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Wine Ratings 101

Posted by on August 20th

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How Wines Get Their Scores

Wine ratings are both standardized and controversial. The ratings are often subject to individual preferences and tastes. However, they are also a systematic way to rank the quality of a wine. As a result, you may find that you agree with certain wine critics and not others. In this article, we are breaking down what those ratings mean.

Robert Parker

Robert Parker is a famed wine critic who created the 100 point system. It originally faces plenty of objection and controversy, mostly from winemakers who were making sub-standard wines. His magazine “The Wine Advocate” offered an independent assessment, free of bias.

Master Sommeliers & Masters in Wine

When the wine rating system was created, many wine critics had vested interests in the wines and their performance on the market. Robert Parker was the sole authority on wine and its ranking. However, many excellent sommeliers continually offer well-informed reviews on the wines; Jancis Robinson, Karen McNeil, Keith Wallace, and James Suckling offer excellent wine reviews.

Female tasting wine in winery cellar

Wine Review Panels

Another way to reach a rating within a wine panel. Reputable wine magazines often gather panels of Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine to blind taste these wines and score them. In addition, the wines are often judged blind (with the bottles covered) to ensure transparency.

Collective points from these tastings will result in an average ranking for that wine.

What Ratings Really Mean

Ratings are canonical within a silo. Its own parameters judge each region, grape, and style. There could be a 90 point wine in A Napa Cabernet Sauvignon selection, one for a Blanc de Blanc Champagne and another for an Amarone. The rating means something different in each of those cases.

Female tasting wine in winery cellar
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Wine Ratings Overview

Wine reviewers rank wines on the following scale, emphasizing the balance, length, complexity, and intensity of the wine.

  • Classic 98-100: The pinnacle of quality.
  • Superb 94-97: A extraordinary achievement.
  • Excellent 90-93: Heartily recommended.
  • Very Good 87-89: Often good value; well recommended.
  • Good 83-86: Suitable for ordinary consumption; often good value.
  • Acceptable 80-82: Can be employed in casual, less-critical circumstances.
Two sommeliers, male and female tasting red wine and making notes at degustation card

Wines receiving a rating below 80 are usually unpublished. A rating below 80 indicates the wine has a fault or lacks any outstanding qualities.

Price is not a factor in ratings, in that you can have a 90 point bottle that costs $15 and a similarly rated wine that costs ten times that. However, wines are judged within the context of price, varietal, and regional style. That means that $15 bottle of Zinfandel from Sonoma is rated against similarly priced zins.

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