One of the things we really want to simplify in wine is the way people review and rate wines. If you want to know why we think it’s confusing right now, read on below the video. For now, let’s focus on what we’re doing at WinedUp. We’d like to introduce you to WES.
WES stands for Wine Enthusiast Score.
We’ve tried to eliminate all the problems with classic wine ranking systems whilst focusing on the things that we, as consumers and enthusiasts, really care about as opposed to what the experts think. So that really comes down to a few key dimensions:
What do we think is important?
1. Does it taste good?
2. Does it represent good value?
3. Would I happily buy it again?
4. Would I recommend it to a friend?
Value can be tough to define and it can vary. Some wines are always rarer, and more expensive, than others. Value can be relative but we think that’s fine. It’s the combination of price, quality and other intangible factors that makes up value.
Chances are if I think something is good value, I’d buy it again. If I think it’s great value, I’ll probably recommend it to a friend. There are other things in the overall experience that affect our perception too, but we want to focus on the price to quality ratio for the type of wine it is as our main criterion.
With WES, our scale is simple. 1 to 10.
1 to 4, we’d probably categorise as sub-optimal in some way.
Both the price and quality are out of line with expectations. It’s fallen short of the mark and best avoided.
Between 5 and 6, we’re actually at a good, sometimes great quality of wine, but something isn’t quite right.
Chances are it’s either not quite good enough for the price or maybe it’s just seriously expensive, beyond the reach of most, and therefore we can’t quite recommend it to a mainstream consumer unless they’re looking for a treat.
7 and 8 is the “I’d happily buy this again” level.
Strong price/performance mean great value, it’s accessible, it could be a go-to wine.
9 and 10 go one step further to “I’m telling people to buy this”.
It’s so good and so well-priced that you’re recommending it to your friends. Exceptional value and potentially some other X-factor that mean it’s a great all-round proposition.
This is most definitely a relative scale, but it’s relative to the value of that wine in its own type.
For example, you might have a bottle of Syrah. It’s a cracking bottle of wine. If it’s £40, it’s maybe only getting a WES of 6. If it’s £20, that makes it an 8 and I’m buying it whenever I see it. However, if it’s £10, I’m telling my mates to hunt it down and buy it by the case. Every situation is a little bit different, so we do encourage you to watch or read the review itself, not just look at the score, as a great wine for one drinker might not be right for somebody else’s palette.
Our focus with WES is to make it simple, clear and easy to understand, whilst making sure you need to pay attention to the review detail too. That’s not always the case. Let’s have a look at some other ways to rate or score wines and see why we don’t think they’re always ideal.
The Point Scale
You’ve generally got two types of scoring system. The first is a point scale, usually out of 100 these days. There are a couple of problems with a point scale.
Firstly, some of these are relative and others are absolute. On a relative score, it’s about comparing wines against all others in a category like Aussie Shiraz and Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. An absolute ranking is against all other wines ever. A wine that’s 95 on a relative score but 90 on an absolute score, a big difference, so you have to know which is which.
Secondly, it’s very granular and I don’t think I know the difference between an 89 point wine and a 91 point wine, but the perception gap of one in the eighties versus one in the nineties is very wide. Lastly, although it seems very granular, I’ve never seen a wine score less than 80, so it’s really just a 20 point scale. 20 point scales are common in the UK, but I’ve never seen a wine score less than 14, so is that really just a 6 point scale? Are you confused yet?
Medals and Awards
The other rating approach is some sort of medal or award system. Again, there are a couple of main problems with this approach.
Firstly, you need to understand the hierarchy. You might think that Bronze is a good thing. A bronze medal in the Olympics means you’re third and a world-class athlete. In a wine tasting contest, bronze might mean you’re two-hundred and third. There’s usually only one ranking below bronze – commended or recommended or something like that. There may be four or more above bronze. The Silver and Gold you’d expect, but there’s often now Platinum, Best in Class, Best in Show, and so forth.
The second problem is that if there are six ranking tiers, there will be rules as to how many wines can appear in what level of the hierarchy of the quality pyramid. A bronze one year could easily be commended in a better year or silver in a worse year. These kind of badge awards almost always involve a peer group, a vintage, a country, or some relative quality scale, some involve value and others don’t. That’s just as confusing, right?
So that’s why we created WES. It’s unashamedly value-based, as we don’t pretend to be professional wine critics, but we think it gives consumers and enthusiasts the information they need. We will feature a WES rating on every wine we taste and review, so we hope you like him!