Wine ratings can come in a couple of different forms, either on the wine itself or on an overall vintage from a specific location.
A wine is sampled (hopefully in a blind tasting) by a reviewer and that reviewer determines the score on the 1-100 scale, or 1-20 in certain publications like Decanter. Often a reviewer will specialize in rating a specific wine varietal and/or location so that they can really focus on the intricacies of the different wines they taste. The score is based on appearance, aromas, palate and finish. The higher the score, the better they believe the wine to be. However, it is important to remember that since there are so many wines in the world, not all of them get reviewed. Certainly, not all of them get reviewed before they’re sold-out on our site! If you are subscribed to our email list, you might have gotten a “Breaking News” email when a publication releases a rating on a wine we have for sale.
Because not every wine can possibly get reviewed, many publications also rate the overall quality of entire wine regions. A score is given to the specific region on the overall quality of the juice being produced from that particular year from said region. Moreover, there is much research done during the growing period of each vintage in every popular wine region to make some early predictions on how the vintage should fare. For example, the 2013 vintage in Napa was being touted as one of the greatest vintages since the iconic 2007 vintage before scores were even out, so it was no surprise when Robert Parker gave that 2013 Napa Vintage a 98 point rating. That is not to say that every 2013 Napa Cab is a 98 point wine. More that with the overall quality of that particular vintage, the level of quality in wines produced within that vintage should be higher than most other vintages.
Overall, the best way to find out which wines are best suited for your palate and which vintages are most pleasurable to you is to keep trying new and different wines! If you find a professional wine reviewer that has the same palate as you do, then you probably want to watch out a little more closely for his or her wine and vintage ratings as you may find some of your new favorite wines by doing so.