I like wine. Which wine? Well that’s a good question. Several. Except the ones I don’t.

For the seven or so years my wife and I hosted tastings at the Carrington in Surrey the question I would often get is “what wine should I buy”? To which I usually answered: “the ones you like”. Seems to me to be obvious, but apparently not for some. It pains me to think that there are people who might drink wines that they don’t like, merely because they should. To be fair, most people would not drink a wine they truly disliked, but if you put too much stead in someone else’s recommendation you miss the opportunity to explore and find the wine that you truly love.

At our tastings we rated the wines on a 5 point scale. I would tabulate the results and publish it to the group. There’s two things I learned early on: average scores were basically meaningless and people had very definite preferences. The average scores were basically meaningless because for any particular wine there is some subset that might really love it (score it high) and another subset that would really dislikeĀ it (score it low). In the end the average for most wines was, well, average. Makes you wonder what happens when someone reads some article and runs out and buys the “recommendations” — you better hope that your taste agrees with the reviewer.

Delving deeper into our scores another pattern emerged, there were subsets of tasters that would prefer the same wines. For instance one subset would give a high rating to A and C, and low to B. Another subset would give a high rating to B and low to A and C. Of course it was never that clear-cut, but there were definite patterns. I remember one of the first tastings when I brought what I thought was a “blow it out the park” wine, that though highly rated, received several “would never drink again” scores! Alas I never managed to tease the subsets out in a way I could publish: favourite picks for group 1, favourite picks for group 2 and so on. If you are going to accept a recommendation on a particular wine from someone, make sure you have a track record of agreeing in your selections.

So if the averages were meaningless, why did I continue to ask everyone to rate the wines? Because it caused people to reflect on the wine and make a personal assessment. The published averages were meaningless, it was the process that mattered. Without it people would not take the moment with every wine what there personal assessment actually was. The blind tastings always ended in a reveal and I encouraged attendees to note their outstanding ones: the score sheets had a tear-off-and-take home section for this express purpose.

Recently I visited a local a wine shop and picked up a Cabernet Franc. A kind meaning clerk approached me and suggested a different bottle “Cabernet Franc is not a good varietal you should get this one, its a Cabernet Sauvignon”. I gently declined, explaining that there were Cabernet Francs that I enjoyed, she seemed very skeptical. I’m glad I stuck to my guns, we enjoyed it thoroughly.

So which wine should you buy? Don’t take my word for it taste regularly and buy the ones you like.