How We Taste
All wine evaluations for our tastings section are conducted under controlled, blind conditions, with the wines served in numbered glasses in our own offices (San Francisco for domestic wines; New York for imported wines). There are no exceptions.
Wine & Spirits tastings are a two-step process.
First, all wines submitted to us or purchased are tasted by screening panels, who are asked to determine which wines stand out as being better than average for their variety and appellation. These panels, conducted by W&S staff, are composed of retailers, sommeliers, winemakers and other wine professionals whom we invite to taste with us. The goal is to draw on a broad universe of tasters to help us decide which wines are worth recommending, and to avoid the prejudices any one critic might exercise, consciously or not, which might prevent certain styles or classes of wine from being considered.
The wines recommended by our screening panels—generally between 20 and 30 percent of those originally assessed—are then presented at a later date to our critic, who scores each wine and writes the reviews. A second, unopened bottle of each is used for this step. The critic’s ratings are based on how well a wine performs within its category as labeled (varietally or regionally).
Wines rated 95 or higher are superlative, rare finds; wines from 90 to 94 are exceptional examples of their type; from 86 to 89 are highly recommended; and wines from 80 to 85 are recommended as good examples of their variety or region.
The wines recommended here have been selected by a broad range of educated palates, but then rated and described by an individual critic. Our goal with these ratings is for each critic to provide a consistent point of view against which you may measure your own taste over time.
Any label reproductions that appear with our tasting reports are a form of advertising. After our tastings are completed and the results have been recorded, our marketing team offers wineries the opportunity to draw attention to their reviews with label reproductions. There is no obligation to advertise, and our scores and reviews are in no way affected by a winery’s decision regarding advertising. Neither does advertising influence our selection of the wines we taste; our tastings are open to all.
- 100 | Transcendent
A wine that speaks directly from the earth, communicating the flavors of its place with unequaled complexity and intensity; it will offer pleasure for decades.
- 96 to 99 | Astonishing, Rare
A wine that saturates the senses with flavors that feel unique and thrilling; a rare landmark for its region.
- 93 to 95 | Exciting, Distinctive
A wine that transcends simple typicity to its region or variety—a vivid, singular expression of place.
- 90 to 92 | Delicious, Compelling
A compelling wine of its region; a delicious, finessed expression of a place.
- 88 to 89 | Delicious, Representative
Well-made, pleasurable and true to its region or variety.
- 85 to 87 | Balanced, Crowd Pleasing
Identifiable in style and regional character, and qualitatively solid.
- 80 to 84 | Useful
Simple wine that will either quench thirst or play a useful role at the table.