How to Navigate Wine Ratings
Browsing an online wine magazine like Wine Spectator can be an adventure, but you may end up getting lost in the numbers, especially if your search for wine leads you to one of the many online wine review websites, which can have thousands of reviews. All these wine ratings will have you parsing all sorts of information, so let’s get started!
Understanding the Wine Scale
You can’t go two steps these days without running into the 100-point wine scale. Its prevalence online and in magazines makes it a frequent conversation point, but not every website and critic uses it the same way. In most cases, only ratings over 80 will be showcased, giving you a direct sign that the wine is good—but that’s not where the story ends.
The Obstacles for Wine Searchers
It should come as no surprise when we say that wine reviewing involves a lot of subjectivity and preference. While many experienced critics will agree on factors related to production quality, their tastes will lead them to give vastly different scores sometimes. Some critics like their wines bold and forceful, while others prefer a more subtle approach.
In other cases, you will have two bottles of, say, Cabernet Sauvignon, and they will be quite different despite having the same wine rating. This is because the intricacies of the region the red wines come from determines a lot—a Cabernet from Napa Valley will never taste like a Cabernet from Bordeaux, regardless of price or which is best.
While most will agree that a rating of 87 is a sign of a good wine to buy, the score will mean different things based on the website or the critic’s perception of the scale. Many sites such as Wine Spectator will highly recommend a new 2020 wine in this score range, even if they’re not as good as the classics.
A High-quality Approach to Interpreting a Wine Rating
Unless you want to embark upon an exhaustive winery search, we have a few free tips that might help you discover a high-quality wine. For starters, if you have a region or wine style you tend to enjoy, then be sure to understand more about the rating given to those wines. If you find a critic whose taste you tend to share, make sure to follow them, and use their scores as a guideline. Of course, don’t be afraid to explore outside the box while you search wine—many exquisite bottles exist, and finding them can be quite thrilling.
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All wine ratings are from the following sources:
|RP||Robert Parker, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and eRobertParker.com|
|RP-HG||The Hedonist Gazette|
|JS||James Suckling, formerly of Wine Spectator, now of jamessuckling.com|
|BH||Allen Meadows - Burghound|
|SP||Sokolin Panel tasting score. This is an average score from the full Sokolin staff tasting using the traditional 100 point scale.|
|JG||John Gilman, "A View From the Cellar"|
|W&S||Wine & Spirits Magazine|