Cellar Tracker wine scores

Wine scoring or rating is a controversial subject. A particular score by the Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator may carry a lot of weight for some and mean relatively little to others. For me, depending on the circumstances, the cellar tracker score can be the most useful or meaningful. When I say “circumstances” I mean that the higher end the wine, and the more people contributing to the collective score, the more meaningful the score. If a wine has a score of 95 which is an average of only two votes, that doesn’t carry too much weight IMO. Since 2nd growth Bordeaux is one of the focuses of my cellar, and since there are so many cases produced of these wines and hence so many people scoring collectively, this category can offer a very meaningful score for me. I have friends who have said that they take very little stock in cellar tracker ratings for various reasons. I’m curious if there are other perspectives out there on the CT scores in general.

While avg CT score can be a good guiding post (especially for wines I’ve yet to try), it’s far more important to find CT users with personal tastes that align with your own. That way, when such person(s) likes a wine, you are more likely to enjoy it as well. And even then, there are disagreements.

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Well, use cellar tracker scores almost exclusively compared to professional reviews. In many cases, the professional is reviewing a wine, today, that I wouldn’t consume for 15-25 years. It is of little value. Or the review is from 15 years ago. CT let’s me know how a bottle is drinking. Collective notes let me know how a bottle is trending. If it is a wine I am unfamiliar with, it can tell me the style.

I also have CT friends, that when they post a rave review on a wine that is right up my alley, I may even go source some. It is fair to say that much of my buying is someway influenced by CT, especially when I am bombarded with email offers and they only two points of reference in the email are the hyperbole from the seller and a 97 point rating from suckling. Those tell me nothing of value.

That being said, you need to wade through the ton of crap and useless reviews. There should be a standard review format that lends itself to provide data. For example, did you decant, and for how long, color? Provenance? These are all things that will tell me if my 2000 second growth is ready or if my line bottle of 73 BV GDL from winebid is more advanced than the one that was just purchased from the winery or properly cellared since release.

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Glenn, I understand what you are saying. For me, wether it few or many scores, the ones I focus on are “favorite tasters”. There are about 20/30 palates that, after quite a few years, I can depend on their notes/ratings even if theirs is the only score for a wine.

I don’t pay too much note to the numerical score CT users rate their wines. At the end of the day that number is really only somewhat relevant if you know that your palate aligns with the user that scored it. What I find most useful in CT is users’ TNs and their comments on how the wine is drinking. Notes on whether a wine needed a decant or not, if it’s in a good place for drinking, how far along in its development is it, if it has room for improvement, if it’s starting to go downhill are all much more useful to me than someone who just puts down a number with no comments

I do the same and I’ve rarely been surprised. Although, I wouldn’t criticize others for using the raw scores as long as the n reaches some level of statistical significance. This article is nearly five years old, but I’m sure the point holds:

https://www.vox.com/2016/12/15/13892364/wine-scores-critics-amateurs

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I do tend to rely pretty heavily on CT for my purchases or opening decisions, but I think it is a combo of both strategies mentioned so far. if I get an email that offers 5 vintages of a wine I like, I may use an average CT score to help narrow it down, but it definitely comes down to the individual reviews. I agree with everyone so far that certain tasters definitely carry a lot of weight in my considerations.

I would disagree, however, that a bunch of scores are always needed (although I will admit its preferred!). I worry if there is a 97 and an 82, but not so much if I know the taster who posted the 97. I find I end up buying a lot of wines that do have only a handful of ratings though, so as long as I know the producer and the 2 reviews are good its OK. if its a producer im unfamiliar with and the couple reviews are good, it might also push me over the edge as well.

Cellar Tracker scores are my first line of inquiry and typically garner the most weight so long as there are a sufficient number of entries and the tasting notes are consistent with my preferences.

I like this route because the wine typically was consumed more recently giving me a better appreciation for what I am about to pour. Additionally a professional taster brings different criteria, preferences, and biases to their scoring. Cellar Tracker aggregate scores and notes, while often provided by the most sophisticated of drinkers, is still a review and score from a consumer – which is what I am. I like that.

When you know your palate lines up with a professional taster, that is fantastic as those scores can hold more sway with an individual’s purchase. Much like some of the comments above where you find a CT note writer whose palate aligns with yours, that experience can hold greater weight.

Any individual note will have a bias but in aggregate I have much better experiences using CT as a guide than the professional scorers.

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The scores are just one data point among many. If you use them as your number one source of info you’re likely to have bad surprises come your way. As others mentioned for the average score you need some number of total scores before that is meaningful. The individual scores are just snapshot, dart board shots in most cases. The vast majority of them are not people taking the time to consider what the accurate score should be. You need a lot of them to get a real picture of what people are thinking about a wine in a broad sense.

Watching notes on your wines and finding people that align with your tastes or at least you trust as tasters even if you do not agree on everything is key. Use the ‘follow’ them function on CT. That way their reviews are highlighted and you can find them easily on wines you are looking at. These sorts of notes are where the best data is from. Scores are just a clue.

I personally dont pay too much attention to CT scores - I find thme in general a bit lower than critics, e.g. if you look at how Jeff, for example, scores Bordeaux EP, the average bottle scores typically come down. Another thing is that CT scores generally ‘tend to the mean’ - if I were CT I’d remove the ‘Bottle average score’ field when you post a new note, because all it does is bias you towards whats already there.

But what I do find useful are the notes. Decanting tips, how ready a wine is, etc.

Well, use cellar tracker scores almost exclusively compared to professional reviews. In many cases, the professional is reviewing a wine, today, that I wouldn’t consume for 15-25 years. It is of little value. Or the review is from 15 years ago. CT let’s me know how a bottle is drinking. Collective notes let me know how a bottle is trending. If it is a wine I am unfamiliar with, it can tell me the style.

Agree with using cellar tracker over wine professionals who are tasting 100 wines at a time. Cellar Tracker does not need to give a wine 96 points to continue that relationship with the winery and get all those free samples. While there are a few odd ball reviews on certain wines overall I find it useful.

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I use it for any purchase on a wine I have not sampled especially more expensive wines. Some data is better than no data.

Once you understand how to interpret CT scores they are very useful. I use them as a data point when considering a wine purchase and as a primary data point when deciding which bottles to queue up for drinking. The scores combined with getting to know other CT members and how they score wine is a powerful tool.

I think you have it backwards. When you see a wine with a cluster of scores dancing around the same figure, it very often means that’s the score it got in some magazine, and everyone else is following suit because they’re worried that if they differ too much from the “professional” opinion then it means they got something wrong. Then it turns into a feedback loop where people start following suit on the consensus of CT scores themselves, because they’re worried that if they differ too much from the popular opinion then it means they got something wrong. Instead of paying attention to the number of scores, it’s better to star the people who sound like they know what they’re talking about and pay attention to them.

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This. And why the scores are not helpful. For me, CT is useful to gauge whether a wine is drinking well at a given time or not, and maybe some information on style…but even then, knowledge of a rasters palate is real helpful.

Postscript: and I think WB favorites get a lot or praise on CT. A biased sample perhaps?

Certainly the most valuable notes tell you about how the wine was consumed:decanted, slow ox’d, etc., and whether the wine is ready to drink or not.
For that reason, I always look at the most recent notes. I like seeing a wine with steadily rising scores.

Scores: useless
Detailed tasting notes: very useful

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I don’t really find most scores on CT reliable. I mostly concentrate on scores of people I know or know of and whose palates align with mine. Fortunately, if I want to look up a Burgundy, Burgundy Al and Nanda generally got their first.

Exactly this.

interesting. I dont know that ive ever looked at a professional score when filling out my CT note, and that I even know any professional scores for any more than a handful of wines I own. but I would hazard a pretty strong wager that if you compared the average CT score to the average professional score of my cellar (and of most of our cellars) that the CT scores would definitely be lower. likely by at least a couple points.

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