Archive for The Wine Advocate

WINE RATINGS – HOW TO USE THEM

Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by ballymote

You are strolling the aisles of your favorite South Jersey wine outlet searching for that perfect red wine to accompany that scrumptious steak you are planning for Saturday night. Your eye catches one of those “shelf-talkers”, those obtrusive little “ads” highlighting the wine just above it on the shelf. This one says something like “deep flavors of blueberry and anise, with soft tannins and a super long finish, 92PTS-RP”. What’s it all mean?? Well, basically it means that RP, that would be Robert Parker, arguably the world’s foremost wine critic, likes this wine very much and awards it 92 points on his 100 point wine scale. Here is what his point scale looks like:

96-100:
An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.

90 – 95:
An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.

80 – 89:
A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.

70 – 79:
An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.

60 – 69:
A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.

50 – 59:
A wine deemed to be unacceptable.

Does this mean YOU will like this wine? No, it does not.  It simply means HE likes this wine. In addition to wine scores from Robert Parker, who publishes the Wine Advocate, a wine rating guide available by subscription both on line and thru the mail, you will also find wine ratings offered by, the Wine Spectator, a big glossy semi-monthly magazine on wine. These are the two PRIMARY wine rating sources. Here is what the Wine Spectator’s 100 point guide looks like:

* 95-100 Classic: a great wine
* 90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
* 85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
* 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
* 75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
* 50-74 Not recommended

You will also see scores given by a wide array of secondary wine sources such as, Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar, the Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits Magazine and The Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wines.

Many times the “shelf talker” will simply abbreviate the name of the rating source so you may see something like this on the card:

  • WA or RP =The Wine Advocate, or Robert Parker
  • WS = Wine Spectator
  • ST = Stephen Tanzer
  • WE = Wine Enthusiast
  • W & S = Wine and Spirits
  • CG = Connoisseur’s Guide

Keep in mind that these scores only reflect what that individual critic felt about the wine.  They do tell you that SOMEONE likes this wine and as a starting point for you, who at the moment is looking for a good wine that you will enjoy, this might be all you need to give that particular wine a try. As you progress and gain experience with your own palate you may find that you have a tendency to like the same wines as Stephen Tanzer or Robert Parker and seek out wines that have received high scores from them. These ratings can be especially helpful when a wine with a high score is accompanied by a low price. This is known as QPR or Quality Price Ratio but that is something for another day.

Finally, a word of caution concerning these wine ratings found on “shelf talkers”. You have to check to be certain the wine mentioned on the “shelf talker” is the exact same wine on the shelf above. Remember, these “cardboard ads” are placed there by the salesmen who sell these wines and often they will use a high rating from one year for a wine made in another year. Wines can vary from year to year and if it is not the same wine that scored the high points you may be disappointed with what you are drinking. So, Buyer Beware, check the vintage (year wine was made) on the label to be sure it matches with the wine being rated on the “shelf talker”. Enjoy!

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