What Do Wine Scores Really Mean?

We’re all bombarded with wine scores.  What do wine scores really mean? They appear everywhere from the LCBO to this column.  A bit of advice about them – if you limit your selections to only the highest scoring wines, you could well be missing wines that you might take pleasure in. So, how much should ratings dictate finding that wine you will love?

As you might have guessed by the tone of the preceding, not as much as you would think.  Wine experts rarely drink a wine at home solely because it attains high score.  Don’t take this the wrong way; we preferentially imbibe wines that are high quality.  Those wines would attain at least 3 to 3½ stars or, if you like numerical scores, wines in the 85 to 87 point range; they would qualify as good to very good wines.  However, as long as the wine attains that quality bar, your choice should be driven primarily by the wine’s style, which, on the page, equates to the wine’s description when you read about it.  That’s why wine writers spend so much time painting a word picture of what the wine resembles.  If you like the style, don’t obsess about the score.  I quite like many wines that do not achieve a 4 star rating and drink them regularly.

This month do yourself a favour when you pick up your next bottle.  Think about what do wine scores really mean and pay special attention to the description to decide if it fits the style of wine that you like and only then look at the score.  You’ll be on your way to picking more enjoyable wines.

All wines are scored out of a maximum of 5 stars.

Bord Elegance Laudun Côtes du Rhône-Villages Blanc 2021 ★★★½+ $19.95 (Vintages)

This is an uncommon wine at the LCBO – a Village designated white from France’s Southern Rhone; most of the Sothern Rhone Village wines we receive here are reds.  The pleasant acidity agreeably balances off its full bodied fruit character.  The flavours of nectarine, yellow plum, pear, and minerals predominate.  It’s very good and would nicely complement soft cheeses, ceviche, or breaded shrimp.


Westcott Vineyards Butlers’ Grant Riesling 2020 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages)

Pale lemon in colour, but filled with zesty lime and lemon with a bit of petrol and ginger thrown in.  The flavours linger long after that first taste.  A typically citrusy Niagara Bench Riesling that’s made in a dry, medium bodied style, which would enhance your lemon chicken or grilled Oktoberfest sausage.


Stadt Krems Steinterrassen Riesling 2021 ★★★½+ $24.95 (Vintages)

This Austrian Riesling presents an interesting contrast to those of Niagara.  The wine is lighter bodied, floral, tending towards a green apple, stone fruit, and lemon pulp palate, all underlain by wet stones. Well suited to serve as a nice summer aperitif or a satisfying accompaniment for grilled seafood.


Flat Rock Pink Twisted Rosé 2021 ½+  $17.95 (Vintages)

A Rosé that’s quite dry and you’ll find fragrant apple, watermelon rind, peach, red cherry, orange, and pear on the nose. It’s made in Niagara by the Germanic method, which means it is a blend of red and white grapes, particularly Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.  This one is made for an afternoon on the patio or pour it with your salad course, especially Greek Salad.


Novas Organic Gran Reserva Carmenère Emiliana 2020 ★★★  $17.00 (Vintages)

Deeply coloured, smoothly tannic, and powerfully flavoured, it’s a wine made for the summer BBQ season. Blackberry and black cherry fruit intermingled with nuances of herbal sage leaf, black currant jam, and vanilla makes for the perfect addition to your grilled cuisine.  Dish up steak or pork chops with it and enjoy.


Falernia Reserva Syrah Titón Single Vineyard 2017 ★★★★  $22.95 (Vintages)

If you are a fan of the savoury style of Syrah instead of the fruity styles (e.g., Australian Shiraz), this wine from the  Elqui Valley, Chile will make your day.  It illustrates the cool climate influence perfectly with plenty of spiced plum, cracked peppercorn, leather, and tobacco.  If you’re searching for a wine to match your black pepper dry rubbed ribs on the BBQ or Tuscan bean stew, look no further.


Banfi Centine 2019 ★★½  $17.25 (Vintages)

Super Tuscans first appeared in the 1970s and were, and still are, blends of the local Tuscan grape, Sangiovese, with native French varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  A number of them are stratospherically priced, but this one is an affordable entry level version.  The winemaker has chosen a blend that is 60% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot.  Not built for aging, it’s a wine to enjoy now with suggestions of black currant, red cherry, plum, and vanilla spice.  This medium bodied red would make the perfect addition to your meal if it includes rich, cheesy pastas such as Lasagna.


Escudo Rojo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ★★★★$19.95 (Vintages)

Chilean Cabernets typically deliver terrific quality to price ratio and this one is no exception.  Mind you, it’s rather to be expected when Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who owns wineries in Bordeaux, is involved in the venture.  It brings the full Cabernet experience, which is remarkable for under $20.  Just envision concentrated cassis, black cherry, leather, crushed mint, pine, and a little kirsch in the background.  The tannins and acidity are high (but approachable) and the finish is long.  It needs flavorful provisions or it will overpower your feast.  A few suggestions that would be wonderful to pair: steak frites, grilled ribeye, or even macaroni and cheese, provided you use aged cheddar.