Wine Basics

Wine Ratings Explained

Our goal at is to help you choose the wines that are best for you. After all, you are the most important judge of the wine you drink. We know that the wine selection is vast and choosing a wine can be overwhelming, so to give you a balance of information, displays wine ratings from ten different publications: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wines & Spirits, Steven Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Connoisseurs Guide, James Halliday's The Australian Wine Companion, James Suckling's, Pinot Report, and Burghound. is not sponsored by, affiliated or associated with any of these publications or their publishers.

Wine ratings may influence your decision, but the ultimate judgment is yours. Everyone has a different palate and different preferences, so basing purchases on wine ratings may not garner the perfect wine match for your tastes. Always read the tasting note to find out more. And when you do purchase for wine ratings sake, you'll soon learn which publications or tasters possess your style of palate.

Wine Spectator

Each wine region is the sole jurisdiction of one editor who has developed an expertise in that region's offerings. Other editors can offer opinions, but the final say comes from the region's primary editor.

Reviewers & Regions:

  • James Laube -California (primary taster)
  • Harvey Steiman - Washington State, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand
  • Bruce Sanderson - Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, Italy
  • Kim Marcus - Portugal (including Port), Languedoc-Rousillon(Southern France), Austria, Greece
  • Thomas Matthews - Spain, New York
  • James Molesworth - Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Finger Lakes (NY)
  • Alison Napjus - Alsace
  • Jo Cooke - Veneto region of Italy
  • MaryAnn Worobiec - California
  • Tim Fish - California
  • James Suckling, retired as of July 2010 - former beats: Bordeaux, Italy, Port

All tastings are conducted "blind." Tasters are told the type of wine (varietal or region) and vintage. Flawed wines or wines that score very highly are re-tasted. European wines are sometimes tasted in the districts that yield them, where fresher, perfectly stored examples will be readily available. Wine ratings are based on how good a wine will be when it reaches its peak, regardless of how soon that will be. If barrel samples are being rated rather than finished wines, that is revealed.

Wine Spectator's 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

Robert Parker is a renowned wine critic and publisher of The Wine Advocate. Parker is not the only critic at the Advocate and many wines are tasted by colleagues at the publication. Note that an RP next to a wine means that it was rated by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, not necessarily Robert Parker himself.

Reviewers & Regions:

  • Robert Parker - Bordeaux, Rhone, California (until late 2011)
  • Antonio Galloni - Italy, Burgundy and California (starting late 2011)
  • Jay Miller - Oregon, Washington, Spain, Australia, South America and Vintage Ports
  • Mark Squires - Israel, Greece, Lebanon, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania
  • Neil Martin - Some Bordeaux & other regions
  • David Schildknecht - Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe, America's Eastern & Midwestern wineries, Alsace, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Champagne, New Zealand and South Africa
  • Other contributors include Karen MacNeil, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW and Kevin Zraly.

Tastings are conducted in peer group, single-blind conditions, which means the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the wineries' names are not revealed, so niether price nor the reputation of the winery influences the rating in any way. If tasted several times, the scores represent a cumulative average. Overall, the score assigned to a specific wine reflects the quality of the wine at its best. Parker encourages readers to rely on the score with the written notes rather than the score alone.

The Wine Advocate's 100-Point Scale:

  • 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

Wine Enthusiast wine ratings are based on tastings by the magazine's editors and other qualified tasting panelists, either individually or in a group setting. Tastings are conducted blind or in accordance with accepted industry practices. Price is not a factor in assigning scores to wines. Only wines scoring 80 points or higher are published. When possible, wines considered flawed or uncustomary are re-tasted.

Reviewers & Regions:

  • Joe Czerwinski - France, Germany, Australia & New Zealand
  • Susan Kostrzewa - South Africa, Greece, Canada, Eastern Europe and all U.S. states except California, Oregon and Washington
  • Steve Heimoff - California
  • Roger Voss - Austria, France and Portugal
  • Paul Gregutt - Washinton State & Oregon
  • Monica Larner - Italy

Wine Enthusiast Scores:

  • 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 & Spirits Magazine

All wine evaluations for tastings section are conducted under controlled, blind conditions, no exceptions. Wine & Spirits tastings are a two-step process. First, all wines submitted to us or purchased are tasted by screening panels composed of retailers, sommeliers, winemakers and other wine professionals whom we invite to taste with us. The wines recommended by our screening panels are then presented at a later date to our critic, who scores each wine and writes the reviews. The critic's ratings are based on how well a wine performs within its category as labeled (varietally or regionally). Our goal with these ratings is for each critic to provide a consistent point of view against which you may measure your own taste over time.

Reviewers & Regions:

  • Joshua Greene - California wines, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Portugal, Rioja, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
  • Tara Q. Thomas - wines of the Mediterranean-with a particular focus on Greece and Eastern Europe
  • Wolfgang Weber - Italy & the Central and South Coast regions of California
  • Patrick Comiskey - all domestic wines from outside of California
  • Peter Liem - Loire, Alsace, Germany and Austria.
  • Patricio Tapia - Argentina, Chile and Spain

Wine & Spirits Scores:

  • 80 to 85 -- good examples of their variety or region
  • 86 to 89 -- highly recommended
  • 90 to 94 -- exceptional examples of their type
  • 95 to 100 -- superlative, rare finds
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Wines are scored relative to their peer group based on their expected quality during their period of peak drinkability. A "+" after a score denotes a wine that is likely to merit a higher rating in the future. All wines rated 90 or better are highly recommended additions to your cellar (or, where indicated, for drinking over the near term); wines rated at least 85 are recommended bottles that should provide pleasurable drinking. Precise scores are provided only for wines in bottle; ranges are offered for unfinished wines.

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

Stephen Tanzer is the primary taster and critic, Josh Raynolds also reviews wines for the International Wine Cellar.

James Suckling's is run by James Suckling, wine writer, critic and former European editor for Wine Spectator magazine. His new venture features wine ratings, reviews and videos on what he terms, "the best wines of the world," featuring only wines he rates with 90 points or higher. Wines may be tasted blind or non-blind, and are rated for both their current drinking pleasure as well as their potential ability to age.

Other Publications

PinotReport,, Connoisseurs Guide and James Halliday's Wine Companion all use the 100-point system. The scale is similar to those of the above publications in their score to quality ratio. Note that the Connoisseurs Guide uses a star system, which they have translated into the 100-point scale.


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Icons Explained

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Great Wine Gifts
These selected wines make impressive gifts for enthusiasts and collectors alike.
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These wines will improve with additional bottle age, when properly stored, and have the greatest potential to increase in value.
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Green Wines
Uses sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic practices in the vineyard and/or winemaking process, as certified by various domestic and international organizations.
A Kosher wine begins like every other, as grapes on the vine, but then is made under strict rabbinical supervision.
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A wine with no more than 1,000 cases produced and often made by smaller-scale, artisanal producers.
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Screw Cap
Screw caps are a convenient alternative to traditional cork closures since they require no corkscrew to open.

About Professional Ratings

These wine ratings are based on a 100-point quality scale, and are selected by each publication's unique criteria. Some wine ratings are expressed as ranges. When this occurs we will list the highest score in the range and note the full range within the tasting note.

While ratings may influence your decision, the ultimate judgment is your palate.

Wine Spectator
Robert Parker's
The Wine Advocate
Wine & Spirits
James Halliday,
Australian Wine Companion
Connoisseurs' Guide
Stephen Tanzer's
International Wine Cellar
Wine Enthusiast
Wilfred Wong,
Allen Meadows'
The Tasting Panel
Antonio Galloni,
Vinous is not sponsored by, affiliated or associated with PinotReport,, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, The Wine Advocate, Wine & Spirits, International Wine Cellars, Connoisseurs' Guide, the Australian Wine Companion,, Decanter or Vinous. employs Wilfred Wong in the capacity of its Chief Storyteller. Wong has been in the wine business for over 40 years and researches and tastes more than 8,000 wines annually; he is a sought-after judge in dozens of domestic and international wine competitions.
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