How We Rate Wines

About 80% of wines are not expert rated. For the remaining 20%, ratings are everything. There is a clear and direct correlation between scores and pricing. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the score, the higher the price, but some great deals exist (high rating with a reasonable price), and we love finding them. So just as “wines love a slope,” the wine industry loves high ratings. Winemakers and retailers make more money, experts who assign higher ratings get preferred access, more prominent press and more subscribers. The incentives to rate high are many, and the incentives to maintain rating integrity are few. Some experts have maintained integrity in their rating scale, assigning scores that correspond more closely with what we assess to be the quality of the wines we taste. But they are few, diminishing and becoming ever harder to find. You have to comb through a lot of scores that reflect “rating inflation.” And as with the economy, once it takes hold, it’s hard to get rid of.

So we’d like to define how we rate wines. And really, we’re only interested in wines that we’d enjoy and that we think our subscribers will enjoy. We have no interest in cluttering your inbox with information on wines that are less than very good, so you won’t hear about those. We like to think we set a high bar. So whether we spend $20 or $200, we expect the wines we drink to deliver good fruit, complexity of flavors and a lasting finish

Here’s How We Rate Wines:
Walter On Wine Rating System
Character Not Recommended Very Good
Fruit Insufficient Varietal Character Pleasing Fruit Aromas & Taste The Varietal Character Of The Fruit Really Gets Your Attention Stops You In Your Tracks
Complexity Insufficient Complexity Of Fruit &/Or Secondary Aromas & Flavors On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth and wood spectrum More elements are at play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Elements are not in harmony; something is too prominent Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra, all in tune
Finish Short or thin finish Some duration; a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
wine bottle

Wine styles, and tastes, vary. So we’ll help you understand what type of taster you are. Your “taster type” will indicate which grape varietals you will most likely enjoy. It may also help indicate whether you prefer “Old World” or “New World” styles. (Old World: grapes picked earlier, higher acid, more earthy, lower alcohol, likely more aromatic, oak, if used at all, is subtle; New World: grapes picked when more ripe, lower acid, higher fruit and alcohol/less earthy, oak, if used, is more noticeable. For more info, see “Old World – New World” in the Education tab of our website.)

As a result, in addition to our quality rating, we’ll profile key elements of the structure of the wine so that you are more likely to know if it is closer to YOUR preference type. In addition to the rating, wines will be profiled as follows:

Wine Structure & Style
Aspect Element Description
On The Palate Acid Low, Medium, High?
Body Light, Medium, Full?
Tannin Low, Medium, High?
Resulting Style Old World/New World Intensity and balance of fruit, earth, wood, acid and tannin
wine rating

It is our intention, by doing this, to give our subscribers a quicker, rounder picture of the wine so that they may assess whether it is one they are interested in and if they will want to read a more full description of its qualities. Combine this with your “Taster Type” profile, and Walter on Wine should be leading you to a better wine experience with fewer dead-end detours.