With a name like 90+ Cellars you probably assume that we think wine ratings are pretty awesome. Well, yes and no. Wine ratings are useful, and necessary in many ways, but there is a lot more to wine than can be summed up in a single number.
We named ourselves 90+ Cellars because we use ratings and other accolades as a way to focus on selecting wine made by talented winemakers from grapes harvested in regions with a known reputation for producing exceptional fruit. “90+ Cellars” is on the label to communicate our selection process and the potential quality of the wine as determined by an influential critic, organization or publication.
The problem with ratings is that they are often misunderstood. To quote wine writer Jamie Goode, “Part of the problem with scores is that people see them as an attribute of the wine.” A score, or rating, is really just an assessment of a critic’s impression of a wine within the context of a particular tasting environment. It is no more a part of the wine as your high school grade point average is a part of you. In other words, a rating is given to a wine, but does not really become part of it. It serves to clarify someone’s opinion of a wine for the purpose of helping customers to decide if they should buy it. GPAs serve the same purpose for employers, but no manager in his right mind would use it exclusively to determine whether to hire someone.
We take into account more than just ratings when choosing the wines of 90+ Cellars. We taste every wine multiple times to judge its quality and to determine the likelihood you will enjoy it based on the price you will pay for it. We also ask the producer to share with us the vineyard locations, the style of winemaking, and how it was cared for during the aging process. We prefer that the wines are made as naturally as nature will allow, and to purchase fewer quantities of great wine rather than larger quantities of mediocre stuff. Lastly, when we can, we speak directly with the men and women who make the wine to understand if their philosophy blends well with ours.
There is more than just the number “90” on our wine bottles, too. We also share a little bit about the way the wine was made, how it tastes, and potential food pairings. On our website, we show video footage of customer and retailer reviews, and links to the opinions of other wine writers and bloggers. This information provides greater detail for people who want to know more than a wine’s ratings pedigree. Collectively, we think all this material will help someone determine if one of our wines is right for them.
However, as crazy as we are about wine, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that not everyone cares as much as we do. Many folks who love to drink wine receive little enjoyment by learning that a wine was made from Syrah clone 617 handpicked from vineyards that used to belong to the Pope and fermented in open topped containers for two weeks before being aged in barrels made of oak from forests in Nevers, France. Many people just want to know if the wine is good. The point system provides the simplest and most effective means to communicate this.
For us, points serve as a launching pad in to a deeper conversation about wine if you want to have it. But, we realize that “90+” is enough for many people and that’s OK too. There are as many ways to enjoy wine as there are to make it. One is not better than another. It just comes down to what’s best for you.