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From: pts To: pts
Free Online Wine Ratings from Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Steve Tanzer, Wine and Spirits, Connoisseurs' Guide & Wine Enthusiast

The Wine Buyer explains the wine ratings you see on the pages of our online wine shop.

We keep getting questions like Who is Robert Parker? and What is the Wine Spectator? and What are all those points and abbreviations I see? So we decided to put together this page to explain what we show you on many of our wines to help you decide whether you might like them or not. For every wine we can, we try to find reviews that our customers can trust from reliable sources. It's important to us that you be as informed as possible about the wines we have in our shop. It's not always possible to find a review in these publications because there are so few publications and so many wines! If we find a review, we put the source and score right after the name of the wine ( for example WS90 means Wine Spectator 90 points) and the written review, if any, below, in an explanatory section. In the sections that follow are explanations of who The Wine Advocate (aka Robert Parker) is, what are the major wine rating magazines, and a bit about each of their rating schemes (which are very similar).

The Wine Advocate (our WA rating abbreviation)
We use ratings from four major sources and one or two minor ones. First and foremost is The Wine Advocate. Robert Parker, while going to college, formed a tasting group of students who were interested in wine. They all started to rate the wines they tasted. That's when they realized that just because a wine costs alot of money or has a great reputation is no guarantee that it will be great in a particular vintage (year). After college, he continued on with his tasting and realized what a gift he had for analyzing the various flavor components of wine. He has become the most trusted source of tasting and rating wine the world over. He now publishes The Wine Advocate which comes out six times a year and contains only wine ratings and stories and has no advertising (except for his own books and software). Parkers Rating System is called a 50-100 point quality scale. He emphasizes that "the numerical ratings are utilized only to enhance and complement the thorough tasting notes" that he writes for each wine. He also equates 90-100 to an A given for outstanding effort, 80-89 to a B given in school for very good (particularly 85-89), 70-79 represents a C or average mark, and below 70 is a D or F. Here is his system:

96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character
90-95: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character
80-89: A barely above averge 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 soundly made
60-69: A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies
50-59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable

The Wine Spectator (our WS abbreviation)
Next to Robert Parker, the next most trusted source for wine ratings, wine news, restaurant wine list ratings, wine travel information, etc. is the bi-weekly Wine Spectator. Unlike Parker, the Wine Spectator is a commercial magazine with advertising. Their editors palates' are trusted almost as much as Robert Parker, except that you have ratings from a group of tasters whose opinions can be different from one to another. But they have separated eight editors geographically so that if you are looking at Australian wines, for example, the same editor will be tasting most of the wines. The Wine Spectator has three pieces to their monthly buying guide: Top Picks of the New Releases, all the ratings in the issue, and the Best in Market pullout card. The Top Picks of the New Releases are separated into four sections:

Spectator Selections are the highest recommendations in each issue.
Highly Recommended are noteworthy bottlings selected from the higher scoring wines in the issue.
Cellar Selections are wines they believe will improve most from additional bottle age and show the greatest potential as collectables.
Best Buys are wines of value with solid scores, modest prices, and wide distribution.

Their 100-Point Scale, like the rest, really only starts at 50 and goes to 100. Here's how they define it:

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-make wine
70-79: Average; a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69: Below average; drinkable but not recommended
50-59: Poor, undrinkable; not recommended

The Wine Enthusiast (our WE abbreviation)
This is a newer publication, growing out of The Wine Enthusiast catalog of wine accessories. Perhaps not as regarded as The Wine Spectator, they nonetheless taste and rate a large quantity of wines in their monthly issue. This explanation of their ratings comes from their online site.

98-100: Classic; The pinnacle of quality
94-97: Superb; A great achievement
90-93: Excellent; Highly Recommended
87-89: Very Good; Often good value; well recommended
83-86: Good; Suitable for everyday consumption; often good value
80-82: Acceptable; Can be employed in casual, less-critical circumstances

In addition to their numeric scale, they also give some special ratings each issue. These include:

Editors' Choice are the highest recommendations in each issue.
Cellar Selections are wines deemed highly collectible and/or requiring time in a wine cellar to reach their maximum potential.
Best Buys are wines that offer a high level of quality in relation to price and are generally cost less than $15.

Stephen Tanzer (our ST abbreviation)
Stephen Tanzer has served as Senior Editor and wine columnist for Food & Wine magazine and wine columnist for Forbes. He wrote the 1998 and 1999 editions of Food & Wine Magazine's Official Wine Guide. Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar is a critically acclaimed bi-monthly journal read by wine lovers in 28 countries. This explanation of his ratings comes from his online site.

95-100: Extraordinary
90-94: Outstanding
85-89: Very Good to Excellent
80-84: Good
75-79: Average
70-74: Below Average
< 70: Avoid

Wine & Spirits (our W&S abbreviation)
This 18 year old publication comes out 8 times a year and actually has quite a bit of content on restaurants and spirits, even though they subtitle the magazine as "The Practical Guide to Wine". They don't publish a ratings scale per se, but you can use the other numeric scales as a guide since they also use the "100-point scale." In each issue they feature a top ten list for one type of wine and they have a Best Buys section in some issues. They do say that only about 30% of the wines they actually taste make it into the issue; the others being deemed unworthy of inclusion.

Connoisseurs' Guide (our CG abbreviation)
Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine was started by two passionate collectors of California Wine back in 1974. Earl Singer and Charles Olken set out to provide a publication with the kind of depth and focus on California wine that then existed for French, German and Italian wines. They did so in the belief that there were lots of people in the world like themselves, people who were avid followers of California wine and who shared their frustration at the lack of attention and respect given to California wine by the wine press at the time. In 1982, Stephen Eliot, then a leading retailer, joined Connoisseurs' Guide as a staff writer. Later, he was named Associate Editor. Steve is also the Wine Instructor at the California Culinary Academy. Each monthly issue of Connoisseurs' Guide contains reviews of hundreds of wines from California and the Northwest U.S., plus a Centerfold article about special tastings of wines from around the world and a Best Buys in the Market section.

If you're familiar with Connoisseurs' Guide then you know the "little puffs" they use to rate their wines. We believe they started out with just the puffs (actually called stars) but have moved on to include numeric ratings also. Here's their scale:

THREE STARS: (95-98 points) An exceptional wine. Worth a special search of the market.
TWO STARS: (91-94 points) A highly distinctive wine. Likely to be memorable.
ONE STAR: (87-90 points) Fine example of a type or style of wine. Without notable flaws.

They also note that wines not marked with stars are often delightful wines. You can just go by their rating text in that case.

The Wine Buyer (our WB abbreviation)
When we can't find a review and get to taste the wine, we include our own reviews. We strive to supply the best bottles that are offered in the market today. We spend time tasting new wines in able to better serve you with honest and helpful reviews that will provide you with the best service when picking out selections.

In conclusion, I think that the reviews from all of these publications can be relied upon to tell us what those experienced palates think of a particular wine. You won't always agree with them as we don't! Sometimes we taste something that we feel just doesn't deserve the high or low rating that they give it... if we taste something and don't agree we'll tell you about it in our write-ups. We have to rely on their judgment because we just never get to taste all those wonderful wines out there. Our job is to bring you those wines at the best prices we can and that is what we concentrate on most of the time! If there is additional information you want to know about these ratings or magazines, please contact us at Customer Service.