There are said to be more than 10,000 different wine grape varieties grown around the globe. And according to wine commerce site Wine-Searcher, as it reported last summer, its files alone include some 563,000 distinct wines from 89,000 different producers and retailers worldwide.
It’s doubtful that the site’s catalogue is anywhere near complete. Clearly, even the most dedicated wine lover, then, is likely to encounter only a fraction of what’s available, even in a lifetime of diverse wine drinking.
How can the consumer know which of the many, many wines out there are actually worth buying — which ones are really good?
There is no shortage of advice available. Reviews and scores (often on a 100-point scale) are published by such publications as the Wine Advocate (started by Robert Parker, considered the world’s most influential wine critic), Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast, as well as countless wine newsletters. More general food websites and magazines have wine columns of their own. Crowd-sourced reviews on sites like Delectable and Vivino add to the mix.
These can all be useful, but ultimately all they reveal is what somebody else thought of a wine — and the opinions are by no means unanimous.
Fortunately, there are some basic criteria that can help anyone assess wine quality without scores and reviews.