The 100 point rating scale for wine: 5 things you need to know

19 thoughts on “The 100 point rating scale for wine: 5 things you need to know

  1. Another crucial and completely strange feature of the 100 point rating scale: acc to Parker’s official rubric, which many/most raters follow, the scale of 100 is bounded at the bottom by 50, rather than 0. So in fact it’s not a 100 point scale but a 50 point scale. Probably it’s even narrower than this makes out, as one ordinarily doesn’t see ratings below 70. And, as you say, even within the nominal range that does exist, there is serious compression at the top end. At the end of the day, I find that vastly most wines come in between 85 and 95. Of course we can all calibrate expectations accordingly, but this doesn’t really use much of the scale, no?

  2. I use the five star rating, and as a new blogger, it seems to me that a great wine is a thing of, how did it make you feel as a person rather than what i think is worth, for example: If i rate a wine with 3 stars it means that simply is a good wine but one that you won’t remember next day, not a math/science number, as writers, bloggers and others turn away from the 100 point scale some of us should find a better way then, things are’t just the way they are until we make a change. If you care to see my scale is in spanish though. i guess you can goggle translate, that’s my two cents.

  3. What’s missing here is the QPR – the actual price of the wine under review. To what extent is the cost of the wine a factor in the score it receives? After all, a £7 wine getting 90 points (which would be very favourable) is a very different proposition to a £70 wine getting 90 points (which would actually be a very disappointing score). Why is this never mentioned in the score system?

  4. Great post and good Points all over, but on the topic of inflated scores, I have to say i’m curious: if 95 is becoming the new 90, isn’t this blog at the front of the pack? -Or ahead of, really. Obviously, it’s good market strategy, but not a service to readers, I think.

  5. A thoroughly depressing video, Jamie.
    Might I humbly suggest that you turn your obvious talent for scientific inquiry to the matter of sensory testing? An afternoon spent with someone like Hildegarde Heymann at UC Davis will cure you forever of the desire to engage in activities that you have correctly pegged as “absurd”.


  6. Jamie
    Good stuff. ‘I told you so is hateful’, but this precisely what I’ve been saying for 30-odd years!
    There are plenty of alternatives to 100 pts. Decanter’s 5 is useful, the conventional 20 works up to a point (except so many hedge their bets in the 15-17 range).
    Only the 100 is egregiously wrong-headed.


  7. Thanks for all your comments. I find myself in a tricky position: I use points even though I don’t like to because readers find them useful. And I have to calibrate my scale with the major critics. This pushes me into a corner.

  8. Yes I always find the 100 point scale difficult and work on 20 but even that is erroneous as anything below 10 is generally not worth any consideration!!

  9. Personally, I use ticks, very easy to review after a tasting. 2 ticks is all correct and good, 3 ticks is buy this, 4 ticks is buy straight away, 5 ticks is get this on instant dispatch. But that’s as a buyer.

  10. Bravo Jamie. The 100 points scale (and just about any points scale you care to mention) is bonkers and widely abused in the ways you mention. Wineries, media, merchants etc.

    As you say, tasting notes are so difficult to write. A well written tasting note is worth its weight in points. That’s why at Red Squirrel Wine we quote critics’ tasting notes (including some of yours) but always omit the points.

    P.S. Your tasting notes don’t “suck”!

  11. I disdain points.. however I guess they are useful for some. I mean what do they really what context with food? without food.. its a snapshot.. I find them pretty useless. but I understand them in the context of marketing.. but you know What Bill Hicks said about marketing.

  12. Jamie. Excellent video. I only use points when I have to. My blogs are and will remain entirely pointless.

    When I wrote an article for Decanter on aged Loire Cabernet Franc I gave an 1893 Bourgueil 100 points as another else wouold have been even more nonsensical. The local press picked up on the ‘perfect’ score rather than the fact that this 1893 was still enjoyable to drink.

  13. Hi Jamie – very interesting and thought provoking post but the only person backing you into a corner is yourself! If you don’t believe it it don’t use it. What you’re saying is that without the points people won’t read your blog, which isn’t true in the slightest. You are in a position to do something about it by backing out if you feel that strongly.

    If it’s any consolation, I’ll still read your great work!

  14. I would go even further, Jamie. My personal feeling is that wine shouldn’t be judged at all, merely described. When I am in Bordeaux next week I will (or perhaps more likely won’t!) assemble a list of wines I consider I will enjoy drinking in the years to come and will offer these to my clients. Why call them good/great/other at all? My clients buy from me because they trust my palate. The negative scores of the “critics” effectively drive a wedge between a merchant and his or her customers, making them doubt his or her judgement.

    A bottle of ’07 Domaine de Chevalier drunk the other evening gave enormous pleasure and lacked not one thing on that outing.

    If the consumer buys nothing but 95+ point wines, all he or she will end up drinking is massively dense, alcoholic wines (which, incidentally, rarely show a great deal of vineyard character). This is because big wines are afforded big scores.

    Mostly, I despair…

  15. Love the arbitrary points scores and the generalizations about vintages and the discounting of vintages like B’x ’04 because it suppresses prices of many good wines and suckers a lot of rich folk into inadvertently subsidizing them by buying those more highly “scored”.

    How many people who bought 2010 B’x first growths know they won’t be alive by the time they are ready to drink?

  16. Great piece, yes I agree with you the idea of a 100 point wine is impossible unless you are RP Jr. but doesn’t he use 98-99+ and such in his ratings, and soon he will utter the ridiculous 100+ for something, then 100++. 😉

    I use the WSET good-, good, good+, very good -, very good, very good +, outstanding -, outstanding, outstanding +, I find at least these are qualitative descriptors when used to open a tasting note.

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