India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
Ratings and Appellations: It’s All about Money, Honey

Posted: Thursday, 02 May 2013 17:52

Ratings and Appellations: It’s All about Money, Honey

May 02: Most consumers in India may not be conversant with wine ratings and appellations but they play an important role in determining the prices-from the recent case of Penfolds Grange 2008 where the prices were marked up by 25% because of 100 RP points, to the case of two chateaux of St. Emilion which were recently promoted to Premier Grands Crus Classé A and the Price of the 2012 vintage shot up as an exception, writes Subhash Arora who says that besides the passion, prestige and power it is the profitability of a winery that comes with such upgrades

A few people asked me after reading the Grange article in the previous issue of delWine the significance and meaning of a 100 point rating. And how come we were talking about Robert Parker rating the 2008 vintage at 100 and in the same breath writing that Lisa Perrotti Brown MW had rated it. Elementary, my dear Watson! Robert Parker is the man (some consider him God, while others think of him as the devil too) who controls the wine rating system single-handedly. He is a brand, a seal of approval that has become the quasi standard in the wine industry for almost 3 decades-especially in the US market. Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are the other two such 100 point ratings that are respected in that order.

It would be an impossible task for one man to taste all the wines offered. Therefore, Parker has senior staffers who are assigned and authorized to do the ratings on his behalf; I was surprised when an Indian winery owner once sprouted high Parker points for his wines. Mercifully, one did not hear more about it. He is considered a genius taster for Bordeaux wines though he also tastes Rhone wines (and others too), at least after he recently sold a majority of shares of his company Wine Advocate which is synonymous with Robert Parker(points by WA or RP are the same thing).

Lisa-Perrotti Brown, with whom I had the honour of judging at a Singapore wine competition and shared the platform as speakers at the Wine Future International Conference in November 2011, has been his Singapore representative. Recently, he appointed her as the editor-in-chief of Wine Advocate. It was she who tasted the Grange 2008 and in early March gave the unusual 100-point rating. This is based not only on the current flavours and the balance but the ageability of the wine. Always scoring consistently over 95 points, she gave the perfect 100; after over 30 years for this wine. Besides all the hype created since the announcement in early March, Treasury Wine Estates which owns Penfolds, the winery producing Grange, decided to jack up the A$600 price by A$160, an increase of 25%.

If Lisa had rated it RP98 or WA99, there would have been a lot of clapping in the world wine auditorium but perhaps only a minor increase in the prices. Therefore, besides adding prestige to their wine and Australian wines in general to a limited extent, the price increase merited by the perfect score would add significantly to their bottom line, despite reports of undercutting on the new prices by some online traders; the wine is in any case under allocation, making the higher demand outstrip the limited supply.

Incidentally, your wine is nobody if it doesn’t score over 90 Parker points (WA90+). There are fewer spectators for the Wine Spectator (WS) though in India it does enjoy a good equation with the importers and hospitality industry. People are slightly less enthusiastic about Wine Enthusiast (WA) that appears to enjoy a lot of respect from the Italian producers perhaps because of the affable and knowledgeable Monica Larner, who was the equivalent of Lisa Perrotti Brown MW for the publisher Adam Strum, and was focusing on the Italian wines till about a couple of months ago.

Strange Case of Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion, on the right-bank of Bordeaux  started the classification system in 1955 with Premier grand cru classé A, Premier grand cru classé B, Grand cru classé and the Grand Cru (unlike in Burgundy, where there are hundreds of these lowly rated chateaux) based on the quality of the wines, Terroir and the celebrated status of the winery. Unlike the Bordeaux 1855 classification, there is a system of review by expert panels every ten years and a few changes take place. After the 1996 classification, when the 2006 was announced, it was mired in controversies that resulted in several court cases and the courts had ordered a status quo. It was only last September that the court allowed the new changes to be incorporated. 

Although the controversies have still not ended, three companies are reportedly getting ready to go to court as they are not satisfied that the review was fair. However, for the first time two new Chateaux-Angélus and Pavie have been upgraded to the ‘A’ category, taking the number to 4 (Ausone and Cheval Blanc are already ruling supreme). Although the companies are planning to sue the organizations that are responsible for the Review, it is unlikely that the two new entrants are likely to be affected unless the courts again set aside the classification of 2006 that came into being in September 2012. It is the general belief that the driving forces behind the latest division seem to have more to do with money and politics than quality, prices or Terroir superiority that they like to harp on. (it’s all about money, honey!)

What happens to the wine prices of two new Chateaux in the top rated Category A (they may be comparable with the First Growths of Medoc also known as the Left Bank) They were already enjoying the reputation and top prices of their wines. But overnight they have become more celebrated. But here is also where more money comes in.

Chateau Angélus and Chateau Pavie both came out at €180 ex-Bordeaux, a rise of 30% and 58% respectively, as reported by Decanter a week ago. This was in sharp contrast to the general overall reduced prices of up to a third of the 2011 En Primeur prices last year. The En Primeur prices (known as wine future as the wine is still under process and no one really knows the final quality) are being announced these days by different estates and are generally down for all the collectible wines. You may want to relook at one article in delWine

Without commenting on the merits of elevation to the top level, it is unlikely that there would have been such increase, if at all, if the reclassification had been still under abeyance.

DOC and DOCG wines in Italy-and DOP

Nowhere is the confusion about the Appellation system as prevalent as in Italy. There was a time that DOCG wines were considered better in quality than the DOC wines; the myth about DOC being better than IGT was shattered decades ago when some of the top and highly respected producers refused to tow the lines of the law-making consortiums and started making table wines and later IGT wines when the new system was introduced a couple of decades ago. However, the elevation from DOC to DOCG has been heavily politicized and there have been jokes about ‘its not what you know but who you know that is important in Italy.’ A case in point has been Chianti that caused the downfall of the Italian industry and almost brought it to its knees-and it enjoys a DOCG status. You would be hard pressed to find a Barolo, Barbaresco  or a Brunello, all DOCG wines for less than €30-40, whereas Chianti DOCG may be available even for €3.

Getting the upgrade to DOCG is the dream and is pushed by all the DOC wine Associations after the statutory period even if there is no improvement of the quality or even if it is not worthy of rubbing shoulders with the likes of the 3 Big Bs. This is done with the hope of extracting higher prices from the customer. In other words it is merely a marketing tool.  Knowing the situation, the European Union has taken the decision that there would be no such distinction for exports for the DOC and DOCG wines which will be used simply as  DOP wines.

There is no such Rating System or Appellation system in India for the moment, but the money factor will make some of the producers look at this as a marketing and money spinning tool sooner than later.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Penfolds Grange 2008, St. Emilion, Lisa Perrotti Brown MW, 100-point rating, Treasury Wine Estates, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Premier grand cru classé A, Premier grand cru classé B, Chateau Angélus , Chateau Pavie


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet