Whether you call it a revolution, a groundswell, or just an increasing number of people making better wine in more places, quality wine production is spreading across the United States.
We just completed our wine rating update, aggregating wine critic ratings and international wine competition results to create our 1 to 5 star winery ratings. The intent of this quarterly data drill – performed for the last five years – is to provide the ability for users of our site to identify quality leaders across the U.S. This quarter’s update added over 8000 ratings and included 31 states. Granted, 89% of the ratings were for California, Washington and Oregon wines, but that still leaves over 500 ratings for wines produced in the “other 47” states!
We’ll be the first to admit that no system for identifying wineries as quality leaders is perfect and that aggregating professional critic scores and international wine competition results is “problematic.” For example, how many points is a gold medal worth, how many points is a double gold worth? What if the gold was awarded for a hybrid, should it get the same point assignment as a gold awarded to a wine made from Vitis vinifera? Even with those challenges, we believe identifying such leaders is vitally important to both consumers and the overall American wine movement.
Wineries invest significant time and money into producing high quality wine, and one of the most effective ways for wineries to encourage wine drinkers to forego the tried-and-true and spend their money on something new is to obtain positive reviews from respected critics and/or win medals (preferably gold or above) at respected wine competitions. What are the odds, though, that an American wine enthusiast, who has not visited the winery, knows about these accolades, especially if the winery is located in a state other than California, Washington, or Oregon? What are the odds that the wine enthusiast knows that a particular winery has EVER won a gold medal or received a favorable rating? Throw in the fact that wine enthusiasts almost never see wines from the other 47 states on physical or online store shelves or on restaurant wine lists, and it’s no surprise that most wine enthusiasts have no idea that wineries all across the country are making impressive wines.
Of course, awards and ratings don’t guarantee that a particular wine drinker is going to like the wines, and a lot of great wines aren’t reviewed. Also, most wineries provide a wine tasting experience that isn’t just about the wine. Yet, if someone knowledgeable about wine is exploring a new wine region, the odds of a positive reaction are greater if the individual starts with the wineries that have established themselves as quality leaders. This first impression, based on a limited sample, will likely determine whether the individual continues to support and explore a particular region or dismisses the region entirely.
For wine enthusiasts, and especially wine tourists, the ability to easily identify quality leaders anywhere in the country opens up a whole new world of wine. The annual trip to Grandma’s house in Missouri becomes a lot more fun when it doubles as a wine vacation!
Ratings Added by State
New York: 272
New Jersey: 15
North Carolina: 5
South Dakota: 3
New Mexico: 1
Rhode Island: 1