Bordeaux wine rating services are consistent

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An interesting study from Cornell University shows that the three primary Bordeaux wine rating services are consistent in their rankings. The findings claim that the three most popular ranking sources, Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and Wine Spectator, display a high degree of internal consistency in their rankings. They also show that there is a great deal of consistency between the three services, as well, although there is a differences in the scores that they assign.

This study is based on 339 combinations of château and vintage for the “classified growths” for which we were able to find ratings from all three sources. We identify the top-rated years and top-rated châteaux, and compare this information to the 1855 Classification. Given our findings we propose an update to the 1855 Classification that incorporates the ratings we examine.

Interestingly, it also seems to show that while market price is a much better indication of quality than the 1855 Classification, some of the original rankings still hold up after all of this time.

To begin with, several châteaux showed remarkable staying power over the intervening 150 years. However, some châteaux had advanced to in the rankings, while others have faded, at least based on this sample of vintages. Notable changes include Château Leoville-Las-Cases (Saint-Julien) moving from second to first growth, replacing Château Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac), and two châteaux moving from the fifth growth to the second growth: Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac) and Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac). Market prices of the 2005 vintage tend to support our findings. For example, as of early May 2008, the price of the Château Leoville-Las-Cases (Saint-Julien) was about three times that of the other nominally second-growth wines.

While this is mostly academic to me, since I can’t afford to drink any of those wines with any regularity, it is nice to see that there is a reason why those rating systems are both respected and popular.