January 29, 2020
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Joe Goodwin

Complete Wine-Buying Guide and Picker Tool: Vintage, Rating, Price, and Everything Else

Wines. Grapes. Battlestar Galactica.

We’ve all been there. You’re standing before a wall of more wines than you knew existed, you’ve never heard of most of them and all you know about them are the price, how fancy the label is and how deep the hole is at the bottom (is that really a thing?). Panic sets in.

Fear not, friend. We've created a data-driven approach to selecting the best wines.

Below is a thorough analysis with key visualizations of all the reviews posted on Wine Enthusiast, at least as of November 2017 when the data was gathered. Shoutouts to Zack Thoutt (who went viral for his AI-generated Game of Thrones sequel) for scraping the data and putting it on Kaggle, and to Wine Enthusiast for reviewing and gathering info on the exorbitant number of wines (118,840 from 43 countries). Important caveats: for obvious reasons Wine Enthusiast can’t review all the wines in the world, and the rating system is necessarily dependent on the individual sommeliers who rate them. Also the visualizations are interactive! Go ahead and play around with them.

Best Countries for Wine

This visualization shows countries color-coded by average score, with size indicating total number of wines reviewed from that country. Remember the caveats. Exhibit A: Brazil is the 16th largest wine producer in the world, and they have a measly 49 wines reviewed.

How Rare is a 95?

Ever wonder if they just throw out high scores like candy? Turns out no; its actually quite hard to get a high score. A 95 and above only comprises the top 1.99% of wines. See for yourself!

 

Spill the Tea (Wine?): Who Got Perfect Scores?

There are 18 perfect-score wines in the dataset. Worth noting (per graph above) that this represents the top 0.02% of all wines they reviewed.

 

 

Best for Cheap

But most people aren’t willing to shell out $350 for a 100-point bottle of wine to have with dinner. So! Here are some options for those of us uh… ballin’ on a budget.

 

 

 

Best of the Popular Wine Types

Want to find the best Cab Sav on the market? Did you know there were 707 different types of wines reviewed? I sure didn't. So I picked the most popular varieties, and here are the top few in each category.

 

 

USA: Who’s Making the Best (and Most) Wine?

As a country we love Napa Valley. And with good reason. Below you can see the highest-rated wine regions in color (the darker the better) as well as the number of wines that came from each state. Spoiler alert: California makes the most. But we knew that.

 

 

Finding a Go-to Winery

When it comes to actually buying wine, not just learning like you’re doing now (props to whoever pulls this out in the store!), we found that one of the best places to start is finding a great winery. Why? Well… people drink wine. So the more time passes, the less a particular vintage is available. In fact, according to wine educator Kevin Zraly, “more than 90 percent of all the wines made in the world are meant to be consumed within one year, and less than 1 percent of the world's wines are meant to be aged for more than 5 years.” So finding a specific vintage from a specific winery may or may not happen.

 

Below I found the average scores for each winery and sorted them; but when I looked at some of the top contenders in more detail, turned out they were Vanilla Ice wines: one-hit wonders. It’s much easier to have a stunning winery rating of 93 when you’ve only got one wine in the database. So I filtered the results to only averages of 92 and above, bringing us to our top 6.2% of wineries. Then I sorted them by the number of wines each had. Voila! Quality and consistency. Threw the winery's average wine price on the end so you know what you're getting yourself into.

 

 

Best Bang for Your Buck: Points per Dollar

Want to know the most points you can get per dollar? Restricting it to a budget friendly amount ($15-$30 per bottle) - turns out two Chipotle burritos can get you a 93! That’s top 10%!

 

 

One Tool to Rule Them All

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you've waited for. Welcome to the all-purpose wine-finder. With this tool you can search the whole database and find exactly what you're looking for. You can filter on the go by winery, points, price, country, whatever you want!

Fun Facts

When initially cleaning the data we discovered that a bunch of wines that had nulls on the vintage dates. We thought they might be errors until we noticed that they belonged to the same categories. Turns out champagnes, proseccos and sherries are typically not listed by vintage! That’s because the wine maker blends several vintages to arrive at the sweet spot they're looking for. Also, White Zinfandel is not on Wine Enthusiast at all! It's new, invented by Sutter Homes in 1975 as the result of a happy accident (Bob Ross would be proud). Some hardly consider it real wine at all, drunk only by the “unsophisticated”... but that's a touchy subject. Also, Switzerland’s wine is fantastic and they know it; they drink almost all of it themselves, exporting only 1.5%.

 

Well! We here at NuView Analytics hope this has been as helpful and informative for you (and frankly fun!) as it’s been for us. We used this analysis to pick the wine we sent as client gifts this year. Just goes to show: data is not only fascinating, it’s very useful as well.

Cheers! 🥂

Joe Goodwin
Joe lives in Denver. When he's not working with data he loves rock climbing, hiking, and general Colorado adventure. He's the proud owner of a white sock purported to belong to Marcus Mumford. Hopelessly extroverted, if you spend much time here you'll probably meet him, for good or ill.

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