Wine Scoring and Wine Pairing

By / Magazine / June 22nd, 2011 / 3

How do reviewers (like those at Tidings) determine the scores they give the wines they taste?

Wine scores are a lot like Kim Kardashian: they both have great figures, but in the end you’ve got to wonder if that’s all there is to them. Truth be told (and I’m all about the truth), I give everything that I taste a score of some kind. How do I do it? I use my big brain that’s soaked in the years of juice that has passed over my palate.

When you drink for a living you have a habit of tasting a lot of different things (over 2000 for me last year). You take all of those memories of the good, the bad and the tasty and roll them into an overall barometer for stylistic correctness. What that means is that after a while you get to know what’s right about a wine and how a number can represent a wine’s place on the way to 100.

I’ve always said that there actually aren’t any bad wines out there; some are just better than others. To me, that means using a numerical scale makes perfect sense even if many of the biggest sellers at your local liquor store wouldn’t necessarily score that highly.

Of course we all understand numbers. If I got a 75 on a test when I was at school (all those decades ago) I’d know I was just average. Give me an 85 and I’d be clicking my heels. Score me 95 and my mother would have thought I’d been kidnapped and replaced with another kid.

In my not-so-humble opinion, numerical accolades have humanized the wine reviewing business. And if you don’t believe me I’ll score you 45/100.

I never know what to bring when I’m invited over to a friend’s house for dinner. Is there an all-purpose wine that goes with everything?

Yes, it’s called beer. Okay, so while beer really and truly is the most food-friendly bevvy when it comes to good grub (especially exotic dishes that are the foundation of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Mexican cuisine) there are some wines that do have enough personality to charm just about anything eatable (not to mention obnoxious hosts).

First on my list are bubbles. Sparkling wines have a bright, crisp, usually dry vibe that cleanses the palate and helps wash down everything from the bland to the hot and somewhat spicy. Bubblies are only for New Year’s Eve you say? You are so wrong, my friend. Their lively effervescence makes for a celebration in the mouth that loves food (even those previously mentioned exotics). If you want to take things to an even more accommodating level go for a sparkling rosé. Their touch of ripe berry fruit massages into submission everything from Coq au vin to a grilled cheese sandwich.

Pick two is a white made with Riesling. One preferably from Germany where the grape is king and the output is typically sweeter. Who cares if they’re red wine fans, a nice German Riesling (look for a one with the Kabinett designation on the label) is a balanced drop that brings harmony to most plates and offers more than enough oomph for any vin rouge loving fellow guest.

If you’re determined to bring a red go with a bottle that offers up-front fruit like a French Beaujolais or Aussie GSM (Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre). Typically berry-infused and oh-so easy drinking; they’re great with just about everything as long as it’s not too sharp or eclectic.

Here’s one last thought: If you’re coming to my place bring a decent bottle of something you like (I prefer a red). I’ll already have the appropriate wines on hand (as any good host would) and will be putting your offering in my cellar to enjoy after you’re long, long gone.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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