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:
Wine Spectator tasters review wines on the following 100-point scale:
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.
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: