FAQs About Wine Ratings & Reviews

FAQs About Wine Ratings & Reviews

How (and why) we review and rate wine and whiskey at The New Wine Review
By The NWR Editors

June 12, 2023

How many wines does The New Wine Review taste each year?

We aim to taste about 16,000 wines per year. Needless to say, we’re unlikely to hit that number on the nose.

How does The New Wine Review select the wines it tastes?

Most of the wines we taste and rate are sent to us by wine producers who are invited by our editorial team to submit their wines for review (though we accept unsolicited submissions and do occasionally review wines we have not asked to sample). Because we cannot taste every wine produced in a given region, we spend considerable time discussing which wines we believe are most important to our readers. And our answers necessarily change frequently.

We may decide to review a wine for any number of reasons: because it’s popular, because it represents a pinnacle or benchmark for its region, because it’s made by a deeply respected winemaker, because it attracts outsized attention on the secondary market, or maybe just because we just think it’s interesting.

Generally, we attempt to review wines that are reasonably accessible to most consumers, though we make many exceptions for wines that are particularly important, influential, or traditionally well-regarded, despite (or maybe because of) the small quantities in which they’re made.

If wines are scored from 0 to 100, why don’t I see many scores below 85?

Three reasons: 

1. Our readers only have so much time, and we don’t think many of them are interested in reading about wines that aren’t very good. 

2. We only have so much time, and we don’t feel it’s the best use of it to rate and discuss wines we don’t think are worth the money. 

3. Generally, we are rooting for every winemaker whose wine we taste. We understand that sometimes there are off years, off barrels, or wineries that haven’t yet found their footing (we’re new, too). That’s fine. We’re not here to ruin anybody’s business. So we’d rather give them a fighting chance by not publishing a score at all than by publishing a score that could damage their reputation for years to come. 

If wines change over time, why don’t you re-evaluate the same wines repeatedly over time?

Honestly, we’d love to. But as a matter of pure practicality, it’s not really possible. We will taste around 16,000 wines produced just this year, which is only a fraction of the total number of wines produced worldwide. To taste many of the best wines repeatedly each year would require not only an enormous staff, but ongoing access to “library” samples of many fine wines that are expensive and have increasingly limited inventory. 

On occasion, we will conduct a vertical tasting with a producer or a subset of producers and provide scores for a wine that spans multiple vintages. We welcome the opportunity to do this, and invite producers to submit samples from multiple vintages, but have no expectation that most wineries will choose to do so.

How does The New Wine Review rate its wines?

The New Wine Review tastes and rates wines on a 100-point scale. We believe this to be the most instructive, efficient, and helpful method of communicating our opinion about a wine to our readers. But it is not without weaknesses. For more on why we use this system, click here. 

What do the wine ratings mean?

100: One of the great wines of all time
96-99: An exceptional wine. Among the very best you can buy of its kind in any vintage
93-95: An outstanding wine 
90-92: A terrific wine you can drink and serve to others without reservation
86-89: A good, high-quality wine 
83-85: A decent wine that may lack certain qualities typical of its grape or region
Below 83: A wine that may suffer from flaws or problems 

Is the whiskey rating scale the same as the wine scale?

It’s close, but a bit different. They’re not exactly the same because scoring conventions in the whiskey world tend to use a slightly broader range of scores. So the whiskey scale looks like this:

100: One of the great whiskies of all time
96-99: An exceptional whiskey. Among the very best you can buy of its kind
93-95: An outstanding whiskey
90-92: A terrific whiskey you can drink and serve to others without reservation
86-89: A good, high-quality whiskey
80-85: A decent whiskey that may lack certain important qualities typical of its style or origin
Below 80: A whiskey that may suffer from flaws or problems

If I advertise with you, will my wines receive more favorable scores?


What if I also host you for dinner at my well-appointed villa and introduce you to my loved ones and then walk with you barefoot through the summer soil of my vineyard whilst recounting the epically heartbreaking yet ultimately triumphant family history of my winery?


What is the “drinking window” and how do you determine it, particularly for wines whose drinking window extends far into the future?

A drinking window is our attempt to predict the best possible period of time during which to drink a particular wine. For many wines, this window begins as soon as they hit the market. For others, it can begin many years into the future, and continue on for quite a while. Drinking windows are tricky business, and we’re giving you our best guess, but as with scores, it’s just our opinion. You may find that a wine starts showing well earlier or later than we estimate, and you may also find that the optimal drinking window closes earlier or later than we anticipated. 

Drinking windows, along with the broader question of which wines from which vintages are drinking especially well right now, is a topic widely discussed in our subscribers-only private Slack channel, which you can access here.

What’s the deal with the little symbols that are part of the wine rating?

These are shortcut notes about the wine, which include:

  • Biodynamic
  • Certified Organic
  • Kosher
  • Tasted and rated non-blind 
  • Certified B Corporation

How does The New Wine Review’s tasting process work?

1. Our critics and editors determine which of the wines that have been submitted will be reviewed.

2. Once a wine is selected for review, it enters our blind tasting process. 100% of all wines received by NWR and selected for review are subject to the exact same process detailed below. We will occasionally taste wines in a non-blind fashion, and when we do, any scores and tasting notes we assign to these wines will be clearly indicated as “non-blind” for readers. 

3. Basic information about the wine (name, producer, vintage, variety(ies), etc.) is entered into our database and checked for accuracy.

4. Wines are typically tasted in flights. Each wine in a flight is bagged and coded by a member of our tasting staff. Special care is taken to conceal the identity of wines with unique bottle shapes or colors. The wine reviewer—who is prohibited from watching or participating in the bagging and coding process—arrives and tastes each wine in the flight, often multiple times to ensure accuracy, consistency and to account for changes that may occur as wines are exposed to oxygen and evolve.

5. The reviewer enters a score, tasting notes, and a recommended drinking window into a digital reviewing portal. When finished, the reviewer exits the portal, and the review is then locked and cannot be changed by anyone on the staff, except for proofreading purposes.

6. The scores are then held confidentially until they are published.

What do you do about flawed or spoiled wine?

Most wineries send two sample bottles. If we taste a wine we believed to be flawed, we will re-taste the wine from a new bottle and/or reach out to the winery as necessary.

Where do you taste all the wine?

We make every effort to taste wines—particularly wines of the same region and vintage—in nearly identical circumstances, usually in either our New York or California offices. There are certain situations that require we taste wines in other settings, in which case we do our best to ensure optimal tasting conditions.

What else should I know about The New Wine Review’s wine ratings?

  • We attempt to taste every wine blind, but when that’s not possible, it’s clearly marked on the wine’s review page.
  • Scores are determined in comparison to what we think the ideal wine from that particular variety and region tastes like. 
  • Comparing scores across regions and varieties can be helpful and intriguing, but also misleading, as different types of wine often aim at differing targets. Grapes-to-grapes is not exactly apples-to-apples. 
  • Ratings are not the word of God. They’re the opinion of a (very knowledgeable) connoisseur of that particular type of wine. If you had a friend who was a total expert in Oregon Pinot Noir, would you listen to this person’s recommendations and take them into consideration when looking for good Oregon Pinot Noir? Probably! Would you assume that these recommendations were infallible and always, in all cases, perfectly aligned with your own taste? Of course not. We encourage you to think of our ratings the same way. 
  • Wines change over time. Our scores reflect what we believe a given wine will taste like at the peak moment of its maturation. For some wines, that moment is now. For others, it might be 15 years from now. We provide drinking window estimates for every wine we rate to give readers a sense of when we believe a wine will be in its prime. Like scores, these are less the absolute truth and more a highly educated recommendation. 
  • When we started, we actually didn’t think we wanted to rate wines. But the more we talked to our readers, the more we realized that they find ratings to be quite helpful—particularly for wines they’re less familiar with. Ultimately, we decided to rate wines for two reasons: 1. it’s useful to our readers, who we trust not to regard our scores as the ultimate objective judgment etched in marble for all eternity, and 2. it’s a great conversation starter. We like talking about wine! Our readers like talking about wine! Let’s have some debates!