In most cases, we taste hundreds of wines before rating a vintage; at a minimum, for small subregions, we sample dozens of wines. For some wine types, blind tastings may take place over a period of years, so it takes longer to reach a final evaluation of the vintage.

For example, red Bordeaux may first be tasted while the young wines are in barrel; in that case, we provide a preliminary score range. Then, when the wines are released in bottle two years later, we blind taste them again. Other wines, such as California Cabernet, may be released over a three-year period, depending on how long their winery ages them. Though produced in the same region from the same variety, wines made in a style meant for early drinking may be on sale at retailers before top wines meant for aging have even been bottled.