In the United States alone, there are more than 800 million gallons of wine produced every year. Whether you are a longtime enthusiast or just starting out drinking wine, you already know that there are many different qualities and types of wine. With so many selections to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.
That is where the wine rating system can prove useful. If you want to know more about 90-point wines, what this designation means, and how you can use it to inform your buying decisions, keep reading.
Below is our ultimate guide to 90-point wines. It will give you a sense of what these ratings reflect and how you can use them to make the most informed decisions when buying. Finally, we have some recommendations on the best 90-point wines you can purchase right now and at every price point.
What Is a 90-Point Wine?
Wines are graded on a 100-point scale. This is a way to help buyers gauge the wine’s quality against others. Much like school grades, 90 points and above means the wine is an “A” and is considered to have superior characteristics and overall quality.
The wine critic Robert Parker may have been the most influential figure in popularizing the 100-point system starting in the 1980s. His publication, The Wine Advocate Review, still rates more than 12,000 wines every year and has a heavy influence on wine popularity and sales.
Who Else Determines Ratings?
Who ascribes the rating to each wine? The answer to that is a little less cut-and-dry than the ratings themselves since there is no single entity that evaluates them.
Today, most wine assessments come from critics with extensive training, education, and experience. These include judges in wine competitions, bloggers, and those who write for wine (or other) publications.
Besides The Wine Advocate Review, prominent ones include Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirit, Wine Spectator, Decanter Magazine, and Tasting Panel magazine. Newspapers like the Wall Street Journal also have renowned critics who rate wines regularly.
An important component of the tasting system is that the rating is done “blind” by the reviewer. This means they are unaware of the winemaker, brand, or price of the wine. This ensures that there is no external influence impacting the rating being given.
How to Use Ratings
It is worth noting that ratings are still a matter of great subjectivity. This is unique to each judge’s personal preferences.
This includes qualities of wine that they feel outrank others. For this reason, learning more about a certain critic’s unique inclinations can help qualify a particular rating.
Simply because a wine has a rating below 90 does mean that it is not good or that you will not enjoy it. Also, you may find that you are not a fan of some highly-rated wines.
In short, the rating system indicates that many people who have tasted a lot of wine think there is great quality and flavor there. It is a good roadmap to guide you on your wine-tasting journey.
90-Point Wines Under $500
If you are looking for something unique for a special occasion, we recommend these wines. All three received 100-point ratings from The Wine Advocate Review and are good for immediate consumption or cellaring.
Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet 2014
This wine is the only one not from California to receive the highest possible score from The Wine Advocate Review. It is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the oldest vineyards in Washington state. Grapes are grown in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation and aged in French oak.
The wine is bold and structured with good concentration. It has aromas of licorice, black cherry, blackberry, anise, and other spices. Expect a drawn-out finish from this wine’s fine-grained tannins.
Château d’Yquem Sauternes 2009
Besides its 100-point rating from The Wine Advocate Review, this wine has garnered no less than a 95 rating from many other reputable critics. Sauternes are French sweet wines that often have a high acidity. Some can be cellared for a century or more.
Expect a rich and powerful flavor comprising apricot, pears, honey, and spice in this wine. It is medium sweet, and the oak integrates well into it while producing a surprising complexity at such a young age.
Spottswoode Estate Napa Cabernet 2018
This wine received a 100-point ranking from both The Wine Advocate Review and Jeb Dunnuck, a renowned, Colorado-based critic. It is made of 86 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 percent Cabernet Franc, and 5 percent Petit Verdot.
This wine has a deep purple hue and a polished nose of black cherry, vanilla, plum, and cassis. It is full-bodied with smooth tannins. You can expect this wine to age well through 2040.
90-Point Wines Under $250
At a more modest price point, you can still find some of the best wine options available in the world. These are all quality wines that have won innumerable awards and recognitions.
Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir 2018
2018 was a very good year for Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. The region is at the heart of Sonoma County, where some of the best-known varieties have earned their reputation.
This Pinot received a rating of 95 points from Tasting Panel magazine. The nose brings aromas of clove, oak, cherry, and blood orange, as well as floral notes. It has a sustained finish that is spicy with a hint of leather and pomegranate.
Jordan Alexander Cabernet 2014
This wine has received various accolades, including high ranks from Wine Enthusiast magazine and 93 points from Tasting Panel. It is 79 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with blends of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cab Franc. It is aged in French oak for 12 months.
This wine is bold, structured, and elegant. It has a mix of dried herbs, tobacco, and red currant.
The French oak is well integrated into the wine, which compliments soft tannins for a solid balance. You will want to decant this wine for a good hour to fully open up all its aromas and flavors.
90-Point Wines Under $100
For under $100, there are many 90-point wines to choose from. Here are a few we think you will like.
Montes Colchagua Valley Purple Angel Carmenere 2018
This wine received a 98-point rating from James Suckling, an American wine critic and former senior editor of Wine Spectator magazine. Carmenere is a medium- to full-bodied red wine that is originally from Bordeaux but now grows almost exclusively in Chile.
This wine has a deep red color, typical of Carmeneres, and is aged 18 months in French oak. It has fine tannins that give it a silky texture and savory finish. It contains complex aromas of blackberry, blueberry, dried plum, and cherry.
Louis Roederer Starck Brut Nature 2015
If you are in search of an outstanding champagne, look no further. Jeb Dunnuck gave it a 94-point rating, noting its expansiveness on the palate and fresh acidity.
This wine has a golden yellow hue with flecks of green. It is delicate with myriad aromas, including peach, lemon, hazelnut, and dried flowers. Expect freshness and intensity, with just enough bitterness to offset the juicy flavor.
Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec 2016
Malbec is almost synonymous with Argentinian wine. They produce an intense purple with rich, sweet tannins.
Archaval-Ferrer, located in Altamira, a region at the foot of the Andes Mountains below the Tunuyan River, produces some of the most extraordinary Malbecs in the world. This one received a 97 from James Suckling.
The wine is floral and fragrant, with a spicy edge. It has earthy notes of blackberry, plum, cassis, and leather on the nose. The palate is silky with bright acidity.
90-Point Wines Under $50
Here are a few wines that are very moderately priced for their quality and popularity. Take a look at our recommendations.
Rodney Strong Reserve Sonoma Cabernet 2015
Decanter Magazine gave this beautifully refined California wine a rating of 97 points. Rodney Strong Vineyards focus only on Sonoma County grape growing and production. They have been around since 1959, and Wine Enthusiast magazine crowned them "American Winery of the Year" in 2013.
This Cabernet is quite rich and complex, with notes of black currants, elderberries, and spices of cedar wood and tobacco. It has a smooth finish with lasting herbal aromas of vanilla and chocolate.
Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Cabernet 2019
Stags’ Leap is one of California’s oldest wine estates. Grapes are sourced from cooler appellations in the Napa Valley, yielding a nose of bright red berry fruits and delicate floral notes. It is bold, smooth, and dry.
On the palate, you can expect blackberry and red cherry flavors, with hints of rose and tobacco. It is very rich and layered, yet crisp with a balanced acidity. James Suckling is a huge fan of this wine, rating it at 93 points.
Joseph Phelps Freestone Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019
Joseph Phelps was a home winemaker who started this vineyard 50 years ago and is today one of the most respected producers in the Napa Valley. This Pinot brings pleasant aromas of dark plum, herbs, cassis, and cedar. It has a silky finish and a bright acidity.
Its bright acidity and fruity intensity help it stand out among a field of popular Pinot Noirs from the region. The Wine Advocate Review gave it a rating of 96.
90-Point Wines Under $25
Believe it or not, there are plenty of budget-friendly wines that rate 90 points or above. Here are a few fantastic ones to consider.
Lupo Meraviglia Tre di Tre Rosso Puglia IGT 2020
This wine received a 98 from Luca Maroni, one of the most renowned wine critics in the world. It comes from the Salento region of Italy that sits between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, a sunny area suited for winemaking. It is aged six months in Slavonian oak.
This wine has an intense red color and a nose that reveals aromas of lush blackberries and plums. It has an incredible structure and an extended finish. For this caliber of wine, it is very reasonably priced.
Catena High Mountain Vines Mendoza Cabernet 2019
James Suckling gave this wine a 93-point ranking. Its makers, Cantena, began in 1902, revolutionizing Argentine wine by planting at extremely high altitudes. This wine is 91 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 percent Cab Franc, and 2 percent Petit Verdot.
It has a dark ruby red color and intense aromas of raspberries and cassis on the nose. The wine is full-bodied on the palate, with rich displays of black currant, cedar, and oregano. Expect silky tannins that provide great structure and a persevering finish.
Catena High Mountain Vines Mendoza Malbec 2019
The winery’s 100 percent Malbec is also worth mentioning. The 2019 rendition garnered a 92-point rating from Decanter Magazine, as well as other distinctions.
High-altitude growing helps produce bright freshness. Expect notes of blueberry, black cherry, raspberry, and lavender. This wine has well-integrated tannins, light acidity, and a robust minerality.
Sean Minor Signature Series Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2021
This wine made from 100 percent Pinot Noir received a rating of 92 from Wine Enthusiast. It also has acquired various other accolades from tasting panels and critics.
The wine has rich notes of cherry, blueberry, plum, and cedar. It has a velvety texture, and great structure, and is balanced throughout.
Wilson Winery of Dry Creek Zinfandel 2019
Wilson Winery is a relatively new producer that has already made a name for itself in Sonoma County and beyond. This 2019 Zinfandel received a 97 rating and a double gold medal at the Los Angeles Invitational Wine and Spirits Challenge. It is 98 percent Zinfandel and 2 percent Petite Sirah.
This bold wine brings aromas of blackberry jam and bing cherry. It has a bright palate chock full of boysenberry, blackberry, and cinnamon. Expect a soft acidity and smooth tannins.
Learn More About 90-Point Wines
Now that you understand the basics of 90-point wines, you can make selections that fit your preferences and your budget. If you need further help to narrow down wines for meal pairing or tastings, we are here to help.
Liquorama is a family-owned and operated distributor of online wine, spirits, craft beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Take a look at our extensive collection of 90-point wines, and feel free to reach out to us with any questions.