While some have suggested that scoring is not well suited to a beverage that has been romantically extolled for centuries, wine is no different to other consumer products. Like it or not, wine-scores actually matter just as much as taste, because scores drive prices.
In the absence of personal experience, a score coupled to a value index is just another objective means to consider the quality standing of a wine and to decide which to buy. However, there is a lot more to wine than simply a rating score - as anyone who has tasted a high-scoring wine will agree.
Current scoring systems:
Generally, ratings are derived from wine tastings, during which the same type of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known. Neither price nor the reputation of the producer should therefore affect the rating in any tangible way. There are specific standards of quality that full-time wine professionals recognize, and there are benchmark wines against which other contenders can be judged.
Scoring wines is therefore simply taking a professional's opinion and applying a numerical system to it on a consistent basis. It has the advantage of permitting rapid communication of relevant information to expert and novice alike. However, such scores are based on a single competition result.
The index score given for a specific wine represents a cumulative average of the wine's best results in several tastings over some years (with exceptions for new releases). Whilst demand for the very best wines always remains strong, the idea of finding value in wine purchases appeals to most of us.
The index system provides a guideline for several other considerations regarding the quality consistency of wines, prices, increases in the range of top wines and patterns that emerge in repeated competitions, which indicate what role terroir or other factors play in consistent results.
It is hoped that the credibility of this system will show up a window to the world regarding the real quality standing of SA wines. Although some cultivar wines differ because of terroir and style influences, a direct comparison is something to be ultimately left to the individual palate. This guide can only serve as a recommendation.