General Blog

Thoughts on Reviewing Wines, 20/20 Scores, Winery of the Year and Wine of the Week

By July 11, 2015No Comments
Raymond Chan Wine Reviews has been operating for just under five years, and I’ve reviewed approximately 7,200 wines, as ‘Feature Reviews’ and under my ‘Tasting Reviews’ formats, the former as a feedback service and the latter usually at structured tastings and dinners, or as samples sent gratis. Not all of the wines tasted and reviewed are published for public view on my website, as a proportion do not achieve a 3-star, bronze medal, or 15.5-/20 score equivalent standard to my palate. A number of wine producers prefer to have their reviews and assessments on a confidential basis. And I respect their wishes, for the sensitivities of a good business relationship and the desire to see improvement in the growing and making of wines. My method of reviewing and ratings is explained in my ‘How Wines are Reviewed’ page, which can be accessed by clicking here.

A 5-Year Recap
My first ‘Feature Reviews’ were of Saint Clair’s 2010 ‘Vicar’s Choice’ and ‘Premium’ Sauvignon Blancs, conducted in September 2010 (click here to see), and my first ‘Tasting Review’ was of Chris and Cheryl Staynes’ Vertical Tasting of Chateau d’Yquem from 1946 – 2006, celebrating Chris’ 60th birthday, late August in 2010 (click here to view). I realise I’ve only begun my vinous journey of recording the wines I taste, and have the greatest admiration for the likes of Bob Campbell MW (go to his new website by clicking here) who has amassed an incredible database of tasting notes, and similarly for my closest ‘competitor’, and great friend Sam Kim who operates ‘Wine Orbit’ (see his website here), who courageously began his business over four years before me, and graciously and unreservedly encouraged me to work in the same field.  Of course there are other inspiring N.Z. writers, such as Geoff Kelly and Joelle Thomson who write as I never could.

With around 7,200 wines reviewed over 5 years, it works out to around four wines a day that I taste and write about. There’s clearly a bit of room to move up, if I need to! But part of my creating ‘Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’ was to ensure some of that elusive ‘work-life’ balance, after 21 years wine retailing and 10 years hospitality work before that.

Perfect Scores – 20.0/20
To date, I’ve rated in my reviews 25 wines at 20.0/20 points, 10 of these under the stringent ‘Feature Reviews’ conditions, and 15 under the more ‘relaxed’ ‘Tasting Reviews’ approach. These wines can be seen by clicking here (or very easily from the ‘Wine of the Week’ tab on the home page of my website – just click here to see). I make no excuses for being relatively liberal in scoring a wine 20.0/20, compared with tasters who say they will never find perfection, but it is not taken lightly, as I explain in ‘How Wines Are Reviewed’. Perfection can arguably never be attained, but I like most people want to be as happy as we can be, so a 20.0/20 is a way of being just that.

I’m pretty pleased to have said that in the past 5 years, I’ve found 25 wines that have made me ecstatic, and given me an emotional experience, as well as making me think hard about the wine, thus fulfilling why I love working with and drinking wine. So from around 7,200 wines, I find a 20.0/20 every 290 wines I taste. If I want to be really tough, and count only those tasted as ‘Feature Reviews’ then it’s only one 20.0/20 wine every 720 wines tasted! Of course, sometimes these wines can come relatively soon after each other, usually indicating a period of favourable vintages, and at other times, there seems to be a drought.

Winery of the Year
A few words on this award, as the award winners are linked to the high and often (but not always) perfect scores, and the list of the ‘Winery of the Year’ winners can also be easily accessed from the ‘Wine of the Week tab from the home page (click here to see).

This exercise has been the most fun and possibly the most thought-provoking part of ‘Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’. I start thinking who could be contenders for the award from the start of December the year before, right up to the end of November just before it is announced. To date the recipients have been: 2011 – Kidnapper Cliffs, 2012 – Neudorf Vineyard, 2013 – Pegasus Bay, and 2014 – Te Whare Ra. The runners-up have also been very hard to choose. I trust that my choices have pleased and inspired my readers and encouraged winegrowers to making better wines, and that the award has given some recognition to the hard work by the winners. It‘s the least I can do for our wonderful wine industry.

Wine of the Week
The ‘Wine of the Week’ page is refreshed every week (of course), on a Friday, and it harks back to wines that have achieved a 5-star rating several months ago. It’s just a reminder of their excellence, and may prompt readers to acquire the wine if they haven’t done so already, and for people to open a bottle and enjoy it. A bit of a re-cap, as this little article is meant to be.

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