Picture this- You walk into a fancy wine shop for the first time on the search for an impressive bottle of fine wine. You browse the aisles nervously as you avoid eye contact with anyone who might ask “May I help you with anything?” Red sounds good, right? Right. Bordeaux? Sure. 


You’ve had enough wine in your life to understand which regions are in which countries. As you slowly wander, you begin to wonder if everyone else knows you are SO lost. What are these numbers? Stress starts to build as you realize that next to the wine is a combination of acronyms: RP 95… JS 94… WA 94… WS 95


What on earth do these numbers mean? Pride kicks in as you really do not want to ask for help. Do you whip out your phone in public to Google these numbers like a millennial? Besides, what if they don’t have public Wi-Fi? 


It’s okay, we get it and we’ve been there too. Wine ratings can be terrifying, especially if you are a newbie to the world of fine wine. But trust us when we say, it’s easier than it looks! Follow along as we go through exactly what the purposes of these acronym/number combinations are. Soon enough, the wine shop will be a walk in the park! 


Start with Numbers

Think of it as a math exam. The higher the score the better, right? It is the same thing with wine. The better the result of the winemaking process, the better the score. A 100-point-wine means this wine got an A+, talk about being an overachiever! These wines generally sit at a higher price point. 


Who’s Reviewed It?

Next, we will address those whose opinions are so highly regarded we allowed them to grade our wines. Let’s start with the big boy, Robert Parker. Founder of the Wine Advocate, Parker became the industry leader in ranking big red wines like Cabernet. Robert Parker praises wines that are made in the typical bold, delicious, fruit-forward, and ageable Cabernet style with extreme attention. Parker paved the way for standardizing the wine ranking system and created a cult following for his works. If you see an RP or a WA, assume it’s the Robert Parker seal of approval. 


Following shortly behind RP and all of his glory is James Suckling. Suckling gravitates towards more acidic wines and seeks a different level of complexity than the standard Cabernet. Don’t be surprised if you come across other big names such as WS (Wine Spectator), V (Vinous), etc. All of these sources come from professional wine critic platforms, private companies, and influential magazines. While favorite critique sources vary by personal preference, their credibility is pretty outstanding. See the breakdown of how Benchmark Wine Group lists rankings on our wines!


These critical ratings can be extremely helpful tools when it comes to discovering a new wine or splurging on a more expensive bottle. However, we all must remember that you are the most important critic when it comes to your taste buds. So here’s to you, the future expert wine critic! 


Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.