ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

On the 100-point rating system, when two Cabernet wines (for example) rate 90 points, why would or should consumers pay $200 for one rather than $20 for the other? Aren't the two wines of equal quality? Or, is there something else that is in this rating system that eludes me and probably other new or experienced wine buyers?

—Chris, San Diego

Dear Chris,

I think this is one of the most mind-boggling things to comprehend when you're a rookie wine-lover. Wine Spectator tasters review wines blind, which means they do not take the producer or price into account when they evaluate a bottle. And yes, it is true that there are many wines in the market that are better quality (or more enjoyable) than their counterparts that cost many times more.

Still, there are other things to consider when purchasing a wine. Your own experience and preference with wines should be your biggest guide. Wines from a variety of styles and flavor profiles might get the same score, so be certain to read the tasting notes to see if it sounds like a wine you'd like to drink. And sometimes I might purchase a wine because of purely romantic notions—it reminds me of a trip I took, it's from a producer that has a special meaning to me, perhaps I'm curious, or I just like the way the bottle looks.

There are no wrong answers, but if you take Wine Spectator's advice, know that it's coming from a place where a wine has the same chance at 100 points regardless of the price or producer.

—Dr. Vinny


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