A new way to evaluate wines: The Wine Match Wheel

I had just finished a piece for Corkd.com about the various rating systems out there, and the possible need for a different way to evaluate wines when I got an email from a Mr. Ed Leard, President and founder of Winematch.com  The Corkd article was posted on August 24th which also happened to be the day that Mr Leard was going public with his new wine profiling system.

CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO EMBIGGIN IT!

The Wine Match Wheel is a project 5 years in the making.  Ed, like most of us had bought plenty of $20 bottles of wine that he loved and quite a few $50+ wines that were disappointing.  He turned to all the wine publications to try and develop a new way but it quickly became immensely time consuming and was still based largely on the the subjective 100 point system.  Ed points out how flawed this system is in a humorous analogy:

“I thought that a point system with a single number was shallow. I remember being in high school, and I knew what a 10 for a girl was then, but I was shallow. Now a ten is not only pretty, but smart, honest, trustworthy and ‘has my back’. By the way, that’s my wife!”

I asked Ed for more info and this is the rest of his response:

I figured wine, much like people, is multi-faceted, and should be shown as such. The other goal was to remove as much subjectivity as possible, thought here will always be some. So to reduce subjectivity, we use multiple tasters to start. We also reduce the amount of wines in a flight to minimize there is little acidity and tannin build-up factors as well. I see tasters go through 10 cabs and wonder “how can you be fair on the last few cabs regarding tannins?” when you have that build up. We do flights blindly (black Riedel ISO glasses) as taste is what we care about. In fact, a lot of folks do unfiltered, and even working with UC Davis folks, they see a little cloudy and call that a defect. We don’t as we don’t see it. I would think unfiltered would mean less handling, which is a good thing.

We get all our wines submitted by wineries through our web portal. (you can go to winery.winematch.com and see the PDF of “what info do I need” to see what information we gather from the wineries.) We also run a wine lab, calibrated daily with standards and monthly with outside labs.  In a previous occupation, I was a tooling inspector so know the value/purpose of well-calibrated systems. We also are the only ones I know that measure free sulfites. We have all high-end equipment.

So we combine multiple-sensory, winery data, and chemistry to come up with the Wine Profile on the WineMatchWheel TM. There are numerous calculations that sanitize the data on the wheel. Then there’s the matching engine. Twelve to twenty points of matching, depending on varietal(s) and other variables (oaked/unoaked, tannins/no tannins, etc). Wine matches are shown real-time, but you need a free user account to view them.

On the consumer side, after setting up the free account (free account in return for some demographics), a user finds wines and adds them to their favorites. Then, as we continue to profile, they get an e-mail when matches are found. Wineries have the same ability and I suggest wineries sign up as both a winery and a user to have the complete experience. We keep wine profiles even after it’s no longer available for trending information as well as someone may have liked it, can’t get it, but is willing to try a new wine with similar qualities. Wineries can adjust availability flags as well (retail and winery only).

It also has a free retailer area, and you can exclude your larger chains (BevMo, Costco) for a more personal wine shop, and can flag those that do tastings. Wineries can also submit and maintain events, and a user can search with dates, regions, even down to AVAs if they recognize them.  It can do a lot more (click on Cabernet and sort by percent of primary varietal, for instance). It just multi-faceted and data-base driven. The parent company, Roundbrix, is a Microsoft shop, so we have the intellectual assets on board! Changes in an instant if need be. We’re giving away free profiles through October, but may need to make that September based on the great responses we have been getting. After that, it’s between $100- $150 per wine, based on how many wines you want profile.We don’t sell wine and only profile wines of the United States, as my grandfather died in WW2 for this country so I thought I would keep it close to the chest. Also, it keeps it on the AVA system, so it makes sense overall and I can (and do) visit wineries frequently and can communicate well with them.We have done over 500, have a couple hundred in wait, and are getting more every day. Goal is to maximize the populating of wines to bring more consumers and have more matches. I think that’s it, in a rather large nutshell!

Ed

22 comments

  1. My favorite kind of wine is ice wine, I love how sweet it is. I’m sure I don’t drink it the right way with breathing in the aroma, swishing it around, but if it’s sweet I’ll probably drink it a little too quickly.

  2. Fascinating. I wonder how fruit wines would stack up? The winery I am a part of here makes a lot of 100% fruit wines: apricot, peach, apple, plum, cherry, chokecherry, wild cherry, blueberry, blackberry, prickly pear, cranberry, grape, etc. These are dry table wines, so I’m curious how they would compare in this testing. Our wines should measure up well in all the categories on the wheel, but I do wonder what the fruit assessment would be. 🙂

    1. Personally I use some accounting tricks I learned from Arthur Anderson and Enron and include wine expenses in my food budget, that allows me to drink more wine and MUCH better quality of wine!

  3. Wow! What a complex system…lol… and I’m sure really useful for a real wine enthusiast… I tend to be in the category if its in a bottle and and its red… I’ll drink it….

    1. I’m in that category aswell. But once in a while I want to totally go all out and spend way more than I should, and If I am going to do that I want a wine description that makes more sense than 94 points and tobacco and pencil shavings and garden gnome. 🙂

    1. Seems pretty easy to me, but only after I went to their website and looked at a bunch of different wines. I started to get the idea of how to just sort of glance at it and look for the elements. I would imagine that after looking at these things for a while we’ll all be more used to them

  4. Wonderful article. I’m new to wine, so this is so very helpful. I always go with the same ‘ole! It’ll be nice to use this to help broaden my horizons… So, thanks!

  5. A new way to evaluate wines: BUY a book which teaches basic wine knowledge, READ the book, TASTE as much wine as you can, and taste it with food – all kinds of food. That being accomplished, you’ll get it soon enough. Avoid gimmicks, as they are ultimately worthless.

    1. I would say that the wine match wheel is for people who already have the minimum basic knowledge. I find it more useful to see the objective sensory elements of wine scored in terms of their intensity by a panel of testers rather than a single number that encompasses everything, scored by a single palate. But thats just me. Cheers, and thank you for commenting!

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