SCALING: Most Wines Have NEVER Been Rated By Critics

UPDATE, August 18, 2020: New data from a highy respected source: 116,000+ new wine products approved by TTB in past 12 months: bw166.


Consumers who try to rely upon wine ratings to make purchase decision are often thwarted by the widespread absence of reviews. For that reason, I’ve been trying to figure out about how many wines that are for sale in the United States have actually been rated by critics.

The numbers suggest that only about 25% ever get evaluated by the critics.

How did I come up with the number? With a few assumptions based on the best data I could locate.

RATED: 25,000

The Wine Spectator says it rates 15,000 wines a year. The Decanter wine competition has about 13,000.

  • Assume a 50% overlap there. That would be 21,500.
  • Assume great overlaps with other critics and publications, but some additional wines.
  • Assume, perhaps the total of wines — available in the United States — and also rated rated by a critic is approximately 25,000


Data below comes from TTB’s COLA database for 2011-2013.

Search results turned up slightly different totals from day to day even though this is historical data.

I also found that searching for a Range of types (80-81, for example) Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 5.33.46 PMgave fewer results than separate searches for each type.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 5.34.00 PM

(80-80) + (80A-80A) + (81-81). Thus, the graph below comes after 12 separate searches.

What Jurassic data provider cobbled this dinosaur together?
Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 4.53.26 PM

UPDATE, August 18, 2020 — Actual solid data: 116,000+ new wine products approved by TTB in past 12 months: bw166.

The following analysis


The actual number for 2012 and 2013 are likely a lot higher because in 2012, the TTB began allowing a wide range of label changes (vintages dates and more) withOUT needing a new COLA.(Complete List of Allowable Revisions To Approved Labels).


No one really knows how many new wines are released every year without a COLA because the label changes were allows.

  • Assume that 10% of new releases are sold without needing a new COLA. For 2013, that would be roughly 7,600 more wines.

In addition, not every bottle of every vintage is sold in one year. This is especially true for red wines which tend to have a longer shelf life.

  • Assume: 5% of 2011 wines (3,800) and 10% of 2012 wines (8,000) would have been for sale in 2013. Round that to 12,000 more wines that were for sale without needing a new COLA in 2013.

So, for 2013 the totals look like this:

  • COLAs Issued: 75,615
  • Wines released without needing a new COLA: 7,600
  • Wines with COLAs from previous years still for sale: 12,000
  • Total wines for sale in US in 2013 = 75,615 + 7,600 + 12,000 = 95,215


25,000 wines rated versus 95,000 available =26% rated … just over a quarter.


It would be interesting to locate a SKU ninja who maintains an accurate list of all active SKUs … and could determine that number for red, white, rose and sparkling wines.

Of course, that is likely to be inaccurately higher than the actual number since there likely are active SKUs which no longer have merchandise behind them.