Consumers are Keeping Score on Wine

Aug. 3, 2017

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You’ve just walked into a wine shop and you’re perusing the endless aisles of varied bottles. A gold-plated “96 points” catches your eye and you reach for that one. After all, it’s got 96 points, so it has to be better, right?

This experience happens daily – whether in a fine dining establishment, the local tavern or the liquor store down the street. Customers and consumers alike are consistently influenced by the 100-point scale on which so many wines are scored. But what do these scores actually mean?

We caught up with Breakthru Nevada Italian Wine Portfolio Manager Mike Tadich to find out. Tadich is well-versed in the world of wine scores, as he’s sat on the judging panel for the San Francisco International Wine Competition since the ’90s.

Why do we score wines?
Humans are naturally competitive and we needed a system to classify and judge what we do. For producers, they use scores to find out how their wine compares to their competitors’. For accounts, high scores by publications are ultimately powerful sales tools.

What do scores tell the consumer?
It’s a measuring stick so that customers and consumers have a familiar, comparative tool that they feel comfortable using. The first point in this relationship between the consumer and the wine, is that the consumer has to decide which wine authority they trust – is it the Wine Spectator, is it Wine Enthusiast? Once they do that, then the consumers will taste various wines and decide if they agree with that publication if that wine is really pleasing to their palate or not. Once they establish that relationship, they are going to go back to the same publication for any new scores and wines.

Do high scores and price point always correlate?
Not always. In my opinion the most important factor is QPR – quality-to-price ratio. Most of the times consumers pay premium for “famous” names, etc. We have to accept the fact that there are so many label shoppers. People will buy a product just because it has a famous label, not because they particularly like it. But these labels have a tremendous influence on their selection.

Is the “89-point curse” real?
Yes, it is. But the 89-point mark is moving, and people who depend on scores from their favorite publications are following this suggested trend. Thousands of wines are now being scored 90+ annually and hundreds of them score 95+. I like to remember that “beauty is in the eyes of beholder.”

Any advice you’d give on navigating scores?
Well, it's very simple. You should taste the wines and decide what you like and enjoy it. Ultimately wine is nothing but a living thing, a living product that is something to be enjoyed. And we are the only judge of what is enjoyable to ourselves.

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Whether you’re a restaurant owner or a liquor store owner, create a dedicated space for high-scoring wines. Tailor this section to fit the brand of your business and the needs of your consumers – a one-page insert in the menu, a shelf in the front of the store, or a wall for highly rated wines.

Take it a step further than just giving high-scoring wines a dedicated section. Organize them in a way that will be meaningful and helpful to your consumers, such as by varietal, country or price point.

Scores aren’t the only selling tools here. Along with the numbers, scoring publications publish tasting notes and descriptions. Use these to help create value surrounding the wine for your customers.


Highlighting wine scores is a powerful sales tool that can help your wine sales – particularly in stores or restaurants where a consumer is not interacting with a sommelier or general manager, but has to navigate aisles of bottles on his or her own. The scores give them a quick and understandable way to make a great selection.

Talk to your Breakthru Sales Consultant today about our high-scoring wine selection. 

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