Wine Ratings Explained Along With Reasons for Rating Wine

Wine Ratings explained along with explanations of different wine rating systems and a look at the value and purpose of wine ratings.

Professional critics and bloggers often score or rate wines along with their wine tasting notes. In Europe, it is common to use the 20 Pt ratings scale. In America, the 100 Pt system, which is similar to how grades are awarded in schools is the preferred method.  Regardless of which method is used for wine ratings, a point scale is used, 100 Pts, 20 Pts, 10 Pts, 5 Pts, stars, puffs of smoke or pictures of wine glasses, wine ratings are just that. A wine rating is a wine rating is a wine rating.


Wine ratings can be easily explained. Scoring a wine is the choice of the writer, regardless of if the note was written by a professional or amateur. I like wine reviews with ratings.  I rate many of the wines in the tasting notes I write. They allow readers to know which wine I liked more or less, vis a vis other wines in its peer group. This is not a claim of scientific accuracy. It is simply an easy to say that I liked one wine more, or less than another wine. This is easily accomplished with wine ratings. To put it another way, the purpose of scoring wines is not to establish the qualities found in each numerical score. The reason for scoring wines is only for the ease in comparing one wine versus another in the same peer group. The score quickly lets a reader know which wine the taster found better than another scored wine. It also establishes the degree of difference the writer found in one wine versus another wine in the same peer group. Why this causes so many problems with some people is beyond me.


There are thousands of wine ratings and tasting notes on this web site you can read. That volume of notes and wine ratings allows you to obtain a good idea on the wines and styles of wine I prefer.  If you find two wines you are thinking of buying and you decide to use my notes as a tip, this is an easy way to ascertain which wine I might buy, dependent on the price.


It is always important to read the descriptions of the wines and not just the score. Some styles of wines that I love, might not be for you. Perforce, other wine styles that do not work for me might be a better fit for your palate. Everyone who loves wine can taste. Trust your palate. If you like a wine, it’s a good wine. for you  If you do not enjoy a wine, regardless of how high the wine ratings turned out from anyone, the wine is not good in your eyes and that’s all that matters.


Wine ratings are most often done in peer groups.  High or low wine ratings for a Bordeaux wine is not the same as a high or low score for a Rhone Valley wine.  The same thing holds true when comparing Chateauneuf du Pape with Cote Rotie. Of course, the same thing can be said for the wines from California as well.  That is because each area has a different, unique criteria for quality in their specific appellation. That being said, high scores denote the taster’s view of quality, regardless of the peer group and lower scores are reserved for wines that did not offer the same level of tasting experience.


Lastly, it is imperative to remember, for wine ratings on mature wines, (Bottles that are older than 20 years) the description and score are for that specific bottle, and not the wine. The old saying is 100% true! After more than 20 years, there is no such thing as a great wine, only great bottles.  Each bottle ages different and was stored differently as well.  Numerous factors weigh in on how the older wine developed including; the seal, the cork, temperature the wine was stored an shipped at to plain luck.  Often, bottles from the same case of wine will offer different tasting expriences with older wine. Wine ratings for mature bottles can vary widely for those reasons. It’s important to read the accompanying tasting note.


More importantly, tasting notes say as much about the taster as it does about the wine. My likes and dislikes remain fairly consistent. I look for specific qualities in wines. High scoring wines have them, lower scoring wines have less of them. When reading tasting notes, it’s important to see a body of work to get an idea on what the taster likes or not. I hope with all the notes I’ve posted, you get an idea that I value complexity, character, texture, balance, length and most importantly, to get a high score, excitement that makes me want to taste more of the wine.

My experience might not be your experience, due to the condition of the particular bottle.  From wines produced 1988 forward, the majority of the wines I write about will be from a cold, damp cellar. They probably offer as good an experience as possible. When presented, I also taste numerous older Bordeaux wines from bottles that were stored at the chateau in Bordeaux and never moved. Those bottles should also offer a pristine, tasting experience and their wine ratings would end up higher.


There are wine lovers that feel wines should not be rated, or compared. Wine is a unique beverage and it’s wrong to attach a number to a work of art.  I’ve received Emails asking if I would score great paintings or music.  Why not?  There is no one I know that can listen to a CD and not like one song over another.  The same can easily be said for the world’s best paintings.

Sticking with the music example, as an example, I still find the Beatles to be the best rock group that ever lived. But some songs are much better than others. To that degree, perhaps “Sgt Pepper” is the pinnacle and deserves 100 Pts, while “What goes on” bores me and is at best an average cut and might earn 80 Pts. The same thing takes place for movies and every other consumer product. That is why some movies are more popular than others, they are better.

Wine is a commercial, consumer product. It’s obviously a passion. But at the end of the day, it’s a beverage that needs to be tasted to be enjoyed. Some wines are better than others. Some wines offer better value than others. That is why ratings from trusted writers are important.

A high score only denotes the level of quality the reviewer found in the wine. It does not mean you or others need to agree. But the score clearly and unambiguously lets you know exactly where the reviewer stands on the level of quality found in the wine. If enough people agree with the reviewer, well, that critic might have a job. If a large number of people do not agree, I suggest the writer keep his day job.


Explanation of 100 Pt wine rating scale and how scores are are broken out:  


96-100 Pts – Wines at this level are among the finest wines possible in the peer group. They have everything a wine lover could ask for in a wine.  And sometimes, more!  They should display the best attributes wines offer in abundance.  100 Pt wines are not perfect.  That is not the point.  Wines scoring 99-100 Pts should be so good,  they offer an unparalleled tasting experience from start to finish, in the fragrance, mouth feel and finish. They should also offer unique characteristics that are seldom found in any other wine.

90 – 95 Pts  – This is an outstanding score that can provide a compelling tasting experience.  These are usually the best wines to buy as they combine high quality, without the enormous premium associated with wines being awarded higher scores.

85 – 89 Pts – This denotes an above average score that is for very good wines. But for one reason or another, they fall short of earning the equivalent of an A score. Most well made wines that are good, without faults but lack the  extra special qualities found in the best wines score between 85 and 90 Pts.  Savvy buyers can find numerous wines offering great value in this range of scores.

80 – 84 Pts – Wines earning these scores can provide good drinking for fair prices. But they will have some moderate to noticeable flaws. For example, the wine could be an older vintage that has started to fade, the finish could be short, no mid palate or a lack of concentration and or complexity.

70 – 79 Pts – This denotes a below average wine. Wines in this range of scores range from a light, simple wines without character at the top end of the ratings scale, to a poor wine with discernible flaws at the bottom end of the range.

50 – 69 Pts – Wines at this level are seriously flawed and should be avoided. It’s important to remember that wines earn 50 Pts simply by being wet.