Spectator Changing Scores?

I’ve got the Spectator App, which gives vintages ratings but not specific scores (if you’re not a subscriber). While pursuing some ratings recently, I’m 99% sure they’ve changed the rating on 2000 left banks from a 99 to a 95. Now, I can understand the logic in a rating evolving over time, but to me it makes the already nebulous world of ratings even more confusing, arbitrary, and less helpful. Apologies if this has been discussed before - a brief search didn’t turn anything up.

I’m fine if various publications want to do updates or retrospective tastings, but to my mind, especially with respect to vintages, they should do a vintage rating within 12-24 months of a broad release of those wines, and that’s the rating. The idea of some sort of “dynamic rating” that gives you a real-time look into the wine isn’t particularly useful for me. What does the change mean? Has it aged poorly, or just not as well as expected given the baseline score? What am I to make of a 12 year old vintage, originally an 87 and now a 91, versus a 14 year old vintage, originally a 95 but now a 92. 87 vs 95 is material, but 91-92 of course, is not. Shall I try the “87”, which to someone’s mind has improved markedly, or the once (and still) highly ranked “95”, but which is, in some form, on the downhill?

I realize there’s a level of absurdity to this given the inherent vagaries of wine scores in the first place, but I’ve found vintage scores to be a useful guidepost when selecting wines from a region with which I’m not particularly familiar. I don’t pay a ton of attention to their hold/drink or hold/drink/past peak ratings, but also found those about as useful a “check-in” as I needed. Your thoughts?

I thought they changed the rating on 2000 Bordeaux a while back. I could be worng but as I recall, the 2000 vintage was rated by James Suckling. He also rated 2000 Piedmont (giving the vintage a score of 100).
After his departure from WS, the ratings were lowered.

For fun , I decided to check the WS vintage rating for 2000 Piedmont, which is now down to 93 from whatever ridiculous rating Suckling gave it before the wines were released. 93 is still too high, I think.
Overall, I don’t find WS vintage ratings a useful tool.

P Hickner

I do not agree with that at all. Wines and vintages change with age. Some wines and vintages end up scoring much higher with age. For example, 2001 Bordeaux. Other years, like 1995 have not fared well at all.


To the extent that you are willing to entertain that wine and vintages can and should be scored, why would you want the scores to remain static considering that wines are ever-evolving? At the end of the day, it is all subjective and subject to some degree of conjecture. I would much rather see more current reviews and ratings, even if the scores are lower than once published. A 15-year old review and score is a data point, but not really helpful if you’re backfilling.

It would be nice if they gave reasons for the alterations - whether it be development/different scorer/etc - rather than just changing it with no explanation

Whilst in theory I see it as a good thing that wine critics are prepared to regularly re-review ratings, overall vintage ratings of this sort are indeed nebulous. They do help drive publicity, so maybe the smart marketing is to rate stupidly high (to get name-checked) whilst casually dropping the scores when unlikely to merit interest. Of course that would be a very cynical approach…

[quote=“Robert Alfert, Jr.”]To the extent that you are willing to entertain that wine and vintages can and should be scored, why would you want the scores to remain static considering that wines are ever-evolving? At the end of the day, it is all subjective and subject to some degree of conjecture. I would much rather see more current reviews and ratings, even if the scores are lower than once published…[/quote

Because what I really want is a static baseline across which I can compare vintages. Of course there’s no real way to compare 82 Bordeaux to 00, because they’ll always be 18 years apart, but if I’m at a restaurant with a Tuscan heavy wine list and I need a little guidance, I don’t want to have to worry about “Has WS done a recent update? Is this vintage score stale? How often does a rating need to be updated?” I know some here consider 15 year old Bordeaux to be impossibly young to drink, so why bother with a ratings update?

Bringing the variable of “how well as it aged” into the already crazy-subjective world of ratings is just a bridge too far for me. I certainly want updates on how well things are aging, but that’s so producer and wine specific that I want it left out of the general vintage rating.

If Spectator would like to disclose a “Baseline Score” and an updated score, that’s just fine with me. Perhaps that’s available to subscribers, but it still won’t get me to pony up.


So what you want is for people predicting the future of a wine incorrectly to stick to their guns and screw over future people looking for guidance.
Restaurants providing ratings on a menu should always be checked anyways… I’ve found there to be around a 50% screw up rate… and I guarantee you won’t taste a 95 to 93 point difference…

I don’t think you’re going to find much sympathy for this argument… not because the full implications aren’t glaringly obvious, but because they create so many more important problems than they solve and will seriously erode people’s confidence in scores (then the publication) even further.

Use cellar tracker for this or Winecellarinsider.com instead… or pony up for the subscription if you care that much instead of asking a company you aren’t a customer of to change their product.

What I draw from this discussion, and please no disrespect is intended at all, is that you are willing to accept huge risk in what wine you buy. Using that restaurant as an example, you are telling me that you are willing to buy a 15-16 year old wine based primary on how the general vintage performed at release, rather than how that specific wine performed, or more importantly, how that wine is performing today. You are also suggesting that you would not have checked out the wine list ahead of time to do some due diligence, or have requested input from the Sommellier. That would be a lot of money to drop of such limited information.

I would want a ratings update on a 15-year old Bordeaux - which actually is not a bad point at all to check in on many Bordeaux - as it is an additional, more current data point on how that wine is performing at that point in time. Could help me decide whether and when I pop what I have, or whether it is worth chasing as a backfill purchase. I normally check out many of my Bordeaux at the 10-year mark.

What problems do you think are created by having a rating of a vintage which remains constant over time (especially as it appears I’m not alone in not realizing these are updated on a somewhat ad-hoc basis)?

Oh, so this is why people are always looking down at their phones. neener

I always thought WS ratings were like the rock plates that Moses brought down from the Mount of Sinai.
Just flab.ber.gasted.

None taken, but please don’t extend my situation to hyperbole. I’ve never said vintage charts are my sole source of guidance. In most instances, especially as you describe, cellartracker will be my first stop, but as with all tools it’s imperfect and may be lacking recent reviews, and of course there’s the whole “who the heck is this guy factor”.

Because it is not accurate. It is like reading last years newspaper.

I think updating vintage scores (and individual wine scores) is a great idea, but it should be made clear that is what happened and when it happened.

For those saying they want a baseline score, and as such it shouldnt be updated - doesnt this fall apart given that the ‘baseline’ might have been done by different tasters?

I think as long as it’s clear who gave it what score and when, readers can decide if and to what extent the opinion is of use to them.

When a critic scores a vintage lower after 10 - 15 years than his initial rating on release, that tells me the critic has no real idea what potential that year actually had. For them to guess at how good a wine will be a decade in the future is idiotic anyway, and they seem to screw up as much as weather forecasters.

Sorry, but I do not agree. Wines are living, breathing things and there are time when they really improve. But there are times when they do not. I think critics and tasters that re-evaluate their views are open and honest.