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(Photographer: Filipe Baptista Va/istockphoto)
(Photographer: Filipe Baptista Va/istockphoto)

Does price matter in a wine review? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

What impact does price have on the review? Is a 90-point wine costing $35 as good as the 90 costing $20?

THE ANSWER

“Good” is the operative word here, and the short answer is yes. But it comes with an important qualification.

When critics score wines, they generally do so in relation to wines of the same style or grape variety. A consumer should take the wine style into account along with the score when making a buying decision. In terms of craftsmanship, a 90-point barbera, for example, may be just as “good” as a 90-point cabernet sauvignon. But the wines will not taste the same. Barbera tends to be lighter in body and contain higher acidity than a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon. That’s just the nature of the two grapes. In a blind tasting, most consumers may prefer the cabernet sauvignon because full-bodied, soft-acid reds enjoy wider appeal.

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Think of this car analogy. A Honda Accord is a superb automobile, with great durability and five-passenger comfort. It might rate a 95-point score from an auto critic if car reviewers were encouraged to assign scores (wouldn’t that be interesting?). A two-seater Porsche 911 might merit the same high score because it’s a fabulous piece of metal that accelerates more quickly and handles better at high speed than an Accord. (It also will turn more heads as you pull up to a restaurant for dinner.) But obviously there’s a big price difference between the two. That price differential doesn’t mean the Porsche represents poor value relative to the Honda. Each car is at the top of its respective class. The Porsche simply is designed for different requirements and desires. If speed is your need, you’ll dream of the Porsche, not the Accord. For ample trunk space and lower maintenance charges come tune-up time, get the Honda, by all means.

So, if you’re not a fan of high-acid red wines (most people sadly are not), then you may prefer a 90-point cabernet sauvignon to a 90-point barbera. Personally, I’d be more inclined to go with the barbera if I were dining on grilled sausages. It’s better than an 88-point barbera, assuming the critic has done his or her job correctly. But it won’t taste like a cabernet sauvignon and won’t pair as well with prime rib.

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E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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