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My rating system explained, and some thoughts about scoring wines
You'll have realized by now, I suspect, that after each tasting note, I give wines a score out of 100. Initially, when I started out, I simply used a verbal scale, with the categories poor, OK, good, very good, very good+, very good/excellent and excellent. You'll still find some of the older notes on this site are rated this way. 

But a few years back, I switched to the 100-point scale, popularized by famous US wine critic Robert Parker. This is because the 100-point system has become the standard for assessing fine wine, and most people are familiar and comfortable with it.

I'm not totally happy with the 100-point scale for a number of reasons. First, I think it has an illusion of precision that just isn't possible with wine tasting. 

Second, people treat Parker scores as a property of the wine itself, and not as one taster's impression on one particular day. 

Third, it only really scores over quite a compressed range. It's rare to find a wine that gets awarded fewer than 80 points, unless it's really, really bad. And most wines tend to score in the 85-95 point range.

Indeed, you'll probably have noticed that many wines rated here and on my blog seem to score in this 85-95 10-point range. This is partly because many wines which score lower don't justify a write-up, and partly because I'm only rarely drinking wines that are astonishingly, mind-blowingly good and worthy of more than 95 points. It does mean that there's a strong clustering from 88-93, and even a one-point difference in this zone can signify quite a bit in terms of quality.  

Of course, I could use a broader scale, and give poor wines, say 30/100 and leave myself a lot more room in the higher register. But it's not my scale, and if I were to devise my own version of the 100-point system, I'd confuse a lot of readers who by now are very familiar with Parker's scoring.

There's no breakdown of these scores (for example, I don't give 20 points for the nose, 40 points for the palate etc.) - I see the wine as a whole and rate it according to my overall impression. 

For the sake of reference, here's my old verbal scale with the 100-point equivalent scores. 

  • Poor (Don't drink, pour down the sink - below 75/100)
  • OK (Mediocre stuff, just about palatable, but not really worth the effort of drinking 76-78?)
  • Good (Acceptable quality plonk - definitely a commodity wine; 79-81?)
  • Very good (Well made, interesting wine with some appeal; 82-85?)
  • Very good+ (A good effort, worth seeking out, especially if the price is right - an 86-89 point wine)
  • Very good/excellent (A superb wine; this would probably be equivalent to a Parker score of 90+)
  • Excellent (The very best wines; a stunning effort - 95+)

Last updated: May 2009

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