Figuring out the best wine ratings means not only identifying reputable reviewers you can trust, but finding wine critics whose taste and palate most aligns with yours. Alongside with what you can find online, here’s how to vet your local sommelier and wine buyers.
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The 100 Point Scoring System
The 100-point wine scoring system, a significant innovation in the realm of oenology, was pioneered by Robert Parker (mentioned below in reputable wine critics) in the 1980s. This evaluative framework, which grades wines on a scale from 50 to 100, has become a cornerstone in the wine industry, offering a standardized method for assessing wine quality.
|Wines in this category are distinguished by their extraordinary depth and complexity. They embody the ideal characteristics of their variety, making them highly sought after. These wines are not just beverages but experiences, meriting significant effort to seek out and savor.
|Representing outstanding quality, these wines are marked by their exceptional complexity and character. They are, in essence, superb examples of their type, offering a rich and rewarding tasting experience.
|This score range includes wines that range from slightly above average to very good. They exhibit a commendable level of finesse, flavor, and character, without any noticeable flaws. These wines are reliable choices for those seeking quality within a reasonable range.
|Average in nature, these wines are fundamentally sound but lack distinctive features. They are well-made but do not stand out in the crowded wine market.
|Wines scoring in this bracket have noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity, tannins, or lack of flavor. They may also possess undesirable aromas or flavors, making them less desirable choices.
|Falling into the unacceptable category, these wines fail to meet the basic standards of quality and are generally not recommended for consumption.
Robert Parker, positioning himself as an independent consumer advocate, maintained a stance of integrity by avoiding financial relationships with wine producers. His impartiality lent credibility to his ratings, which are now widely adopted by wine critics and publications globally. Wines rated above 95 points are considered the epitome of their style, exemplifying the highest standards of quality.
Despite individual variances in palate among critics, with some tending to score more generously or stringently, there is a general consensus within the wine community about the meaning of scores, particularly those above 90. These high scores are indicative of wines that are not only exceptional in quality but also in their representation of the varietal and style.
Parker’s system has democratized wine criticism, providing a common language for discussing wine quality. It has enabled consumers, from novices to connoisseurs, to navigate the complex world of wine with a clearer understanding of what to expect from a wine within each score range. This system has not only facilitated more informed purchasing decisions but has also contributed to a more nuanced appreciation of wine quality and craftsmanship.
Wine Critics Worth Considering
A highly respected British oenophile and author, graduate of Oxford University, where she studied mathematics and philosophy, Robinson transitioned from travel journalism to the vinous realm, distinguishing herself by becoming the first non-trade individual to attain the prestigious Master of Wine title in 1984.
Renowned for her tenure as a wine columnist with The Financial Times, Robinson’s literary contributions, notably “The Oxford Companion to Wine,” are seminal in oenological literature. Her accolades include an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to wine literature and the industry.
Robinson also manages JancisRobinson.com, a comprehensive portal for wine aficionados, featuring extensive tasting notes and scholarly articles.
Jeb Dunnuck is a renowned American wine critic, celebrated for his expertise in the wines of the Rhône Valley, California, and Washington. Initially an engineer, Dunnuck shifted to wine criticism, launching a website in the late 2000s to share his reviews.
He gained prominence in the wine community after joining Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate in 2013, where he reviewed a range of wines, including those from the Rhône and Bordeaux, as well as from California and Washington. In 2017, he founded JebDunnuck.com, dedicated to providing detailed wine reviews and reports.
Known for his thorough and accessible reviewing style, Dunnuck has become a key figure for wine enthusiasts and collectors, particularly for his insights into his areas of specialization.
Robert M. Parker Jr. is a seminal American wine critic known for introducing the influential 100-point rating system. With a background in history and law, Parker shifted his focus to wine, founding “The Wine Advocate” in 1978. This subscriber-based newsletter, free from advertising, allowed him to maintain an independent stance in wine criticism.
Parker’s impact on the wine industry is significant; his rating system became a global standard, and his reviews, particularly of Bordeaux wines, notably influenced market trends and winemaking styles. In 2013, he stepped down from his editorial role but continued to contribute to the wine world.
Parker’s legacy is marked by his scoring system, influential publications, and a shift in wine preferences towards styles that align with his taste. His contributions have earned him numerous accolades, including Decanter’s Man of the Year and France’s Legion of Honour.
One of the foremost authorities on Burgundy wines Jasper Morris has a career spanning several decades. Morris has garnered respect for his deep understanding and insightful analysis of this complex and prestigious wine region.
His expertise is not just limited to the sensory evaluation of wines; he possesses a profound knowledge of Burgundy’s intricate tapestry of vineyards, vintages, and vignerons.
Morris’ contributions to wine literature are significant, with his book “Inside Burgundy” being a seminal work that offers an exhaustive exploration of the region’s terroirs, producers, and history. As a Master of Wine, a title held by a select few in the industry, Morris combines academic rigor with a palpable passion for Burgundy, making his critiques and writings both informative and engaging.
His approach to wine criticism is characterized by a meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to expressing the nuances and subtleties that define Burgundy’s wines. Through his work, Jasper Morris has not only guided connoisseurs in their appreciation and understanding of Burgundy but has also played a pivotal role in shaping the discourse around one of the world’s most celebrated wine regions.
Neal Martin has made a significant impact in the world of fine wines, particularly through his work with Wine Advocate and Vinous. Known for his eloquent and detailed tasting notes, Martin has developed a reputation for his thoughtful and thorough approach to wine evaluation. His expertise, while encompassing a broad range of global wine regions, is particularly noted in the context of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.
Martin’s style is approachable yet comprehensive, blending technical knowledge with a narrative flair that makes his reviews both informative and enjoyable to read. His transition from Wine Advocate, where he was a protégé of Robert Parker, to Vinous, marked a significant moment in the wine criticism landscape, showcasing his ability to adapt and maintain relevance in the evolving world of wine.
Martin’s influence extends beyond his written work; he is a respected figure at tastings and wine events, known for his keen palate and insightful commentary. His contributions to wine journalism have guided consumers and collectors in their wine journeys.
William Kelley rose to prominence with his expert coverage of Burgundy, Champagne, and the Napa Valley for The Wine Advocate. Kelley’s approach to wine criticism is marked by a deep reverence for the history and traditions of the wine regions he specializes in, coupled with a keen understanding of contemporary trends and techniques in viticulture and winemaking.
His reviews and articles are highly regarded for their insightful analysis, clear prose, and the ability to contextualize wines within the broader tapestry of their regions’ histories and terroirs. Kelley’s expertise is particularly notable in his detailed coverage of Burgundy, where he delves into the minutiae of each climat and producer with a meticulousness that is both educational and engaging.
Wine reviews by Kelley is not just a guide to the quality and character of wines but also an exploration of the factors that influence their creation, from the specifics of a vintage to the philosophy and practices of the winemaker.
Kelley’s contributions to The Wine Advocate have solidified his status as a trusted voice in wine criticism, offering valuable insights to both connoisseurs and casual enthusiasts alike with his ability to articulate the nuances of complex wines in an accessible manner.sumer understanding and appreciation of some of the world’s most celebrated wine regions.
John Gilman is a respected voice in the world of wine criticism, known for his publication, “View from the Cellar.”
As a wine critic, Gilman takes a classical approach to wine evaluation, focusing on the balance, complexity, and age-worthiness of wines. He is particularly renowned for his in-depth knowledge of the wines from classic European regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, Germany, and Piedmont.
Gilman’s reviews are characterized by their thoroughness and historical context; he not only assesses wines for their current qualities but also considers their evolution over time, offering insights into aging potential and cellar management.
His writing style combines detailed technical analysis with narrative elements, making it both informative and engaging for his readers. Gilman’s approach is often seen as a counterpoint to the more score-focused style of some other contemporary wine critics, emphasizing a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of wine.
His work is a valuable resource for serious wine collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate a deeper dive into the intricacies of fine wines and their production.
Another metric to finding highly rated wine by reputable sellers is to evaluate the importers. A wine importer you can trust will hold themselves to a specific standard of quality and style.
Kermit Lynch has been instrumental in introducing artisanal wines from France and Italy to the United States. His approach is deeply rooted in a philosophy that values traditional winemaking practices and terroir-driven wines.
Lynch’s selections often eschew the industrial and heavily marketed in favor of small-scale, independent producers who maintain a strong connection to their land and heritage. His book, “Adventures on the Wine Route,” is considered a seminal work in wine literature, offering insights into his journeys through vineyards and his encounters with winemakers.
Beyond importation; his influences have shaped the palates and preferences of American wine drinkers, advocating for wines that express authenticity and place.
His commitment to quality and authenticity has earned him a loyal following and numerous accolades, including the prestigious French decoration, Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole, recognizing his contributions to French agriculture, notably wine.
Specializing in French and Italian wines, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, founded by Neal Rosenthal in 1977, has built a reputation for meticulously selecting producers who embody the essence of terroir-driven winemaking.
His portfolio is a curated collection of wines that speak of place and tradition, favoring small-scale, family-run estates that practice organic or biodynamic viticulture and eschew over-manipulation in the cellar. Rosenthal’s approach is deeply personal and hands-on; he is known for developing close, long-standing relationships with his producers, ensuring that the wines he imports are not only of exceptional quality but also representative of their origins and the people who craft them.
This philosophy extends to his clientele, as Rosenthal is committed to educating wine lovers about the stories and techniques behind each bottle. His influence in the wine industry is marked by a steadfast dedication to wines that are not just beverages, but expressions of culture, history, and the intricate dance between nature and the winemaker’s hand.
Vom Boden, a boutique wine importer, has carved out a unique niche in the American wine market with its focus on German wines. Founded by Stephen Bitterolf, who is passionate about showcasing the diversity and complexity of German viticulture, Vom Boden represents a carefully curated selection of producers.
These vintners are often small, family-run operations with a deep commitment to expressing the nuances of their specific terroirs. Bitterolf’s philosophy centers on the belief that German wines, particularly Rieslings, offer an unparalleled spectrum of flavors and styles, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, each telling a distinct story of place and tradition.
Their portfolio is notable for its emphasis on organic and biodynamic practices, reflecting a broader commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship in winemaking.
Vom Boden is not just importing wine; it is educating consumers and changing perceptions about German wine, revealing its potential to be profoundly complex, elegant, and age-worthy.
Sam Hofschuster is a notable figure in the world of wine criticism, particularly recognized for his contributions to the German wine scene.
As the managing director and editor of Vinum, a leading European wine magazine, Hofschuster has established himself as an authority on German wines, offering insightful and detailed evaluations. His expertise extends across the diverse range of German wine regions, with a special focus on Riesling, a varietal for which Germany is renowned.
Hofschuster’s approach to wine criticism is characterized by a deep appreciation for the nuances of terroir and the intricacies of winemaking techniques. His reviews are known for their precision and depth, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of each wine’s profile, from its sensory attributes to its viticultural background.
Hofschuster’s work is not just about rating wines but also about educating and informing wine enthusiasts about the latest trends, developments, and producers in the German wine industry.
His commitment to promoting German wines has made him a respected voice in the international wine community, helping to elevate the global perception and appreciation of Germany’s wine offerings.
Wine Critics You Can Trust to Ignore
This is a bit of a hot take, and might ruffle some feathers.
Ratings you can trust to rate cheap and average to bad wine above 95. Maroni came up with his own wine rating system which scores based on an index pleasantness, which is a formula of consistency, balance, and integrity.
Suckling rates wine on a 110-point scale (Tongue-in-cheek), so when you find a wine rated between 90-100, you can subtract 10 points. Suckling will only gives out 90+ scores to wine.
Local Sommeliers and Wine Markets
An often overlooked and under utilizes resource is your local sommelier. One of the way’ve I’ve been able to develop relationships with a somme is by frequenting a restaurant with an exceptional wine list. Start asking for recommendations and if the somme gets you, or is able to make great suggestions on wine to try, there’s a good chance you can ask for some help or guidance on some other wine shopping you’re doing, or some wineries to investigate.
Check out the wine markets, or tasting rooms in your area. Find the staff, or management, who is passionate about wine and not just there for a job, and you’ll start to be exposed to some great gems. Take notes and bring them home with you, then you can begin to cross-reference some of the reviewers and wine ratings mentioned in this article for additional guidance.
This might sound like an excessive amount of research, but I’d be willing to bet a glass of wine you’ll quickly connect dots and recognize names of producers and wines as you begin asking questions or making conversation with people in the industry and fellow oenophiles.
A magazine subscription is another fantastic source to read wine ratings and discover new wines.
Founded by Robert Parker. Never accepted money for ratings.
Fairly reputable. Meant for people who like to drink wine and providing lists.
Ususally found to inflate ratings 3-5 points above Wine Spectator.
Somewhat reputable, but also suseptable to inflating wine ratings.
Generally speaking, if a particular wine has a large number of reviews and higher score, it can be a useful indicator you’ve stumbled upon a good wine. However, for more unusual styles of wine, you may want to avoid this app, as people may not properly understand nuances in their ratings.
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I strive to paint vivid landscapes with my words, bringing the magic of far-off lands and enchanting aromas to life for my readers. Combine passion for exploration and the art of gastronomy in an unending ode to the senses. When I’m not traversing the globe, I find solace in the earth beneath my fingertips, tending to my garden and working on projects around my verdant oasis. MK Library serves as a beacon, guiding fellow travelers and homebodies alike to embrace sustainability, nurturing both our planet and our souls with purpose. Full Bio.