Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

When different publications rate different wines differently, it is often explained by blind tasting. When wine experts taste the cult wines, I would think that they are relatively easily identifiable, at least the region. Doesn’t that mean they will have a perception of which wine they are tasting before they score or formulate notes? Is it then more objective?

—Terje D., Norway

Dear Terje,

At Wine Spectator, we do what is called a single-blind tasting, in which the reviewer knows the varietal, vintage and appellation of each wine, but all the bottles are bagged so that the producers and prices are not revealed. (Here’s more about how we taste.) That’s because we believe the best wines reflect where they’re from and what they’re made of. We also believe that every wine should have an equal chance at a high score, no matter how much it costs or who made it, and that this method is both fair and objective.

So, in the scenario you’ve described, we don’t make our tasters guess what region they’re tasting. A so-called “cult” Napa Cabernet is tasted among its peers in a flight of other Napa Cabernets.

But I understand what you’re asking. Do “cult” wines stand out in a blind tasting? Sometimes they do, just as any other good or distinctive wine can stick out among its peers. But the thing about blind tasting is that the taster isn’t distracted by an expectation of a cult wine tasting better, or wondering if the more expensive wine is going to earn a higher score. The taster just describes and evaluates the wine simply by what’s in the glass. In non-blind tastings, it’s easier to give a wine the kind of score that you expect it would get, and to prefer the more expensive bottling to the less expensive one.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.