February 18, 2022
Shopping for wine is always a daunting task, from flavor profiles and notes to the confusing rating system, it's hard to know where to start! Wines have been judged since the beginning of their existence but over time, wine professionals have created a professional ranking system to properly rank wines. This point system is often referenced when shopping for wines but for the common wine enthusiast, it may be too much information to sort through just to pick a bottle. We're here to help simplify the complex rating system and help you make the best possible shopping decisions.
Why Wine Ratings?
The purpose of wine ratings is not to place a numerical value on the qualities of wine but to allow you to compare wines to one another. The score allows shoppers to quickly reference which wine the taster found better than another scored wine. It also establishes the degree of differences the writer found in one wine versus another wine in the same group. To reiterate, this rating system has nothing to do with the quality of the individual wine but how it ranks among others like it.
How Wine Ratings Work
This 100 point system rates wines based on quality and typicity, not based on how delicious the wine is. Typicity is how much the traits of a particular wine ‘typify' the style and region it's from. In other words, does the wine suit the label and expectation of notes and style. Think of the highest rated wine as "the best of its class".
Think about trying to select the best cabernet. It doesn't mean lower-ranked cabernets are not good or delicious wines but they are not as close to the most ideal image of a cabernet. Depending on your tastes, this may be a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps you prefer red blends and something that is less like a cabernet will be more to your liking. Obviously, it would be best to look at red blends in that case but you may also want to consider the higher-ranked wine may be more expensive. Purchasing a wine with a slightly lower rank may be more within your price range but still taste delicious.
Here's the cheat sheet: (the sale starts at 50, which may seem strange)
- 50-59 flawed and undrinkable
- 60-69 flawed and not recommended but drinkable
- 70-79 flawed and tastes average
- 80-84 above average to good
- 85-90 superior to exceptional
- 95-100 ideal benchmark or classic
Taking a look at this ranking system, it is good to keep in mind that some raters include wines below an 80. Experienced critics can agree on the production quality of a wine but, when it comes to the complexities, there is debate. Wine considered over 90 and above there are two schools of thought - critics who prefer wines that are complex and bold and critics who prefer wines that are complex and subtle. This is when the subjective taste really factors into ratings.
The best way to deal with this discrepancy is to vet your sources! If you're going to be buying wines based off of ratings, you should look into your sources. Some critics are a little more critical than others and tend to give lower scores in general. This is important to consider because wines that fall in the 80-84 range may be ones o consider despite the ratings.
Tips For Wine Shopping
Select a wine category.
Start with a general wine category. What are you looking for? A red wine, a white, maybe some sparkling? This way, you can narrow down your prospective wines and make the whole task less daunting.
Narrow it down to a style.
Keep in mind, when you're using a wine rating to select your wines, these ratings will compare wine within in same group or style. Using this rating system to pick a cabernet from a merlot won't work. You need to get more specific with the style of wine you're looking for so, there is a one-to-one comparison of your wines.
Do your research
You should conduct some research on the wine style that you're shopping for. Learn about the unique characteristics of that wine, the ideal notes, and regions these are popularly produced in. When you gather a strong understanding of the style of wine, you will understand the notes from the wine critic and why they may have rated the wines the way they did.
Read the critic's notes
You should read through the critic's notes and compare them to the research you conducted. Remember that a critic is rating your wine based on how close it is to the perfect or ideal version of that style of wine. Reading the notes will help you determine how reliable the critic is at determining the typicity.
Keep in mind, equally rated wines from different regions taste different. While they may be the same style of wine, the region in which the grapes are grown and processed will give the resulting wine a significantly different flavor profile. It is best to not compare wines of different regions based on their ratings. Do your research on regions that you prefer for particular wines so, you can make an educated judgment.
Don't rule out unrated wines
While yearly, there can be thousands of wines rated throughout the year, many are passed up for testing. Unfortunately, you can't drink them all and this may mean there are many lost gems in the aisles of your local wine shop and grocery store. Remember ratings don't determine how delicious a wine tastes so if you're considering trying an unrated wine that isn't a bad thing! If you're deciding between two very similar wines, one rated and one unrated, the rated one is not guaranteed to taste good. You could be missing out on some amazing wines by shopping only based on ratings.
Low ratings are never published
You're probably thinking, what's the point of the rating system if they're not posted right? Well, a poor rating will look really bad for a brand but again, it doesn't mean that the wine is bad or tastes bad! It just means it doesn't rank highly for being the ideal in its class. However, since low ratings aren't published these wines will appear to be unrated when they may in fact be low rated.
Websites have varying rating scales
When you do your research into wine ratings, you will see that each source will describe its rating system differently. For example, you may see 86 to 89 as highly recommended on one website but on another, it may be considered "very good". Again, do your research on your source and decide for yourself how dependable your source is for wine ratings.
How To Preserve Your Exceptional Wines
Once you have gone shopping for your wines, you'll need a place to store the delicate delicacies. If you're going to go through all the work to research and understand wine ratings, you will want to ensure your wine are well preserved and protected until you are ready to enjoy them. The only way to ensure your wine will maintain its complexity and quality is to store them in optimal conditions. This is best achieved by a wine refrigerator, which is designed specifically to designed to maintain a precise and consistent temperature, optimal humidity, and UV protection. We go into detail about the major factors that ruin wine in our article here. These factors can really only be regulated by a wine refrigerator, which is engineered to protect and preserve your wines. Additionally, a wine refrigerator can be a single temperature zone, dual-zone, or multi-zone refrigerator. This allows you to customize your storage to your wine collection. Some people like to separate their whites and reds, some like to organize their collection by wine for serving and wines for preserving, and others may prefer to separate their wine by rated and unrated wines. A wine refrigerator gives you a ton of versatility and protection for your precious investment. Are you curious about what the top wine professionals are using to store their highly rated wines? We have an article featuring all their top picks here!
Best In Class
If you're looking for the best in class for wine and beverage equipment, look no further! Beverage Factory has been supplying the top wine and beverage leaders with the best wine refrigerators and equipment for over two decades! From wine shopping to winemaking, we can answer all your questions and offer you the best advice. Contact our team at 800-710-9939.