Wine Ratings – Are They Really Useful to Consumers

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For as long as there has been an Italian wine industry, there have been experts who want to share their opinions on the many wines that come out of the country.

Of course, these reviews aren’t just limited to the Italian wine industry. Practically every major wine that’s released will have somebody reviewing it and giving it a rating. In fact, there are publications that exist almost solely to provide people with more information about wine and rank the various vintages that producers release.

And many believe that there’s a good reason for that. After all, a ratings system should help consumers to make their choices.

But we have a question.

Are wine ratings really as important as some people make them out to be?

We’re not so sure and we’re going to tell you why.

What Should the Ratings Show?

As mentioned, there’s a clear intention behind wine ratings. They’re supposed to provide a quick representation of the quality that a wine possesses. The idea is that somebody can quickly check a rating and make a choice based on the number. In most cases, the higher the number the better the wine is.

In that sense, wine ratings can do a lot to help consumers make their decisions. Their intention is to provide information that prevents somebody from buying a wine that they won’t enjoy. Of course, this only works if the rating is backed up with a detailed review that explains the wine in more detail. After all, you could see a wine that has a very good rating. However, if it’s for a type of wine that you know that you don’t like, a high rating isn’t going to mean very much to you.

Some would also argue that wine ratings are a useful metric for investors. There are plenty of people who purchase modern vintages with the intention of holding them for as long as they need to before they can sell them for a considerable profit. In this way, wine investing works like any other investment. You buy low with the aim of selling high later on down the line.

The problem comes in the sheer volume of wine that the Italian wine industry produces each year. It’s impossible to read all of the information that an investor needs to know to make a good decision. The wine ratings provide them with quick information on which to base their choices.

And that’s what it really comes down to. The ratings are a matter of prestige for many wine producers. Those that have wines that receive consistently high ratings will often use those numbers to market themselves. However, the ratings, at their heart, are intended to be a guide to consumers to help them choose the right wines.

What’s the Problem With Ratings

Despite this noble ambition, it would be wrong to say that wine ratings are perfect. In fact, there are several issues that you could take with the idea of a wine being reduced to a basic number.

For one, a number does not tell you about all of the qualities that a wine has to offer. Sure, you can use it to deduce that the wine isn’t as well balanced as it could be or that it perhaps doesn’t offer an interesting mix of notes. But you don’t get to learn about the people who made the wine or its particularly qualities if you just look at a rating.

You can get that information from a full review, but some publications don’t make those available or they hide them behind a pay wall.

Simply put, you need to do a little more research than simply looking at a number. After all, the wine may have several qualities that you find desirable that you’d completely miss out on if you didn’t research further.

And therein lies another potential issue. For as much as wine reviews will like to tell you that they’re impartial, the fact is that it’s practically impossible to remove all personal bias from a wine rating. There are some things that taste better to you than they may taste to a review, and vice versa. Those differences in personal taste can have an effect on a wine’s rating, even if the reviewer doesn’t intend it to.

That means you must consider every ranking as seen through the lens of the person who reviewed it. In an ideal world, you’d be able to learn about the personal preferences of the person who gave the wine its ranking. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, so just remember that one reviewer’s tastes may not match your own.

Finally, there’s an issue with the prestige that a high rating can bring to a bottle of wine. High ratings from the right reviewers and publications can significantly raise the value of a bottle of wine, especially if those ratings attract the attention of investors.

This can lead to some wines becoming practically inaccessible to most people, either because the price becomes too high or people buy all of the stock before you have a chance to get your hands on it.

In that sense, you could argue that wine ratings do as much harm to regular consumers as good. While they can provide you with guidance when you’re making a purchase, they can also put some good examples of wine out of your reach.

Do We Need Them?

The concept of the wine rating is so ingrained into the industry that it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever see them disappear.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For all of their shortcomings, wine ratings can still be used to provide you with an at-a-glance opinion about the quality of a wine.

However, we recommend looking at the ratings from several different sources before making your decision. You can generally feel safe that you’re making a good purchase if several people and publications are raving about a bottle of wine. However, you may also discover that one bad rating is an outlier in a sea of good ratings. Without further research, you could miss out on a wine that you’d really enjoy.

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