The concept of applying a numerical rating to wine is familiar to the majority of wine consumers but it is a relatively recent one. Two influential American publications, The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator both use the 100 point scale, as does the Burgundy specialist Burghound. Decanter magazine uses a five star system and Jancis Robinson rates wines on a twenty point scale.
Robert Parker, who launched The Wine Advocate in 1978, has had the status as the world’s most influential wine critic, mainly due to his scores for Bordeaux wines which had the ability to move the market, specifically in Bordeaux. Parker by now is retiring and has handed over responsibility to a growing team of colleagues. In another example of the changing status of wine critics, The Wine Spectator’s James Suckling left the magazine in 2010 after covering Bordeaux and Italy for many years. He now releases his reviews through his own website.
Burghound: the top specialist on Burgundy. Wines are scored based on their expected quality at peak drinkability. Many grands crus that will, I believe, “be” a 92 may not necessarily taste like a 92-point wine when young, thanks to the tannins or general inaccessibility.
Robert Parker has been one of the world's most influential wine critics to date. A high score from the Wine Advocate could instantly boost a wine's reputation and, in many cases, its price. Parker spent 10 years working as a lawyer in Baltimore before making the full-time switch to wine writing in 1984. Today, a 100-point Parker score can make or break a wine brand.The Wine Advocate/Robert Parker 100-point wine-scoring scale:
- 96–100 – Extraordinary
- 90–95 – Outstanding
- 80–89 – Barely above average to very good
- 70–79 – Average
- 60–69 – Below average
- 50–59 – Unacceptable
Antonio Galloni's 100 point wine-scoring scale:
- 96-100 Exceptional. A profound and emotionally moving wine that exemplifies the very best attributes of its kind. These are the world's great, iconic wines.
- 90-95 Outstanding. A wine of remarkable personality and breed that is well worth seeking out.
- 85-89 Excellent. A strong wine with true character that provides highly enjoyable drinking.
- 80-84 Average. A wine with no flaws, but no distinction.
- 75 79 Below Average. A wine with at least one noticeable flaw.
- < 75 Not worth your time.
CellarTrackerThe CellarTracker site is collecting ratings of litteraly hundreds of thousands of wine enthusiasts and gives you a broad perspective of a wine's rating.
- 98-100: (A+) Extraordinary
- 94-97: (A) Outstanding
- 90-93: (A-) Excellent
- 86-89: (B+) Very Good
- 80-85: (B) Good
- 70-79: (C) Below/Average
- 50-69: (D) Avoid
Wine Spectator tasters review wines on the following 100-point scale:
- 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
Finished wines, reviewed from bottle in blind tastings, are given a single score. A score given as a range (e.g., 90-94) indicates a preliminary score, usually based on a barrel tasting of an unfinished wine. As of March 2008, we switched to rolling four-point spreads for unfinished wines. For example, one wine may be scored 85-88, another 87-90, another 89-92. We believe this better reflects the subtle differences between wines and gives our readers better information for their buying decisions. Most barrel tastings are blind; when they are not blind, this is specifically noted.
- 95-100: Truly incomparable and emotionally thrilling. A wine so rated is as good as a wine gets. By definition, it is reference standard for its appellation.
- 90-94: Outstanding. Worth a special effort to purchase and cellar and will provide memorable drinking experiences.
- 85 -89: Good to High quality. Wines that offer solid quality in every respect and generally very good typicity. “Good Value” wines will often fall into this category. Worth your attention.
- 80-84: Average quality. The wine may be “correct”, unless noticeable flaws are indicated in the narrative, and provide straightforward, drinking.
- 76-79: Barely Acceptable quality. The wine is not worth your attention nor is it a good value.
- 75 and Below: Don’t Bother. A wine with noticeable, irremediable flaws.
Stephen Tanzer is a US-based wine critic who is widely respected for his knowledgeable, and his conservative wine criticism. His bimonthly International Wine Cellar was first published in 1985, and was notable for its down-to-earth, independent approach. In 2014, the IWC merged with Antonio Galloni's Vinous website, and Tanzer now holds the title of Editor-in-Chief there. Previous IWC content is available to Vinous subscribers.
Tanzer's specialist knowledge lies in the wines of Piedmont, Burgundy, Bordeaux and California. He has published wine reference books and wine-buying guides, and he also writes articles for Forbes and Food & Wine.
Stephen Tanzer's 100-point wine-scoring scale:
- 95-100: Extraordinary
- 90-94: Outstanding
- 85-89: Very good to excellent
- 80-84: Good
- 75-79: Average
- 70-7: Below average