Tag Archives: ratings

Tips to make wine ratings work for you

magazines290 points. 92 points. 88 points.

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 :)

Club 89

Here’s a re-post of one of our favorites!

90UNDER20_worldsbest_167x110One of the most popular sections on Wine.com is our 90 under 20 list, where we feature wines that are rated 90 points or higher by one of the 10 publications we use for ratings, and priced under $20. We like to call it the list where quality meets value. However, as much as our customers love this list, we often wonder what to do to tout the value and delicious properties of wines rated 89 points, just one point under that magical 90. I mean, it is just one point, after all. But it makes all the difference. A paper that gets an 89 grade is only a B+ while one with 90 gets an A-. With just one point difference, the scoring drastically changes.

But with wine, this is not the case. In most publications, the 86 – 89 score range is described as good, very good, excellent and highly recommended. Heck, I’ll take that for a great everyday wine! Especially at a great price. In fact, I’d personally prefer a wine with multiple 88 and 89 scores than a wine with just one 90 point score. Matt Kramer agrees with me (or perhaps I agree with him, as he has a much more experienced wine history than I) in this article where he says:

“The “gimme a 90-point wine” approach offers, I freely admit, the greatest good-wine-to-least-effort ratio. But you might be surprised to learn that even the folks who hand out points know they’re only one path to wine bliss. (I’m an 88-point buyer myself, as the higher up the point scale you go, the more “drama in the glass” you’re likely to get-and I don’t always want quite so much drama with my dinner.)”

More recently, he wrote an article called “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Wine People,” where he listed Habit #5 as: Never buy anything with a score lower than 90 points. He says, “Wine consumers of the world, you know you’re doing this, so ‘fess up. Really, it’s ridiculous. You can fuss about the rightness or wrongness of scoring wines, but the fetishistic fussiness of the 90-point barrier has become absurd. Effectively, it creates a 10-point scale, which doesn’t leave a lot of leeway, does it?

My own experience is that the best deals (and often the best wines for my palate) are those that get 86 to 88 points. There’s nothing magical about 90 points. If you’re one of those “90 points or nothing” sorts, let me give it to you straight: You’re missing out on some great wines and some amazing values.”

Well said Mr. Kramer, as always.

Some wines are underrated – Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and 89 pointers. That’s just my opinion, but I ask you to taste for yourself. Stock up on some 89 and even 88 pointers for your everyday drinking wines and see if you don’t find some amazing winners. You’ll join Club 89 before you know it.