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Awards and Citations

There are many wine writers and wine competitions throughout the world, all attempting to rate wines by scores out of 10, 20 or 100, or by awarding medals or stars. We have included some of their ratings (where known) as guidelines only. So, if you enjoy a wine given a high mark by Robert Parker, for example, his assessments of other wines may lead you to other previously untried delights. We should stress, however, that scores and awards reveal nothing about the wine's style and character - at most they are mere indications of its general quality. The descriptions which accompany the scores are far more helpful and, in the end, the best palate for deciding which wines you enjoy most is your own!

So what do we think of them? Gold medals and high scores can be used cynically to sell wines. However, it is not enough to see that such an award has been made without knowing on what basis it was given. We prefer to consider the opinions of individuals such as Parker rather than panels, particularly when the panel changes with every tasting (as in most of the magazines). As indicated above, however, we do not give too much weight to anyone else's scores, preferring to trust our own judgment. 

Important: a wine which does not have a critic's rating is not necessarily inferior. It may mean either that the critics have not tasted it or that we have not seen the review. We only purchase wines which we consider to offer excellent value for their quality, regardless of reviews so you can be assured that any wines purchased from us will be well received.

 

Decanter
One of the UK's leading monthly wine magazines. In addition to numerous wine-related articles by some of the UK's top wine writers, each month it holds panel tastings (different panels for every tasting, suggesting a probable lack of continuity) of two distinct styles of wines, awarding one to five stars, deeming the wines to be:

Acceptable
**  Quite good
***  Recommended
****  Highly recommended
*****  Award winners

 

Gambero Rosso
The guide to Italian Wines is an annual publication reviewing over 15,000 wines (a further 10,000 wines were rejected) from over 2,000 producers awarding them one, two or the extremely coveted three glasses. Wines are tasted blind by exert tasters before being awarded their stars then around 1500 wines go forward into the Three Glasses taste-offs. In 2006, 246 wines wines were awarded tre bicchieri - ie. around 1% of all wines entered. Profiles of both the wineries and their wines are offered, arranged by region. Contact details are also provided so it can be a useful tool for the enthusiastic wine traveller as well as for professionals.

 

Le Guide Hachette des Vins
An annual publication which reviews around 10,000 French and Swiss, Luxembourg and, now, Canadian wines by appellation (having rejected 22,000 more wines which didn't make the grade). Independent and highly respected (regarded as the French wine drinker's bible), it examines every appellation (by region) and rates wines by awarding stars (see below). It is an extremely good way of discovering wines from smaller growers who don't get reviewed by Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator and other publications which all too often focus on the more prestigious estates and their wines.

No star   Recommended
*   Excellent
**   Remarkable
***   Exceptional

In addition, the very best one or two wines from an appellation may be awarded the 'Coup de Coeur', the very highest recommendation.

 

Bettane & Desseauve
The annual publication of Michel Bettane and Thierry Dessauve, formerly of the highly respected French wine magazine La Revue du vin de France. It assesses the wines from top estates, giving up to three stars for the estate and marks out of ten for the wines. It is an extremely reliable guide. RVF is a monthly magazine which awards up to five stars (the French Decanter perhaps?)

 

Robert Parker - The Wine Advocate
Robert M. Parker Jnr is America's foremost wine critic and a world-renowned authority on the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley. He publishes a bi-monthly guide, The Wine Advocate (see
erobertparker.com), in which he rates wines out of 100, employing a somewhat controversial system (in reality it is a 51-point scale as all wines automatically receive 50 points - please don't ask why. In fact, many other point-based systems work this way - it is extremely rare to find a critic awarding a wine less than 10 points out of 20). Points are awarded as follows:

5 points  Colour and appearance
15 points  Nose
20 points  Palate and finish
10 points  Overall quality and future potential

It is fairly obvious then that a wine scoring 75 points is a very average one, which to Parker means a soundly made but straightforward wine with little distinction whereas 85 points means the wine is very good with character, flavour and finesse. A 90-point wine shows exceptional character and complexity, whilst 96 to 100 points are rarely awarded. 

Parker is particularly strong on wines from the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux and, on the whole, any wine from these regions scoring 90 points or more will be fabulous. In recent years he has recruited Pierre-Antione Rovani and Daniel Thomases as specialists in Burgundy and Italy respectively.

Parker's system is the subject of much debate; however, he points out that "scores do not reveal the important facts about wine. The written commentary that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information regarding the wine's style and personality, its relative quality level vis-à-vis its peers, and its value and ageing potential than any score could ever indicate". He concludes "there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself".

Note: Robert M. Parker and eRobertParker.com own the copyright for all reviews credited to "Parker"

 

Jancis Robinson MW is the one of the UK's foremost critics, reckoned to have a superb palate. Recent years have seen emerge a clear difference between the American palate (as defined by Robert Parker) and the European palate of which Jancis is one of the finest examples. That is not to say the two palates do not coincide often. A truly fine wine, representative of its origins etc generally finds itself praise on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as writing in the Financial Times every Saturday, Jancis has her own web-site (see http://www.jancisrobinson.com/) with subsciption-based "Purple Pages" containing the really important stuff. For number crunchers, Jancis awards wines points out of 20.

 

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar is, perhaps, the new Wine Advocate. Established in 1985, it is a subscription-based bi-monthly publication available both on-line and in paper formats (or both - each package is priced accordingly). As with Parker, scores are out of 100 with wines scoring over 90 points coming highly recommended (and 85+ recommended). Wines are recommended as follows:

Under 70  Avoid
70-74  Below Average
75-79  Average
80-84  Good
85-89  Very Good to Excellent
90-94  Outstanding
95-100  Extraordinary

 

Wine Spectator
Along with Parker's Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator is America's foremost wine magazine. It has more in common with the UK's Decanter and Wine magazines as it features articles and profiles but, perhaps given its homeland, has more influence on the world of wine than virtually any publication other than the Wine Advocate. It also scores wines out of 100 and categorizes the scores as follows:

50-59  Poor
60-69  Below average
70-79  Average
80-89  Good to very good
90-94  Outstanding
95-100  Classic 

 

Wine Competitions
The International Wine Challenge is an annual wine competition organised by Wine & Spirit magazine (see above). Huge numbers of tasters from both the wine trade and the general public assess thousands of wines from all over the world. Each year the results are published in the October and November issues of the magazine with two-thirds of the 7,500 wines reviewed receiving the basic accolade of "Seal of Approval". Thereafter, wines are awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold medals with Trophies for the best wines in the category. Whilst this is an admirable effort, we feel that the results of such a massive competition can never say much about any of the wines involved: too many tasters with a wide variety of palates take part and in recent years the better producers and merchants are not bothering to submit their wines. The same can broadly be said for the Decanter World Wine Awards although for some reason this competition does seem to attract some better wines. The problem is that with entry charges of around £80 per wine (plus samples) small-scale importers simply cannot afford these competitions. This means that unless the better wines from each category are entered, the results are simply meaningless.

Mâcon and Paris are two of France's most prestigious wine competitions, both awarding medals (gold, silver, bronze). More localised than the IWC, they are generally more reliable insofar as any wine with a medal will have good qualities. Other regional competitions that can be relied on include Brussels and Vienna. However, wines which do not have medals from such competitions are not necessarily poor (the big names often do not enter such competitions, for example).

You must be aged 18 or over to purchase wine.
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