All official Wine Spectator tastings are held in private rooms, under optimum conditions.
Our tasting coordinators organize the wines into flights by varietal, appellation or region.
Each flight may consist of 20 to 30 wines, and no more than two flights are tasted by a taster each day.
Bottles are coded and bagged, and all capsules and corks are removed. Other necessary efforts are made to conceal the wines' identity from the tasters.
The tasters are told only the general type of wine (varietal and/or region) and the vintage. No information about the winery or the price of the wine is available to the tasters while they are tasting.
How are the wines tasted?
Each tasting begins with a previously rated wine, which is tasted non-blind as a reference point.
Other previously rated wines are included among the blind wines to ensure consistency.
The tasters enter notes and ratings directly into our database prior to removal of the bags.
While entering their reviews, the tasters only see the code that matches that of the bag covering the wine they are tasting, and blank spaces for their note, score and drink recommendation.
Ratings are based on potential quality: how good the wines will be when they are at their peak. For ageable wines, we suggest a year or range of years to start drinking the wine.
Additional comments may be added to a tasting note after the identity of the wine has been revealed, but the score is never changed.
Price is not taken into account in scoring, though the notes may be edited to include comments about price and value after the scores are determined.
How many times is a wine tasted?
All wines that taste corky or show other major flaws are blind-tasted again from new bottles.
Wines that score highly are also frequently tasted again from new bottles, in order to confirm our impressions.
Ratings reflect how highly our taster regards each wine relative to other wines.
Other Aspects of Our Tastings
We also conduct both blind and non-blind tastings of barrel samples—that is, wines that are not yet finished and bottled—from certain wine regions, including Bordeaux, California Cabernet and Vintage Port.
Each wine is rated using a range of scores, and we clearly identify that these ratings and reviews apply to barrel samples. The filtering, fining and blending that may occur from barrel to bottle can alter the finished wines, and we feel these broader score ranges are a more reliable indicator of the wine's future potential.
As of March 2008, to give the tasters more flexibility and describe the wines more accurately, we changed the score ranges we use for unfinished wines to rolling four-point spreads. For example, one wine may be scored 85-88, another 87-90, another 89-92. We believe this better reflects the subtle differences between wines and gives our readers better information for their buying decisions.
Occasionally we report on vertical or horizontal tastings that are not blind, organized by wineries or wine collectors.
We always disclose this in the article, and these notes and scores are separate from the new releases section of our Buying Guides.
On our website, editors sometimes review finished wines nonblind in unofficial tastings, from their cellars or at restaurants, in their blogs and other features. These scores are always noted as unofficial and/or nonblind (if applicable) in the tasting note.