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Wine Ratings and Reviews Explained

88 points, 92 points, 100 points... What do wine scores mean?

Watch wine expert Gwendolyn Osborn and in-house wine critic, Wilfred Wong, discuss what goes into wine ratings and reviews and how to use them.

100-Point Scale

While nearly every wine critic and publication uses the 100-point wine rating scale, you will seldom see a wine rated less than 70 or 80 points. Wine critics typically start rating wine at 50 as a baseline and go from there, adding points for specific quality attributes, with the total possible points equaling 100. Any wine rating under 75 points reflects a flaw in the wine, and you won’t find many of those reviews published.

Each publication uses their own unique criteria for rating wine, but broadly speaking, 80 – 100 points indicates the following:

  • 80 – 84: Above average to good
  • 85 – 89: Good to very good
  • 90 – 94: Outstanding to superior
  • 95 – 100: Extraordinary, exceptional and classic

How to Use Ratings

Even with the wine scores defined, it can be difficult to know how to use these wine ratings when buying wines. Here are three tips on how to make the most of them when shopping:

  • Read the wine review! This cannot be emphasized enough. A high wine score does not mean you will love a wine. Wines are rated relative to the classic examples of their category, and if that classic style does not jive with your palate you're unlikely to enjoy the wine. Read the wine review to get a sense of the style and look for terms that speak to you.

  • Get hints from reviews of your favorite wines. Look up your favorite wines and check if they have reviews. If they do, read the tasting note to pick out keywords to remember and look for in other reviews. Also make sure to take note of the reviewer. Tasting is subjective and even experienced professional tasters have preferences, so learn who has a like-minded palate. If you see a high wine score from Decanter and enjoy the wine, you may want to look at other top scoring wines in that same category from that publication.

  • Be open minded and take some risks. In the end, wine ratings and reviews can help guide us, but they don’t tell us everything. Exploring wine takes practice, and if you want to use wine ratings in helping you explore, that takes some practice too. You may find a few ugly ducklings before you learn which wines are your swans, but it's all in the name of learning.

Who is Wilfred Wong?

Wilfred Wong is our own in-house wine critic and Chief Storyteller. With four decades of experience in the wine industry, Wilfred has seen, photographed, and written about it all. Wilfred began his career by bringing curated wine selections to his parent’s store in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Thirsting for more (pun intended), he later became a buyer and eventually the Cellar Master for a large wine retail chain on the West Coast. Over that time he traveled the world, tasting, rating and writing about the world's great wine regions, their producers and their wine.

Having tasted well over 100,000 wines, Wilfred is a respected wine reviewer, sought-after wine judge and overall expert in the field. Today he shares his ratings, vast expertise, and love of Pinot Noir, with the community both on our site and through social media. You’ll find the initials WW next to the wines he's rated.

Shop Highly Rated Wines

P.S. Don't forget you can use our filters and sorts to help find highly rated wines! At the top of every list of wines you'll always see a "Rating & Price" filter, and at the top right corner a list of suggested sort.

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