Every year, Fall brings back on bookstores’ shelves a dozen of wine guides. We all have our favorite guide – for whatever reason: notation system, style, choice of wines, etc. To be totally frank, I got really bored with guides over the years and I don’t buy any of them anymore. Why? Tasting is a very personal experience and I don’t want somebody to tell me what I should buy or what I shouldn’t, based on the personal tastes or training of somebody I don’t know.
That’s why I got interested in a site created by a Swiss wine expert, Alain Bringolf, dedicated exclusively to Bordeaux wines. Alain is absolutely passionate about Bordeaux wines and has been drinking them – almost exclusively – for a few decades. A banker by training, he spent a lot of time tasting wines and sharing great wines with his friends. Over the years, he recognized that wine tasting is not an exact science: wine critics very often didn’t agree on a wine and gave contradictory information to the consumers. He started developing a mathematical system to compare scores from various sources. That’s how his first site, winemega.com, was born.
StatWine.com goes even further. It is the culmination of over 10 years of gathering data on Bordeaux wines. It wants to be the ultimate guide in choosing wines with as much objective information as possible to gather. He invented a grading system of his own in connection with the development of a full site on Bordeaux wines. The scores he attributes to a wine are an average of all the marks given by expert tasters. His current database (still growing) has about 25,000 scores. His database includes:
- “Price/Quality ratio: we regularly analyze statistics to determine value for money for each wine.
- Comparison with other wines (both overall and in the same appellation). This is based on an original model combining the scores in a given vintage and the estate’s track record (70% / 30%, respectively)
- Trends in quality over a decade
- Consistency over time compared to other estates in the appellation.
- A wine’s investment value, with an analysis of price increases since 2000.
- Rankings within the appellation, based on statistics over a ten year period.
- Comments and advice concerning each estate.”
Even if it is impossible to judge a wine “scientifically”, Bringolf’s system tries to be objective and gives as many clues and tips to choose a wine by taking account of one’s tastes.
How does it work? Every appellation is represented with a list of all the estates. Let’s go through an example.
I selected Pessac-Leognan and then Château La Mission Haut-Brion. The “Presentation” page brings information on the history of the place and its management. The “fact sheet” shows the percentage of each grape varieties and gives many technical information on the management of the vineyard, such as the type of picking, the area planted, the average yield, etc., the suggested ageing potential of many vintages, the food and wine matchings and the tasting notes (with their date). There is also a page of ranking – giving you the rank of the wine in its appellation, that enables you to identify the most reliable estates based on a long track record. Surprised that La Mission is just second behind Haut-Brion?
Next question answered by the site is: when to drink? Alain Bringolf explains: “Wine is a living thing that changes over time. The best wines usually go through several phases and reveal their true nature with age. Each of these phases can be interrupted by awkward intermediary periods (lasting months or even years), during which the wine does not show its best.” He provides a very easy to use tool: you select a wine and its vintage. The answer is intantaneous for La Mission 1994: “Wait. Maturing” and the site recommends a drinking window 2012-2016.
If my long and detailed post didn’t make you click away… yet, go see StatWine.com. There is a demonstration of the system and you can subscribe.