Sommelier Rated & Approved Wines

I picked up the new wine rating newsletter from VinTrust at the Recent Wine & Spirits Magazines Top 100 Tasting. VinTrust finally announced the emergence of their new publication today in a press release via BusinessWire and this spurred me to take another look at it.

VinTrusts SOMMselections consists primarily of reviews of wine with a smattering of commentary on recent Burgundy vintages, screwcaps, biodynamic farming and some other topics. But the main thrust is providing reviews of  sommelier-vetted wines for VinTrust’s client base of collectors who store their wine and often procure it through VinTrust.

The most interesting thing about the new publication is not that the wines are scored on a 100 point system. That’s to be expected when writing reviews for "collectors". What’s interesting is how they break down the 100 Point Rating System:

Aroma…15 points
Flavor…15 points
Structure…15 points
Length…15 Points
Balance…40 Points

This is the potential number of points each element of the wine’s character can achieve. This breakdown makes as much sense to me as any other well thought out system probably would. Each review also includes a few words describing each of the five elements of the wine as well as a short contextual description of the wine. So, a typical review looks like this:

2003 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay
Chardonnay – Sonoma County

Aroma: mineral, ocean, white flowers, apple………13
Flavor: lime, hazelnut, mineral, toast, apple……….14
Structure: rich, med acid, glycerous, mild tannin..14
Length: long, needs time to develop………………….13
Balance: balanced and refreshing………………………37
SUGG: $65           DRINK: 2008-2018               91 Points

The palate is refreshing and rich at the same time.
The acidity and mild tannins, unusual in a California
white, aid in aging this historic white. Hanzell fans
will be pleased to note that this is a young version
of the ’95 vintage.


The reviews are the average taken from a number of different VinTrust sommeliers’ independent ratings. So, we are talking about a group effort rather than an individual’s tastes.  Lisa Minucci, SOMMselection’s editor describes the reviews this way:

"SOMMselections Wine Journal is a new and unique kind of wine publication that offers more objective reviews by trained wine professionals and multiple perspectives on truly special wines.

I’m not clear how the reviews are "more objective" than others. Nor am I clear what the difference is between aroma’s rated "13 points" and those rated "14" points. This of course is the major problem with a reader’s perception of any wine rating that ascends beyond, say 4 or 5 stars.

The coolest thing about SOMMselection is that the reviews come from sommeliers. These folks are highly trained in the ways of wine. This is a good thing. However, I’m not sure that it’s a thing that makes these reviews any more objective than those of Hank the Vacuum Cleaner Salesman. However, it does make them more informed.

A complimentary one-year subscription to the newsletter appears to located HERE. Click on the "Fall 2006–Inaugural Edition" link to get to the email form you need to fill out.

Posted In: Rating Wine


6 Responses

  1. Wine Weekly - October 31, 2006

    Another Way to Score Wines

    Fans of the WineWeekly rating system, it looks like Vino Joe has been ripped off by the snobs, no less !
    Check out this post on the excellent wine trade blog, Fermentation. It explains that a new publication put together by sommeliers is adding…

  2. Saint_Vini - October 31, 2006

    The “more objective” qualifier might be a reference to their policy of averaging tasting notes, whereas WS & RP often have single tasters making reviews.
    I think a wine with a 14 point aroma smells better than a 13 pointer, just the same way a 4 star wine tastes better than a 3 star, no? Sometimes people like to slice it a bit “finer”. No big deal….

  3. Marco Baccaglio - November 1, 2006

    I am a lover of numbers, but frankly speaking the 100-points valuation tool broken down in catetories is one of the most useless tools I have ever seen. I am a sommelier and my feeling is that these breakdowns are just meant for people to understand how to build their valuation for the first times. When you taste a wine, you should be able to understand whether its a 80 point, a 90 point or a 100 point without using the calculator!

  4. VinoJoe - November 1, 2006

    Marco, as a sommelier shouldn’t you be supporting an idea that will help people get a better understanding of wine? Saying that a scoring breakdown is useless is a bit strong — how can it be useless if it may help a neophyte learn why a wine is a 94 or an 87 or whatever? In addition, a breakdown of the score can get people to pay attention to more that’s in the wine than just, say, the taste. The more a person can understand wine, the more he/she is likely to buy (and pay for a bottle).

  5. TasteDC - November 1, 2006

    Scoring wines “objectively” is always tricky – not only do you have to learn this system, but you have to get everyone using the system to agree to a methodology!! And this is an “unbalanced” scoring system – “balance” is weighed more than the other 4 factors almost 3 to 1. Finally, are taste, structure and balance mutually exclusive? They seem to overlap to me, so there goes your objectivity! Yep, sommeliers are doing the judging, but another issue – what is a sommelier? Yes, of course it’s a wine professional who serves wine in a restaurant, but are they all trained the same? Did they all go to the same Sommelier school or do they have a common benchmark?
    A point system will probably not stop consumer’s wine confusion – there simply is an overwhelming amount of wine and information about wine out there. They will have to learn the hard way – buy wine in the store and restaurant and start the messy affair of pairing wine with food on their own – yep, experimentation – its how I learned!

  6. tom merle - November 1, 2006

    Once again a system that is overly precise for evaluating the activity–enjoying wine and its various dimensions. 14 vs. 13 is the same as 4 vs. 3 stars. Surely you jest. I defy anyone to come up with the same score two days running when you have 30 points to play with (70 to 100). If SOMMselections is so sure and pleased with their system, let’s see the same or a different group of ~professionals~ replicate their scores with some time in between.
    Also what the hell is the difference between 86 and 87 once the five categories are summed (we do know what the difference is between an 89 and a 90–a cruel perversity)? Five stars with half stars if you are on the fence provides enough of a yardstick of appreciation.

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