Anytime consumers purchase a new wine, they have the problem of not knowing whether it will be one that they like or not. Of course, that problem is solved if they have discovered it in a tasting party. In a local wine store, consumers rely on the advice of the store owner or employee, but what can someone do when purchasing online?
The answer is to use online wine ratings. Online ratings generally come from a handful of popular sources, some of which are free and others that require a subscription ranging from about $50 to $100 per year. The best idea is to start with the free ratings sites.
The Non-Subscription Ratings Sites
Winemag.com by Wine Enthusiast magazine is the best place for free reviews. They have a database of over 115,000 rated wines that can be searched by the name of the wine, the name of the winery or the name of the varietal. It’s also possible to discover something new in their Top 100 wine lists.
Tastings.com also has free reviews. In addition, they have ratings for beers and spirits. Like Wine Enthusiast, the database can be searched for by name or winery. Plus, they have an excellent browsing feature that can be used to find good, better and best wineries in the most popular producing areas of the world. It’s a great way to discover new wines.
Subscription Based Ratings Sites
WineSpectator.com by Wine Spectator magazine is generally considered the best online source for ratings. One reason is that their database includes over 250,000 reviews that can be searched by the name of the wine or winery. Another reason they are considered the best rating service is the panel of experts they use to do blind tastings to do the reviews. Wine Spectator is one of the most popular magazines in the world. It is possible to subscribe to the online site or to both the online site and the magazine. Anyone with more than a passing interest in wine should subscribe to the magazine. It is well worth the price.
eRobertParker.com is a website by Robert Parker. A quick search of the internet reveals quite a bit of information about Robert Parker. He is a well-respected connoisseur and his review notes are referenced by many different sources. His website has over 200,000 searchable notes about individual wines, and generally speaking, his notes are reliable guides. Subscriptions are rather pricy, and any new subscriber takes the risk that his palate preferences will differ from theirs.
JamesSuckling.com is another subscription based website by the well-known reviewer, James Suckling. As a non-subscriber, it’s possible to make new discoveries in his tasting reports and weekly lists. Get the name of the wine from James Suckling, then look it up in one of the free online services.
Even though Robert Parker and James Suckling are known for their reviews, the best idea is to wait to subscribe to their websites until you have become familiar with their taste preferences by seeing their ratings in other resources.
How To Interpret Rating Scores
There is quite a bit of similarity in the different rating scales. Wines are rated on a 100 point system where 100 is the very best. An overall guideline is that scores below 75 are considered below average, and some of the services do not even list wines with scores that low. These wines are best forgotten. Scores ranging between 75 and 80 are considered average. They are nothing to get excited about, but they are drinkable. Ratings between 80 and 90 indicate good to very good. The higher the score is, the better. Ratings above 90 indicate really outstanding wines. They are bound to please the palate. Finally, ratings of 95 to 100 are reserved for really memorable, superb wines.
Other Websites With Ratings
Many different websites list ratings for the wines that they sell online. The ratings are usually from the resources listed above, and from WineSpectator.com and Winemag.com in particular. These online merchants are a way to both see the ratings from the subscription sites for free and to see side by side ratings from different sources for individual wines. One of the best examples of such a website is wine.com. It’s a great review resource for the wines it sells.
Wine ratings are the best way for online consumers to gauge how good a particular selection is and to discover new wines to try. Of course, ultimately, the only review that matters is the one that consumers make themselves after doing their own tasting.