Using Ratings to Buy Wine

As we see the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2011 hit our shelves, we want to encourage you to browse this elite list, as these are THE top 100 of the year, and Wine Spectator tastes thousands of wine each year. Most of these wines have great ratings, and for sure they are of the highest quality. But don’t buy a wine just based on its number – use the ratings as they are meant to be used and READ the review.

Ratings are not just about the number, and that is too often what people focus on. A rating is much more – it’s about the aspects of the wine that lead up to the number, the wine’s personality. Because it’s more the wine personality that  will determine whether you will like it or not.

An example – an un-oaked, crisp and clean Chardonnay could garner 90 points, while a
heavily-oaked, big and buttery Chardonnay receives 94 points. You may dislike any oak on your Chardonnay, so most likely will appreciate the 90 point wine much more than the 94 pointer. Glancing at the two wines and the two numbers next to the wines, you may be tempted to put the higher-rated wine in your cart. But when you read the descriptions, you’ll realize your tastes run the other way. A high score does not change the style of wine you may like.

Another tip – find a reviewer that you agree with and follow them. I realize that I’m not huge on wines rated around 90 points by the Wine Advocate, especially if they are from Australia or California. Alternatively, I love wines rated in the 89 range from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar – he’s a bit more stingy in reviews and 89 point wines are often right up my alley. Along with the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have tasters with certain “beats,” so the same person is not tasting every region. You will learn who has a palate similar to yours and start to look to those critics for finding wines your palate likes.

So peruse this fantastic list, as well as wines rated by other publications and critics, but read past the number to make sure you get the right wine for your palate!