Reviewing wine – how to remain unbiased?

I was recently contacted by some people representing an Australian wine.  They found my blog and asked me if I would be willing to receive some samples and review said wines.  I responded that I would be happy to give the wines a try, but that I would only review them if I had something positive to say.  I do not see the point in bashing a wine.  Not only might it be a wine that others will love, but what constructive purpose will my writing anything negative about their wine serve.

At the same time, and more on topic as it pertains to my title, how do I remain unbiased in my review.  The people were quite warm when they reached out and even complimentary.  I really WANTED to write nice things.

I have on several occasions been given reason to believe that a wine critic I have come to know will sometimes score wines made by people he likes a point higher than he might have had he not liked the people.

And I recently watched a critic reviewing a wine online whereby he admittedly gave the wine an extra point since it contained a varietal he particularly enjoys.


For starters, I do NOT score wines.  I find this to be silly.  One man’s 90 is another’s 75.   And what really is an 80 vs. an 85?  Or an 85 vs. and 89?  How about an 89 vs. a 90?  Or my biggest issue; a 91 vs a 95???

This takes me back to a previous post where I quoted a study that concluded that wine critics themselves can not replicate their own scores when tasting wines blind.

I do not have a solution for this.  I believe that we are all human and emotions will play a role in our judging of things that are subjective, such as food or wine.  If the cook is a friend, if the dish looks appealing, if the setting is just right – you WILL enjoy said meal, wine, etc  more than had things been different.

I suppose this is the reason why wine critics maintain as non-descript a setting as possible, re-taste wines several times and (claim to) taste blind.

Well, I’m unequivocally stating, and you can all quote me on this, that  I will NEVER use a 100 point scale to give a wine a score.  I can  see an A-F scale, or even a 1-10.  But 100 points…come on….be serious.

Without further ado, on to the wine in question.  I was sent the Ozzie-Ba-Ru 2003 Hunter Valley Shiraz.  And I was worried.  The typical Australia Shiraz style is one I am at present not a big fan of.   It is often very extracted, over the top fruity, and simply not a style I go for these days (though I loved this style wine as I was developing my palate).  Lo and behold I REALLY ENJOYED THE WINE.

A reasonable 13% alcohol in a screw cap package, this clear light reddish wine was full of aromas that were present but subdued.  Cherry cola/black cherry, raspberry, pine needles and a hint of earth on the nose.  These aromas opened up to secondary aromas of mocha and chocolate (or as my special lady, unprompted, said “white chocolate”).  The palate had a nice bracing acidity and well integrated tannins with big yet well balanced and not over the top fruit.  A wine with a very nice overall structure.  I’m not certain that this is an “A” wine, but it sure is close.  Nice job!

Happy unbiased (good luck) Wine Tasting

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