Understand Wine Ratings

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The thing is, there is no one set of rules for wine ratings. That's why the numbers are always different. Usually though, the difference is only by a point or two, so in the end, it doesn't really matter. The major wine ratings that most people pay attention to are those from the following:

  • Wine Spectator Magazine
  • Wine Enthusiast
  • The Wine Advocate

Ratings from one of the three magazines mentioned above are the ones that you will most commonly find on various wine websites and sometimes, on fine dining restaurant menus. So, just how do these ratings work?

The Wine Ratings System

For the most part, wine is judged on the same basic criteria - the difference in the score is usually a matter of the personal preferences of the person tasting the wine.

Wine Spectator Magazine Ratings

This magazine is considered to be the "wine bible" of wine lovers the world around. While that statement is arguable, as are most things when it comes to drinking wine, the magazine is highly respected in the wine community. Wine Spectator rates wine based on a 100 point system that goes like this:

  • 95 to 100 points - This is the highest echelon of points for this system and denotes a "classic" wine that is well-balanced and free from any flavor, aromatic or body characteristics.
  • 90 to 94 points - Wines rated between 90 and 94 are considered to be "outstanding" by Wine Spectator. These wines have very, very minute, even miniscule character flaws that are picked up on by the wine expert. These tiny flaws are not noticed by the average wine drinker.
  • 85 to 89 points - These wines fall into the "very good" category, meaning that the wines have few flavor, aromatic and/or body characteristic flaws. Again, the average wine drinker will not notice these very minor flaws.
  • 80 to 84 points - Wines rated between 80 and 84 points fall into the "good" category according to Wine Spectator. While the wines that are rated in the low 80's may have few flaws, the magazine considers them to be "solid, well made wines."
  • 70 to 79 points - These wines are considered "average," meaning that they are drinkable, but the flavors, aromas and body characteristics are lacking a little.
  • 60 to 69 points - These are your "below average" wines. They are still considered "drinkable" by Wine Spectator but the magazine will not recommend these wines.
  • 50 to 59 points - Wines rated between 50 and 59 points fall are considered to be of poor quality and undrinkable. These wines are also not recommended by the magazine.

Wine Advocate Ratings

The Wine Advocate ratings are based on world renowned wine expert Robert Parker's rating system. This system ranges from 50 to 100 points.

  • 96 to 100 points - These wines fall into the "extraordinary" category and are free of flaws.
  • 90 to 95 points - This is the "outstanding" category and are considered robust, complex wines.
  • 80 to 89 points - Wines in this point range are considered good, but just barely.
  • 70 to 79 points - Wines rated between 70 and 79 points are merely "average," according to Parker. These wines are considered well-made, but offer nothing special.
  • 60 to 69 points - Below average wine that have noticeable character flaws, are often awkward and lacking in flavor.
  • 50 to 59 points - Parker considers wines in this point range to be "unacceptable."

Wine Enthusiast Ratings

The Wine Enthusiast rating system is based on an 82 to 100 point rating system.

  • 98 to 100 points - A perfect wine in quality, body and aromas. These wines are perfectly balanced in acidity and tannic levels and display complex flavor characteristics. These wines fall into the "classic" category.
  • 94 to 97 points - Again, a perfect wine in quality, body and aromas. Wines rated in this point range are considered to be "superb". Like the other rating systems, these wines are free of any flaws in character, body or aroma.
  • 90 to 93 points - This is the "excellent" category for the Wine Enthusiast and come highly recommended by the magazine.
  • 87 to 89 points - Wines in this category are considered to be "very good," presenting no noticeable character flaws.
  • 83 to 86 points - Falling in the "good" category, Wine Enthusiast considers these wines perfect everyday wines.
  • 80 to 82 - Wine Enthusiast will still recommend these wines, but they are considered acceptable in casual settings and not necessarily for a formal wine tasting.

A Final Word About Wine Ratings

In order to fully understand wine ratings, you have to understand the subjectivity of rating wine. Everyone's palate is different, so consequently, everyone who rates wine is going to rate it a little differently. In the end, read the recommendations if you want to but to find which wines you really like, give them a try and rate them for yourself.

Understand Wine Ratings