If you’ve ever seen a number listed above a wine, you might have wondered, “What does this number mean?” Well, lucky for you, we’re here to explain.
There are numerous trusted wine publications that taste thousands of wines each year and give each one a rating out of 100. The few that Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate by Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast and James Suckling. Wines are generally tasted blind, which means the critic tasting each wine doesn’t have any information about the wine except the general type (Chardonnay, Cabernet etc.) and the vintage. This keeps these ratings unbiased and allows for an honest score.
Ratings are also accompanied by tasting notes that give an description of what you should expect when you pop open that cork. Additional comments may be added to tasting notes after the taste test has occurred and the identity of the wine is revealed, but the score is never changed.
But how are some wines rated and others not, you ask? Wineries submit their wines to these publications. Wine Spectator also notes that their company purchases thousands of wines each year to taste. This doesn’t mean a wine without a rating is bad, that company just didn’t submit it for a rating.
You might also be wondering, what is a good score? Generally any wine rated above 90 indicates it is and outstanding wine (95 and up being extraordinary) and ratings between 85-89 are considered very good. Below we’ve compiled the score ranges and what each publication we cite means by them. Just remember, everyone has their own tastes; a high score doesn’t mean you will love a wine and a lower score doesn’t mean you won’t. Ratings are meant to act as a guide and help you chose what wine to buy, so have some fun, browse around and pick something new to try that speaks to you!
Rating Scales by Publication
95-100: Classic – a great wine.
90-94: Outstanding – A wine of superior character and style.
85-89: Very good – A wine with special qualities.
80-84: Good – A solid, well-made win.
75-79: Mediocre – A drinkable wine that may have minor flaws.
50-74: Not recommended
Wine Advocate by Robert Parker
96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase and consume.
90-95: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
80-89: A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
70-79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
60-69: A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.
50-59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable.
98-100: The pinnacle of quality.
94-97: A great achievement.
90-93: Highly recommended.
87-89: Often good value, well recommended.
83-86: Good – suitable for everyday consumption; often good value.
80-82: Can be employed in casual, less-critical circumstances.
Wines receiving a rating below 80 are not reviewed or recommended.
95 and up: A+ – A must buy
90 and up: A – Outstanding
Less than 88 points: Might still be worth buying, but proceed with caution.