leoville Las Cases



Pavie Decesse



La Mission Haut Brion


Le Pin






l'Eglise Clinet






Vieux Chateau Certan





Ducru Beaucaillou



Pontet Canet



Troplong Mondot



Cheval Blanc



Cos d'Estournel



Pichon Baron



Leoville Poyferre









Pavie Macquin



Smith Haut Lafitte



Clos Fourtet






Clos l'Eglise



Haut Bailley



Pichon Lalande



Leoville Barton



Le Gay









Malescot St Exupery


Saint Pierre



Branaire Ducru



Lynch Bages



Duhart Milon






La Fleur Petrus









Canon la Gaffeliere



Larcis Ducasse



La Conseillante



Les Forts de Latour



So, what is the real future of wine scoring – and where is it taking us? Surely Parker’s influence will not last forever and new ways of judging wines must lie just around the corner?  Will we come to interpret the average scores of all critics as I’ve provocatively suggested – or will Parker’s 100 pointers become like pieces of art – timeless and incredibly collectible?

Whatever the answer, when you are looking for guidance among the wine critics’ tasting notes and point scoring, you should remember one thing – that, first and foremost, wine is for personal and communal enjoyment more than anything else. And, as Parker says, once you accept this as your yardstick, there is no better judgement than your own . . .  Happy drinking!

Our Next blog will take the avergae scores even further, and examine which wines from vintages 1982; 1986; 1989; 1990; 1996; 2000; 2005; 2009 & 2010 look undervalued in today's market. Please subscribe or drop us an email to stay up to date, or if you have any comments. 

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Ditton Wine & Spirits buy and sell fine wine.

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