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Wine

So, what do wine ratings actually mean

With Trophies, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals, not to mention points out of 100, it’s easy to be bamboozled by wine ratings. Find out how they’re scored and what they actually mean.

Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist and wine show judge, Adam Walls, explores what it takes be a champion wine.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN 20-POINT WINE SHOW SYSTEM

At Wine Selectors our expert Tasting Panel uses the Australian wine show judging system.

All wines are tasted ‘blind’, meaning the Tasting Panel knows what variety and vintage they are tasting but not the label, brand, region, winemaker, or producer.

The Australian wine show circuit uses the 20-point system, awarding points out of three for appearance, seven for the nose and 10 for the palate. Scores are then added and medals awarded for Bronze, Silver, and Gold as follows:

Gold: 18.5 to 20 – an exceptional wine

Silver: 17 to 18 – an extremely good wine

Bronze: 15. 5 to 16.5 – a good wine

At Wine Selectors each Panel Tasting is made up of three Panel Members and one Chairman. The final score each wine receives is the average of the four judges, and only wines receiving a minimum of a Bronze are accepted by the Panel.

THE 100-POINTS WINE RATING SYSTEM

Some wine critics use the 100-point system, especially in the USA, where Robert Parker and Wine Spectator use this method. Scoring for this system is as follows:

100 – 95 is equivalent to a Gold medal

94 – 90 is equivalent to a Silver medal

89 – 85 is equivalent to a Bronze medal.

In Australia, the 100-point system is used by a number of wine writers like Rob Geddes and James Halliday, however, James Halliday’s system ranges from 75 to 100.

A number of other wine publications also use the five-star rating system like Winestate where 5 stars is a Gold medal, 4 stars is a Silver and 3 stars is a Bronze.

With regards to a Trophy, this is the very best of all the Gold medal wines within a ‘class’ (or category), as judged at a wine show, however, sometimes a Trophy is not awarded.

WHY WE USE THE AUSTRALIAN 20-POINT WINE SHOW SYSTEM

While these rating systems can be a little confusing and no one system it better than the other, their aim is the same, to reflect the quality of the wine.

At Wine Selectors we use the 20-point Australian wine show judging system which hails from Europe and the UK, and is used by the world’s most reputable wine writer and critic, Janis Robinson MW (Master of Wine). Historically, it is the system Australian wine has been judged by and for our Panellists, it ensures a reliable result. You can be assured at Wine Selectors that of the thousands of wines our Panel tastes every year, (in fact the Panel tasted over 3, 500 wines in 2016), only the very best get through the rigorous selection process.

Our Tasting Panel of perceptive personalities and palates comprises winemakers, international wine show judges, and wine educators. With an amazing 120 years collective experience in the wine industry, they are extremely knowledgeable. Most importantly, all of them have spent more years than they’d care to admit enjoying wine themselves! With an age range spanning 50 years, our Tasting Panel is very much in tune with the palates and requirements of all Australian wine lovers. Here’s cheers to that!

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Screw Cap vs Cork - the Seal of Approval
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Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor tells why a crack wins over a pop when it comes to opening wine. Screwcap closures were first used in the Australian wine industry in the 1970s, but consumers at the time perceived these wines to be of lower quality, and the initiative soon fizzled out. The screwcap comeback came in the 2000 vintage when a number of  ClareValley  winemakers bottled some of their  Rieslings  under screwcap to prevent cork-related faults. The most common of these is cork 'taint', caused by a compound known as TCA, which was often present in cork bark. Before the proliferation of screw cap closures in Australia, the level of wines ruined by cork taint was 12-15%. To put this in perspective, for every two dozen you purchased, it was accepted that there would be at least two bottles affected. This relatively high occurrence of cork taint was due largely to cork suppliers providing Australia with (compared to Europe) second rate corks with a higher incidence of taint producing bacteria. Due to the airtight nature of screwcaps, the problem of premature oxidation was also eliminated, along with the 'flavourscalping' tendency of the porous cork material, and other potential flavour modifications. Another advantage now widely recognised by consumers is the convenience factor - screwcapped bottles are easy to open and re-seal!   SCREWING WITH TIME One of the criticisms of screwcaps, apart from the ridiculous (in my view) notion of missing the 'romance' of the sound of popping a cork, was that the seal was so good that wines would not mature with time, due to the absence of oxygen. However, there is normally a miniscule amount of dissolved oxygen within the wine itself when it is bottled, which will allow the wine to evolve, and each bottle will age at roughly the same rate, while retaining its freshness and vitality for much longer. With wines under cork, the maturation process is not only much faster, but each bottle will age at a different rate due to the variable consistency and therefore oxygen permeability of the corks. A recent innovation in screwcap technology has seen the development of closures that allow strictly controlled rates of oxygen transmission, giving winemakers the choice of differing maturation rates for different wine styles. I have now had the opportunity to taste wines that have been aging gracefully under screwcap for up to 15 years, including the same wine bottled under both cork and screwcap. I've even had the privilege of tasting wines from those early adopters in the 70's, which at the time were still going strong.   INTERNATIONAL EYE-OPENER To reinforce my beliefs, award-winning Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer came up with some stunning results from a tasting at Italy's biggest wine show, Vinitaly, in March, 2015. Tyson presented five mature flagship Australian red wines under both cork and screwcap in a blind tasting. Some of Australia's most age-worthy and respected reds were presented, including the  Henschke  Hill of Grace Shiraz 2004. In a major surprise the panel of international wine professionals voted the screwcapped wines ahead of the corks. "The result was ground-breaking for Italy, where screwcaps remain controversial and until recently have been prohibited on the country's top wines," Tyson said. Even Venice sommelier Annie Martin-Stefannato admitted "we will have to change our mindset". So, given all the evidence for the superiority of screwcap closures, my personal preference will always be to hear a 'crack' rather than a 'pop' when I open a bottle of wine.      
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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