Wine Ratings Explained

Rated 91 points by Wine Spectator. Highly rated. Recently rated 89 points by Wine Advocate. You see these phrases all of the time, including on our website. But what exactly is a wine rating, you ask? Simply put, it’s a score from one of three major organizations. Knowing each ratings system will not only make you seem like a wine connoisseur, but will offer insight into the next bottle you purchase.

Wine Spectator: Each wine region is assigned to one editor, who has developed a proven expertise in that region’s offerings. During a tasting, other editors offer commentary, but the final word comes from the main editor. All tastings are blind. The tasters are told the wine’s region or varietal, but that’s it. Wines that rank very highly are tasted again and again to confirm the rating. Following is Wine Spectator’s official 100-point scale:

95-100 — Classic; a great wine
90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

The Wine Advocate: This rating system is based entirely upon the opinion of renowned wine critic, Robert Parker. To generate ratings, Parker spends three months each year in vineyards; he devotes the other nine months to tasting and writing (I know, I know, how terrible that must be). Tastings are conducted in single-blind conditions, which means the same types of wines from different wineries are tasted against each other. Following is The Wine Advocate‘s 100-Point Scale and what it indicates:

96-100 — Extraordinary; a classic wine of its variety
90-95 — Outstanding; exceptional complexity and character
80-89 — Barely above average to very good; wine with various degrees of flavor
70-79 — Average; little distinction beyond being soundly made
60-69 — Below average; drinkable, but containing noticeable deficiencies
50-59 — Poor; unacceptable, not recommended

Wine Enthusiast: A panel of editors and other qualified tasting specialists blindly taste wine in an individual or group setting. Only wines scoring 80 points or higher are published. The rating is a cumulative score based on the editors’ conclusions. What their system indicates:

95-100 — Superb. One of the greats.
90-94 — Excellent. Extremely well made and highly recommended.
85-89 — Very good. May offer outstanding value if the price is right.
80-84 — Good. Solid wine, suitable for everyday consumption.

I hope that shed some light on the matter. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

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