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Wine Spectator Tasting Procedures
Wine Spectator editors review more than 15,000 wines each year in blind tastings. Every issue of Wine Spectator magazine contains 400 to 1,000 wine reviews with detailed tasting notes and drink recommendations. We set stringent standards for ourselves and rely on the proven ability and experience of our editors as tasters and critics. (Read our Statement of Ethics.) Below are the guidelines we follow in order to maintain the integrity of our tastings.
Why We Taste Blind: A Letter from Marvin R. Shanken and Thomas Matthews
What do we review each year?
- Each year, more than 15,000 wines from around the world are blind-tasted by our editors.
- The majority of these reviews are published in issues throughout the year, in the Buying Guide section of the magazine.
- Additional reviews are posted exclusively on our website.
- Wine Spectator primarily serves a national audience, and we therefore prefer to review wines that are widely available.
Where do the wines we review come from?
- The majority of the wines we taste are submitted to us by the wineries or their U.S. importers.
- Additionally, we spend thousands of dollars each year to buy wines that are not submitted, at all price levels.
Where do we review the wines?
- Tastings take place in our offices in Napa and New York, and in the vineyard regions of Europe. Each office has dedicated tasting rooms and staff to coordinate the tastings.
- The European tastings are organized and conducted at independent sites by Wine Spectator staff.
Who reviews wines for the magazine?
- Each editor generally covers the same wine regions from year to year. These "beats" remain constant, allowing each lead taster to develop expertise in the region's wines.
- Other tasters may sit in on blind tastings in order to help confirm impressions. However, the lead taster always has the final say on the wine's rating and description.
- A taster's initials at the end of the tasting note indicate that the rating and review were created by that taster in one of our blind tastings.
- Wines that do not include initials at the end of the tasting note are wines that were reviewed by two or more tasters. These tastings are conducted in the same blind setting and are monitored and guided by the lead taster for that region.
While the vast majority of our wine reviews originate from blind tastings—in private, under controlled conditions—and result in official scores, as described above and on our Tasting Format page, we occasionally review wines in other formats.
- Barrel tastings: Editors sometimes review unfinished wines in barrel tastings. These wine are scored in ranges (eg. 85-88 points) [our score ranges are 4-point spreads] to indicate that the ratings are still preliminary. Most barrel tastings are blind; when they are not blind, this is specifically noted.
- Unofficial tastings: Editors sometimes review wines nonblind in unofficial tastings, from their cellars or at restaurants, in their blogs and other features. Because these are finished wines, they are given scores, but are always noted as unofficial and/or nonblind (if applicable) in the tasting note.