What are Wine Scores?

Wine Scores ?

A wine score is the quickest, simplest way for a wine critic to communicate their opinion about the quality of a wine. Wine scores appear in newspapers, magazines and wine guides, in print and online, and even on wine bottles. They help consumers, collectors and investors to decide which wine to buy, collect or invest in. Many wine merchants cite critic scores on their wine lists, abbreviating Robert Parker as RP, Wine Advocate as WA and Wine Spectator as WS.

In Italy are Gambero Rosso, Espresso, Guida Bibenda, Slow Wine….

Wine scores are most commonly given out of 100, 20, 10 or 5 points.

100-Point Scale
The 100-point wine-scoring scale was popularized by Wine Spectator magazine and by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate newsletter. The effect of a high score from either publication is hard to understate, and can make or break a wine brand (see these lists of Wine-Spectator Top 100 Wines and Robert Parker 100-Point Wines). There are many who question the value of the 100-point scale, typically because almost all wines evaluated fall within a narrow band between 85 and 100 points. The system is based on the American high-school marking system, so the scale starts at 50 (rather than 0), which has led to further criticism. Despite this the 100-point scale is used by more and more critics – amateur and professional – with each year that passes.

Score Explanation
95–100 Classic: a great wine
90–94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85–89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
75–79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50–74 Not recommended

Wine Spectator 100-Point Scale

Users of the 100-Point scale include: Burghound, Bob Campbell, CellarTracker, Falstaff Magazine, Gilbert & Gaillard, La Guia Penin, La Guia Repsol, Huon Hooke, James Halliday, James Suckling, Jamie Goode, Jean-Marc Quarin, The Wine Cellar Insider, Robert Parker (Wine Advocate), Stephen Tanzer, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Wine Pros Archive, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits Magazine.

20-Point Scale
The 20-point scale for wine scoring first emerged in 1959. It was developed purely for academic wine evaluation, by Dr Maynard Amerine of UC Davis’ much-respected Viticulture & Enology department. On this original scale, points were attributed for color, aroma and flavor, as well as more technical qualities including the balance of sugars, acids, tannins and volatile acidity. Even today the 20-point scale retains a slightly technical, traditional feel. One of its key proponents is Jancis Robinson.

Score Explanation
20 Truly exceptional
19 A humdinger
18 A cut above superior
17 Superior
16 Distinguished
15 Average
14 Deadly dull
13 Borderline faulty or unbalanced
12 Faulty or unbalanced

Jancis Robinson’s 20-Point Scale

Users of the 20-point scale include: Bettane & Desseauve, Decanter Magazine, Gault & Millau, Jancis Robinson, John Platter, La Revue du Vin de France, Vinum Magazine.

5-Point Scale and other systems
5-point scales most often use stars (or other symbols) rather than points per se. For many years Decanter Magazine used 5-star scores, but replaced these in July 2012 with dual 20-point and 100-point scores. John Platter has used a 5-star system in his Guide to South African Wine since the first edition in 1980.
Italian wine magazine Gambero Rosso uses its own unique wine glass symbols (bicchiere) to rate wine, from one to three. Other guides highlight top-quality wines with an asterisk (two for truly exceptional wines).

Score Explanation
5 Stars Superlative. A Cape Classic
4 Stars Excellent
3 Stars Good everyday drinking
2 Stars Casual Quaffing
1 Star Very Ordinary

Platter’s 5-Star South African Wine Scale


One Comment Add yours

  1. quiniwine says:

    Thanks for sharing all these side by side. Very useful information.

    While the type of scale may make a difference, and how the scales are applied plays yet another role in the rating’s accuracy (a subject for another day), the real issue might rather be around how an ultimate rating is reached.

    After many, many months of research, very significant investment and input from experts in wine, statistics, food science and sensory evaluation, Quini’s system was developed to literally ‘force’ the taster to evaluate wine more accurately, helping them to leave behind as much as possible of the subjectivity that might unintentionally leak into a rating process, out of the equation. Think of Quini (www.quiniwine.com) as an enabler the industry is long due for.

    What we did was to break the rating / wine review process into five categories. Eye, Nose, Mouth, Taste, Finish, Opinion.

    Notice how even ‘Taste’ and ‘Finish’ are separated, to help the taster focus on each individually and sufficiently.

    These separations are the basis for more accurate ratings. The foundation we hope industry adopts as the system’s benefits are discovered.

    The importance Quini places on each of the five categories is also different. For example, Eye (for appearance) is given only 15 points while Nose and Mouth are given 30 points each. Finish is given 15 points and Opinion the final 10 points for a total of 100.

    What Quini also does is put all 100 points in play. No minimum base. We strongly believe that if a wine is not good (or bad), that it should get a score that reflects that to the public at large. If all wines were rated a minimum of 50 or 60 points for example, the ultimate rating, even if it sat at 60, would seem positive to consumers. That might be construed by some as inaccurate influence.

    Quini then aggregates the various aspects to generate a wine’s rating, and aggregates the taster’s review with those of others in the Quini community who have rated the same wine, to give consumers a true, normalized view for the wine. Consumers can still view individual expert ratings as well on Quini, but the community aggregate is what paints the true picture.


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