Scores, ratings, critic’s reviews, whatever you want to call them, they can be confusing. And controversial. There are those who live and die by the 100 point scale, refusing to consider a wine not scored over 90 points by their favorite critic. Others disapprove, believing scores have led to a conformity in wines as producers strive to earn scores that will sell, rather than produce a wine of character. This is true; if one crafts a wine in order to achieve a high score from a specific critic, that hurts the integrity of the wine and the scoring system. Wine should have a sense of place, a sense of varietal and preferably, a team dedicated to showing the best of those two features.
That said, scores and ratings should not completely be overhauled. There are a number of critics out there (we use 13 different critics/publications on Wine.com) and each has their own approach.
To really get the most of ratings, it’s helpful to learn a bit about the publication or critic that reviewed it. If you try a wine that is rated 94 points and don’t like it, look at who the review came from. While you don’t need to memorize every critic’s biography, learning who has similar tastes certainly helps finding wines fit for you. A few tips to help:
-READ the review. Scores are not just a number; there is an explanation behind that number with much more importance than the number itself. Look for terms that speak to you. I love Rhone wines, but if a 94 point Rhone mentions any term that refers to “barnyard,” I avoid it. You may know you like supple tannins, or prefer tart fruit over ripe fruit – look for these terms in the tasting notes.
– If you try a wine a love it, look it up (on our site or others) to see who may have given it a score, if any. If you see a score from say, Stephen Tanzer, take note that Tanzer (and his colleagues) may be similar to your palate preferences in that particular wine category.
– Exploring wine takes practice, and if you want to use ratings in helping you explore, that takes some practice too. You’ll hit a few ugly ducklings before you learn which wines are your swans.
As always, we try to provide you the most information possible at Wine.com so you can find the perfect wine for you! Happy shopping