Scoring, love it or hate it?

April 22nd, 2006

(To skip my babble about scoring and see highlights from out first quarter of tasting, scroll down).
Our tasting group has been getting together for almost 3 years. Unfortunately I didn’t get the idea for starting the blog until a year ago, and then I was out of the country. It was not until last August that I was able to resume tasting with the group with the purpose of collecting everyone’s score to report on the blog. I recently found the time to tally all scores for all the wines we have tasted over the last several months. Some interesting observations must be made.

1) The mean score given by a taster and the standard deviations ranged from 4.6-5.9 (out of 10) and 1.4-2.1 respectively. With the exception of the 1.4 and the 2.1, most of us had standard deviations within 0.1 of each other despite having different average scores (say 4.6 versus 5.7). This suggests that although one person may be using the higher end of the 10 point scale, the range of scores given by each of us is not that different. Additionally you can learn something about what a good or bad wine might be for an individual. For example, my average score given is 5.7 and my standard deviation is 1.7. If you go 2 standard deviations away from my average (2.3 and 9.1) you can assume that if I give a wine a 9+ or a 2.2- then I must think it was an exceptionally good or extremely bad wine.

2) Although it turns out that the average score given for a single wine (as I report in the tasting notes on this blog) rarely drifts outside 4.5 - 7.5, I still like using the average of 5-7 tasters rather than most other systems which use a single person’s score. The average score for a given wine for all tastings is 5.5, and the standard deviation is 1.1. Thus if we ever averaged 8 or more, you should go and buy this wine, like the 2004 Schloss Johanisberg Riesling (Spatlese, Trocken). Additionally, if a wine scores below 4, it probably should be used as vinegar in your salad dressing. Wines in the 4.5-6.0 range probably received some high and some low scores and thus is something likely without defect but also without greatness.

I know these are technical observations, but for our group it is educational and provides a somewhat object view of how we are scoring. With the doubt being raised these days about scoring systems it is interesting to analyze our own scores in this way. The fact is that scoring provides a wonderful tool for consumers to decide amongst the volume of wine on the shelves. Criticism of Parker and Wine Spectator should probably be tempered, but after analysis of my own score, I still trust the average of a group more than one individual’s opinion. There are certainly times when I have tasted a wine and realized after discussion, revelations of other scores, and retasting outside of the flight that I must have misperceived certain aspects of a wine.

Given the rudimentary understanding of our group tastings described above, here are a few gems from the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I think it is safe to say that if it sounds interesting, fits your budget, and received a score of 6.5 or higher; you should try to find the wine. Happy hunting. (Listed in no particular order).

Viognier: Trefethen, 2003, $25 (Avg 7).
Syrah: Knipser, Pfalz (that’s right, a German Syrah), 2002 (Avg 6.5). Cline Syrah, California, 2002, $15 (Avg 6.5 - this wine has been in several tastings and seems to do well regardless of vintage). Miner, Napa Valley, 2002, $25 (Avg 7). Chateau des Tourettes ‘Trilogie d’Endes’, 2003, $?? (Avg 7).
Sparkling: Roederer Estate Brut Rose, $26 (Avg 6.5).
Pinot noir: Hartford Court, Arrendell Vineyards, $65 (Avg 7).
Riesling: Schloss Johanisburg, Spatlese, Trocken, 2004, 20 euors?? (Avg 8 ). If you can find it buy at least half a case, especially if Riesling is your thing!
Gewurtraminer: Mambourg (Alsace), Marc Tempe, Selection de Grains Nobles, 1998, $84 (Avg 7; this wine is expensive but a thrill to try. It received two 9s and 1 8 out of five tasters).
Grenache: Yangarra, McClaren Vale, Old Vine Grenache, 2003, $17 (Avg 7). d’Arenberg, Derelict Vineyard, 2002, $32 (Avg 6+ - we have tasted several d’Arenberg wines, they almost always do above average to very well).
Bordeaux Blend: Glen Carlou ‘Grand Classique’ (sorry forgot vintage), $19 (Avg 6.5).
Unusual Variety: Sedara, Nero d’Avola (this is the grape variety), Sicilia, 2003, $15 (Avg 6.5).
Zinfandel: Quivira, 2003, $20 (Avg 7).

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