Sunday, November 28, 2010

How should I rate natural wines?

I've been wondering whether I should rate the natural wines I taste in some way. Not out of 100 Parker-style, obviously or even out of 20. Marking wines like this seems more to do with the world of wine competitions and other conventional ways of assessing wine that natural winemakers deliberately turn their backs on.

The most useful rating it seems to me would be one that placed the wines somewhere on the spectrum of natural winemaking which is a pretty broad church. On the one hand you have wines that taste like any other wine from that area or appellation, on the other ones where you're hard pushed to identify the country let alone the grape variety.

Doug Wregg of Caves de Pyrène gets round this at Terroirs by flagging up the more challenging bottles on the list with a wild horse. I'd quite like to see a three tiered ranking, maybe flagged green, amber and red, traffic-light fashion. Green being familiar territory, unlikely to phase a newcomer to natural wines, amber suggesting it might be outside your usual register and red an alert that this is a more extreme style of winemaking that may not be to your taste at all.

Or maybe I should simply carry on describing the wines and just say how I find them. What do you think?


  1. Wine rating should be banned all together. What is that "thing" of putting 3+ years of work down to a bold number?
    Oh... and wine is not natural. There is more or less intervention. More or less SO2. Different types of yeast but "natural" it is not.

  2. My opinion is that wines should be tasted and then judged and 'rated' on their own merit regardless of the fact that they have been produced conventionally, organically, bio-dynamically or naturally and so on.
    Scores are very personal and pretty much meaningless in the whole scheme of things. Wines should always be tasted blind.
    It is always a question of taste and how you articulate that. Doug Wregg does it very well at Terroirs (your example). Yet again, when it comes to wines, Les Caves de Pyrene do specialise in a particular niche.

  3. we asked a similar question a couple weeks ago (see link)... it's an interesting one!

    personally, i think it's time to move away from scoring wines as a way of giving customers information about a wine's quality. scoring makes sense in competitions but not in 99% of wine drinking situations.

    the green/yellow/red idea is better than scores per se, but i think a good description is more valuable than anything else. particularly with natural wines, the flavors and aromas can be so unique so why not tell people about them!

  4. Speaking as a punter, it's descriptions rather than ratings that sway me. Descriptions are far more useful if you want to learn something about the wine, and surely that's what wine blogs are about.

  5. Well - together with some feedback on Twitter - looks like it's business as usual then. Which is a relief as I wasn't quite sure how I was going to implement the 'traffic light' option in terms of graphics.

    An interesting post from you guys at tagwine - thank you for sharing that. (And that's a stupendously good turkey sandwich!)

    Winegeek, we'll have to differ on the use of the term natural wine. Though imprecise I think it has its use in terms of flagging up to the consumer that the wine has been made with the minimum of chemical additions and that seems to me to be useful.