How We Rate Wines (and Other Things)

Posted by Steve De Long on

how we rate wines


Note: the bulk of this article is an accompanying chart that compares the major scoring systems now used, from 3 stars to 100 point scales (see it online here).

If you watched the movie Mondovino, you may have come away with the impression that the 100 point rating wine rating system is the root of all evil. But what about all the other wine rating systems? Are they evil as well? Of course they’re evil! But more of a necessary evil than a vast dark conspiracy. With a few prominent exceptions – Hugh Johnson, Oz Clarke, Robin Garr come to mind – all wine writers use them in one form or another. Take a look and judge for yourself.

I'm a recent convert to the 5 star system from the 100 point system. Why? I swear it has nothing to do with a recent move from the US to the UK (so I don’t want to hear any “dude, why do you hate your country?” comments). Instead, it's because I found myself spending too much time dwelling on meaningless distinctions such as: "is it an 88 or an 89, etc." I then swore off ratings altogether aside from putting one star or two stars on notes of wines I found exceptional. After doing this for a few years, the Eureka moment struck: “why not just use a 5 star system?” I like the 5 star scale because of its simplicity but don’t feel strongly enough about it to fiercely defend it.

It just seems that debates over wine rating systems resemble PC vs. Mac arguments: they just don’t go anywhere. The choice of a rating scale is just as personal as the act of rating wines; at the end of the day they’re simply useful tools and not declarations of political affiliation.


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    VivianaHaulk on
  • Why do you hate 100 point scales? I score using three terms (in order):
    Okay: this covers most all bases (sometimes “alright” or “good” is used)
    Delicious: this means that the wine is delicious
    Stunning: this means the wine is, yes, stunning

    moon on
  • I like the match-up of the various wine scoring scales.

    I only wish your typo reproducing the UC Davis scale would be fixed.

    Specifically . . .

    Appearance (2)
    Color (2)
    Aroma & Bouquet (4)
    Volatile Acidity (2)
    Total Acidity (2)
    Sugar (1)
    Body (1)
    Flavor (1)
    Astringency (1)
    General Quality (2)

    . . . don’t add up to 20 points. They add up to 18 points.

    See this recent wine blog on the inherent flaw in using numbers to assign a quality level to wine:

    “The poor mathematics of wine-quality scores”
    The Wine Gourd wine blog (September 3, 2018)
    By David Morrison Ph.D.


    Bob Henry on
  • Hi Frank,

    Thanks for the good word!


    Steve De Long on

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