Tom Matthews of Wine Spectator Explains Vintage App and Blind Tasting Method

Last week Long Island–well, New York really–got some recognition from the Wine Spectator when the magazine added vintage ratings for our state on its iPad app. Sighs were heard, however, that New York was not divided up into regions, as the Niagara Escarpment, say, and Long Island can have disparate growing seasons. I was able to get Tom Matthews, the Spectator’s executive editor, on the phone to ask about the new addition and the lack of regional separation, which he said was a programming glitch. [ETA: the app will be corrected.] The ratings on the app are only for the Finger Lakes, he said, where senior editor James Molesworth has been visiting and rating wine for the past five years. “He has tasted 2,000 wines for the Finger Lakes since the 1980 vintage,” says Matthews. “And this past year more than 300 wines. Because we had a critical mass of wines and quality was good enough, we felt we could present the best information to our readers.”

Matthews, himself, is the only editor to taste Long Island wine and says that so far he’s only tasted 1,000 wines, not enough to establish the terroir and typicity needed for the magazine to create a vintage chart. “We’ve only just added a chart for Austria,” he says.

Matthews, who is based in New York, says more sampling is needed and welcomes submissions from the wineries. He says he starts the blind tastings knowing the vintage, variety and region, but not knowing the producer or price.

The inclusion of the vintage chart for the Finger Lakes coincides with a feature with wine ratings on that region in the magazine’s most recent edition.