Neal Martin on wine ratings
This show was published 22 October 2007
Neal Martin is a wine writer for Robert Parker and uses the The Wine Advocate 50-100 point quality scale to rate wines: 50-59 the wine is deemed unacceptable. 60-69 below average. 70-79 an average wine with little distinction. 80-89 barely above average – very good. 90-95 outstanding. 96-100 an extraordinary wine.
Neal likens scoring a wine to interviewing a person for a job – you make a decision as soon as they walk in the door based on your first impression. Likewise when you taste a wine there’s an instant number in your head for the wine and then you adjust up or downwards on further appraisal. Rating systems try to be objective and are useful when you have lots of wines to taste and there isn’t time to sit and reflect. It is quite a mechanical process.
Neal rates London as the best city in the world for tasting wine due to the sheer number of tastings held and range of wines available to taste. At some tastings you taste blind at others you know the line up. Neal enjoys blind tastings and you can learn a lot through it but knowing the wine’s identity gives you the context and a deeper understanding of why it tastes the way it does. He is lucky that he started out tasting top end wines and so has a benchmark of the quality that can be achieved at that level.
Although he is respected wine writer working for one of the world’s leading wine critics amazingly Neal doesn’t get wines sent to him to score. He thinks this may be because he made his way up via the internet (perhaps it is because many of his UK contemporaries have wine columns in national newspapers and the PRs send them supermarket wines to write about). It doesn’t matter since Neal goes to plenty of trade tastings and he buys wine. Although most of the wines he tastes are in the fine wine category the wines Neal buys to drink at home fall between £5 to £7 a bottle - he will only score these wines if they interest him or stand out.
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