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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What do the letters “BT” mean in your wine reviews?

—John R., Loxley, Ala.

Dear John,

The letters “BT” in a review stand for “barrel tasting,” which means that a barrel sample of an unfinished, not-yet-bottled wine was reviewed. We typically focus on finished, bottled wines, but in some categories like Bordeaux, Vintage Port and California Cabernet, wines are often pre-sold and there’s a lot of interest in how a particular vintage is showing. Our readers want us to weigh in on these wines early, so we taste barrel samples.

We mainly review barrel samples in blind tastings, like bottled wines, but sometimes they’re tasted in non-blind settings. If a wine is tasted non-blind, its tasting note will clearly say so.

Our scoring system is a little different for barrel tastings, since the wine isn’t yet finished. Our current practice is to allow tasters to give a four-point score range spread, so a wine might get a score that looks like 85-88 or 89-92. The final filtering, fining, blending and bottling can alter the way a finished wine tastes, which is why we’re more comfortable giving ranges. You’ll also find that in the vast majority of these barrel tastings, after the wine is finished, we review it again in a blind tasting and give the wine a final, single score.

—Dr. Vinny

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