Just before Christmas, one of my friends asked me what the W.O.W. Factors I post at the end of reviews on this site actually mean. She asked “what’s a good W.O.W. Factor and what’s a great one?” I started to explain to Jen and then realised that maybe I should ‘demystify’ my scoring for everyone.
Demystify is probably too strong a term, but looking at wine grades or scores can be a bit confusing. This largely because different wine critics/journos/reviewers use different scales. Is an 89 point wine better than a 17.5 point wine or a wine with a three glass rating or indeed a W.O.W. Factor of 8? I’m not sure I can say for certain.
The beginnings of the public practice of reviewing and rating wine has been credited to the American critic Robert Parker Jnr. In the 1970′s he first graded wines using his 100 point scale. This, I’m told, was quite revolutionary. It sort of democratized wines and helped those who weren’t experts assess what was a top tipple. Robert Parker still uses the 100 point scale today. Other respected wine critics such as the UK’s Jancis Robinson or Decanter magazine use a 20 point scale.
These wine gurus do offer their readers/followers an explanation of their rating scales, you can find it on their sites and publications, so it seems about time that Window On Wine does the same thing. (Thanks for the prompt Jen!)
When reviewing a wine, I base my assessment on the framework I was taught by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. This is a structured process which helps you look for key characteristics. I then interpret these ‘results’ as a Window On Wine or W.O.W. Factor. I always start the process of assessing a wine as objectively as possible, but do find my scores influenced by things such as value for money, which I think is particularly important to my readers. (See my thoughts on Tesco Corbières for an example of this). Not everyone thinks wine ratings are a good thing and I did consider not scoring my reviews but in the end decided that I needed some sort of way to point readers to the stuff I thought was good (and bad.)
I think, as I use a scale out of ten, you always knew that a 7 was better than a 6.5 but here goes with my own little mental shorthand and de-coder for the W.O.W. Factor.
5 and under – Move along nothing to see here. Maybe it was just a bad bottle, but I really didn’t rate this wine.
5.5 – Err…maybe there’s one or two redeeming factors but I’d avoid if I were you. This wine is rather lacking in character, there’s nothing to make it stand out.
6 – OK. Damned with faint praise. I’d rather drink something else. May be suitable for an occasion when the wine is not the focus. Probably quite easy to drink.
6.5 – Drinkable and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. However, I would probably try a neighbouring product next time. Fine for everyday.
7 – This is rather good. I’ll try and remember the label and would pick it off the shelf again. I’d be pleased to find a friends offering me a glass.
7.5 – Now we’re talking. I’d recommend you go and find this wine. I think it’s worth the cost of the petrol/bus fare/shoe leather.
8 – Star pupil – Scores well on lots of factors and drinking it makes me skip for joy (almost!) I really hope you get a bottle before it runs out.
8.5 and above – Outstanding. A real delight to drink. Something special. I’m speechless, which is not very good when you’re trying to put a vinous experience into words!
So Jen (and everyone else) I hope that’s helpful. Remember though a number is just that, I believe the really the important thing is whether you enjoy the wine not what score I or any other reviewer have given it.