Wine Ratings are Only Part of the Story. Here’s why:

Posted September 30, 2014

WineLibrary Staff


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“I don’t care.”

The words came flying out of my 4 year old son's mouth after he was told he couldn’t have dessert if he didn’t finish his homework. For a moment, my wife and I were startled as that was a phrase we had yet to hear him say.

“Where did he hear that from?” my wife asked me. I shrugged my shoulders … it wasn’t something I thought I said in front of him. My wife said the same thing. Puzzled, I continued to clean up the dinner dishes and poured myself another glass of wine from the open bottle on the counter. Looking at the bottle, I realized that simple phrase my son just stated out loud might be something he heard from yours truly.   

Flashback to a couple of weeks earlier in my office. As a buyer for Wine Library, one of the categories I buy for is South America. I was tasting with one of our vendors through the new line of entry level wines from the very successful Vina Cobos line. The 2013 Felino Malbec was one that specifically caught my eye. It was surprisingly complex for the money, with rich notes of chocolate, blackberry and just a hint of spice. Full bodied and ultra rich, this was serious Malbec for the $$$. Not that I was surprised. These wines are normally very good values just about every vintage.

I was about to cut a purchase order for a couple of cases when our rep blurted out the fact that the wine had scored 92 Points as well.

My response?

“I don’t care”

Now lets get one thing straight: I work for a wine retailer. Wine retailers sell rated wines. Ratings sell wine. In fact, they sell a lot of wine. I’m not about to say I don’t buy wines based on scores. Of course I do. I buy a LOT of highly rated wines! Why? Because customers ask for them all the time.

However, ratings are just one part of the larger wine game. When I was learning about wine, I remember reading through the pages of Robert Parker’s the Wine Advocate and not only looking at the wines that scored highly, but also reading what Parker had to say about each producer, each wine, and each region. It was a world of information that was new to me.

If Parker rated something 94 Points and it was $12, I wanted to try it, as did thousands of other wine lovers. Today the same situation exists, more or less. In fact, when Parker rates something 94 Points and it’s $12, I am probably one of those consumers looking to try a bottle.


OK - not just probably. You can count on the fact that I am seeking it out.


However, the rating on the 2013 Felino Malbec was not really going to influence my decision. I buy this wine for the store every year. Quite frankly, if the wine would have scored 82 Points, I still would have most likely brought it in (unless after tasting it something was clearly wrong).

Rating or no rating, this wine was going to be on our shelves. Here’s why:

  1. Vina Cobos is one of the top estates in Argentina right now, and while many of their wines are $50+, the Felino line is priced so that everyday consumers can enjoy something from this estate. Malbec is the bread and butter of this line.
  2. Paul Hobbs is involved in the Vina Cobos line and it shows. Attention to quality and detail is evident at every level.
  3. I  flat out loved it.

Ratings are subjective. What some may find to be a 92 Point wine - others may not agree. The key here is to try and get a sense for what each winemaker is trying to do with the wine. Try to get a sense of the place where the wine comes from.

After that, wine is what you make of it. You are the ultimate critic for your own palate and just because something scored really high - or really low - should play no impact in your ultimate reaction to the wine.

I know what Hobbs and Vina Cobos goal is with the Felino Malbec and for me that’s good enough. Rating or no rating.

As far as saying “I don’t care” to the rating … well, lets just say I owe my wife an apology.


Item: 83779

750 mL

Retail: $16.99

$12.63 per btl