What Does It Mean When a Wine Totes a “Rating?”

Are you just entering the ever intriguing and can-be-complicated “world of wine?” For anyone interested in what makes one wine different from another, or if you have ever wondered what those numbers listed next to certain bottles on the shelf are in Bremer’s Wine & Liquor, please read on.

Often enough, upon entering any wine store and or when researching wines online, what you see, even before the tasting note, is a rating. Numbers such as 88, 92, 93… and without knowing what the rating IS, where the rating comes from and why it’s important can be confusing.

Wine Info BremersThese ratings are given to a wine from the numerous editors and panels of qualified wine critics from publications whom, like us, love wine. They love wine so much that they have based their careers and their lives around seeking out the best wines produced in the world. They speak a language we don’t understand, have studied specific regions and the practices of winemaking, in other words, they eat, sleep, drink and of course, write about wine.

The editors from these publications taste thousands of wines each year, on and off premise, within the specific region of their expertise. The longer these ratings panels have been around, and the more frequently their tasting notes and ratings seems to gain public agreement, the more respected they are.

The wines that are tasted have been submitted or have been specifically purchased for review. Wines are blindly tasted without knowing the vineyard, name or price. Tasters are told the grape varietal/region and the vintage only.  Many wines are re-tested at a later time to confirm the tasting notes and rating.

Along with the number rating, some publications also develop Best Buys, Best Values and annual Top Wines of the Year lists. When a wine that Bremer’s carries makes it to these lists, it is also noted along with the number rating online and on the shelf.

Here is a list of some of the publications we subscribe to, promote in our store and what their ratings mean:

Wine Spectator

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

Wine Enthusiast

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.

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 a 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.

Wine & Spirits

95 to 100: superlative, rare finds
90 to 94: exceptional examples of their type
86 to 89: highly recommended
80 to 85: good examples of their variety or region

Stephen Tanzer

95-100: Extraordinary
90-94: Outstanding
85-89: Very Good to Excellent
80-84: Good
75-79: Average
70-74: Below Average
<70: Avoid

James Suckling

95-100: (A+) Outstanding, a must buy
90-94: Outstanding, an outstanding purchase
85-89: Worth buying


96-100: Exceptional. A profound and emotionally moving wine that exemplifies the very best attributes of its kind. These are the world’s great, iconic wines
90-95: Outstanding. A wine of remarkable personality and breed that is well worth seeking out
85-89: Excellent. A strong wine with true character that provides highly enjoyable drinking. This is the sweet spot for values and everyday wines that won’t break the bank
80-84: Average. A wine with no flaws, but no distinction
75-79: Below Average. A wine with at least one noticeable flaw
Below 75: Not worth your time

Other note-worthy ratings panels are Pinot Report, Connoisseurs Guide, The Wine News, Decanter, James Halliday, and Burghound.  You can sign up to receive the ratings and reports from these publications directly or online at their individual websites.