Wines for our publication are blind tasted in our offices
according to country of origin, wine type, and price
category by publisher Ronn Wiegand. We taste, but never
review, tank or barrel samples.
Our "Star Rating" System
The Restaurant Wine Star Rating Sytem varies dramatically
from other rating systems, in four major ways:
- it is based on price;
- it can't be converted to points;
- it does not automatically discriminate against wines
on the basis of color, type/varietal, producer, country/region
of origin, vintage, or style; and,
- it is being used by the same tasters on every wine
reviewed (there is no rotating panel).
Reviews Are Based on Quality Related
Our rating system is based on the selling price in the
USA for every wine tasted. We take case one, non-discounted
wholesale prices from opposite coasts: East Coast western
& imports from Australasia; West Coast for other
imported wines and eastern USA wines.
In order to establish a meaningful price/value relationship,
several price categories have been established for each
type of wine reviewed (except in a few instances, where
we indicate only "1 Price Category").
Usually, four categories are identified--Low Priced,
Medium Priced, High Priced, and Expensive--for most wine
types or varietals. For each wine or varietal, wines
from each price category are tasted separately. We then
rate these wines based on the quality of each wine within
its price category--relative to its peers. Because of
this categorization, our ratings have little relevance
if they are taken out of context; that is, when someone
(unfortunately) suggests a four-star wine in a Low Priced
category is "better than" a similar wine rated
only three-stars in a High Priced category.
That is not the purpose of the system. Therefore, any
mention of Restaurant Wine ratings without mention of
the price category in which the wine was reviewed is
misleading and inappropriate--and, on our part, strongly
Other rating systems, which group inexpensive with expensive
wines are not especially useful, since higher price wines
are almost always given higher scores than lower priced
wines. Because the crucial factor in wine purchasing
is--and always will be--selling price, and how that selling
price relates to the quality of the wine in the bottle,
our system uncovers the best values in multiple price
niches better than any other.
No Points in Our Reviews
We elect not to assign a "precise" numerical
score for many reasons:
- the use of points projects a halo of objectivity
around wine evaluations, inferring that wine quality
can be measured absolutely, which it absolutely cannot;
- exact point scores cannot be duplicated by tasters
on the same wines on a regular basis, which suggests
that a numerical range (e.g, 80-85 points)--or its
equivalent--would provide a more statistically relevant
and useful rating;
- the use of points reduces the taste and flavor of
what is one of the world's most prized and precious
beverages to that of a detached, sterile number.
We prefer using one of man's most enduring, uplifting,
and valued symbols for our reviews--stars.
When using stars in our ratings,
we apply them as follows:
0 stars = Poor (for the wine type & price category)
* = Mediocre-to-average (for the wine type & price
** = Good (for the wine type & price category)
*** = Very Good (for the wine type & price category)
**** = Excellent (for the wine type & price category)
***** = Exceptional (for the wine type & price category)
And unlike the 100-point scale, in which the lower end
of the numerical spectrum (0 to 49 points) is rarely
used, we routinely use all of our ratings levels, from
0 to 5 stars.
Not A Discriminatory Review System
One serious deficiency (out of many) with systems that
rate wines on a single, absolute scale is that they have
tremendous built-in biases. In addition to price-discrimination
(mentioned above), they discriminate horrendously against
so-called lesser varietals, lesser types, lesser regions--"lesser"
everything--which the sub-90 point scores for dozens
of wine types reflect.On the other hand, we have given
deserving wines from white Zinfandel to Lemberger 5-star
ratings, and will continue to do so when warranted.
Top Tasters Delivering Consistent
Finally, we believe that ratings awarded by panels of
rotating tasters (or regular panels with tasters absent)
are of little long-term use, since the panel's ratings
have no evident consistency which would then allow readers
to see--and account for--personal or panel taste biases.
At Restaurant Wine, we use only two tasters, who "blind
taste" and discuss every wine together--as they
have done for the past 18 years. That's consistency.
It should also be noted that the primary taster, Ronn
Wiegand, Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, is a rarity
among wine reviewers in the USA: He is credentialed.
He is also the only Master of Wine or Master Sommelier
in the USA who publishes a wine newsletter.
Only the Cream of the Crop
One other note: Wines we believe are flawed (bacterial
spoilage, excessive volatile acidity), poorly made (too
much oak, tannin, etc.), and/or do not deliver "very
good" value for their price categories--or better--simply
are not included in this publication.
Only the cream of the crop (about 20%-30% of wines tasted)
is written up in Restaurant Wine. For us, each and every
one of them could easily enhance someone's dining experience
somewhere, if given the chance.