Wine Rating System

This post explains how wines are rated on Vino in Love and discusses some of the wine industry’s other rating system including the Parker 100-point scale. 

Background: Wines on Vino in Love are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with 5 stars being the highest possible rating. Let me explain the rating system step by step to (hopefully) clear any possible misunderstandings.

5 stars: World Class

5 stars 5-star wines are the best of the very best.

4.5 stars : Excellent

4.5 starsExcellent wines. Expect major fireworks.

4 stars: Very Good

4 starsWines with this rating are highly recommended and are a joy to drink.

3.5 starsGood

3.5 starsThese wines are good and recommended.

3 stars: Ok-ish 

3 starsThis rating is for wines which are recommended but only if you enjoy that particular style or grape variety.

2.5 stars: Decent

2.5 starsDecent wines. Do not expect any fireworks and be cautious when buying them.

2 stars: Disappointing

2 starsThese wines are disappointing and are definitely not recommended. They are not fun to drink.

1.5 stars: Very disappointing  

1.5 starsVery disappointing wines. It is best to stay away from them.

1 stars: Extremely poor 

1 starThese wines have major flaws.

Wine Rating Systems

In North America, the 100 point rating system is popular which in truce is not even based on a 0 to 100 point scale but on a 51 to 100 scale. This system was said to have been popularized by Robert Parker and is used also by Wine Enthusiast, Guia Penin, Wine Spectator and others.

The average rating for a wine on most 100 point scale rating system is around 88. Wines with a score of 85 are considered ‘above average’ or ‘good’ and wines with a score of 90+ are considered ‘exceptional’ or ‘outstanding’. And here comes the problem I have with the 100 point scale. How many wines have you seen which were rated by Parker, WS or WE with a score of 65 or 70? Probably not too many because most wines have a score between 82 and 94 points (Wine Folly).

Wine Spectator’s average rating is 88.3 and 50% of their reviewed wines fall in the category of 86-91 points (Wine Searcher). In fact, between 2009 and 2013 Wine Spectator rated no wines at all with a score of 71 (Wine Folly).

Wine Enthusiast is even worse in that regard because they refuse to review any wines with a score below 80, yet they still use a 100 point scale (Jancis Robinson). Why not simply use a 1-20 scale if no wines are rated below 80 anyways?

Spanish wine guide Guia Penin also uses the 100 point scale to rate wines. According to data from October 2013 its average rating is 88.8 so almost identical to the Wine Spectator’s average rating of 88.3. This means that the average Spanish wine reviewed by Guia Penin is apparently very good and almost excellentA Guia Penin score 80-89 translates to ‘very good’; 90-94 to ‘excellent’ (source: Wine Searcher). Hard to believe – at least for me.

Falstaff, an Austrian wine guide, uses a 100 point rating system but on a scale from 75-100. Their average rating is 90.8 and 50% of their ratings fall between 89-92 (Wine Searcher).

I wonder if the average wine consumer really understands the difference between a wine with a 93 point rating and one with a 94 point rating? I doubt it and I mean to cause no offense to anybody.

In Europe, various rating systems exist and the 100 point rating system is less popular but still used by some as soon above. British wine critic Jancis Robinson and the European wine magazine Vinum rate wines on a scale from 1-20.

The Italian Gambero Rosso uses an entirely different system based on a 1-3 scale with so-called ‘bicchieri’. Bicchieri is Italian for glasses. 1 glass = ‘above average’; 2 glasses = ‘very good’; 3 glasses = ‘excellent’.

The British Decanter magazine and the Italian Espresso magazine rate wines on a scale from 1 to 5. Any wines rated by Decanter with a score lower than 3 are not recommended. The same 1-5 scale is also used by Bibenda, an annual wine guide published by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS). South African wine critic John Platter is also an advocate of the 5 star scale. Platter’s average rating is 3.4 stars (Wine Searcher).  A good average score if you ask me.

On a Parker 51-100 scale, Platter’s 3.4 stars average rating would correspond to a score of 65. Yet the average rating on a 51-100 point scale is 88, as explained earlier. Jancis Robinson posted a useful chart on her website which shows some of the various rating systems used by wine professionals. Make sure to take a look at it later on.

Parting Words

Using a 100-point based rating system is an absolute no-go for me. I feel that on a 5-star scale the consumer understands much better the difference between a Good Wine (3.5 stars) and a World Class Wine (5 stars). I also find it more transparent. The 100 point scale is misleading to the average wine consumer who may not know that the average score is 88.

I am curious what your thoughts on the 100-point scale are and which of the various wine rating systems you like/dislike most. Feel free to join the discussion by commenting below.

With that said, I hope I made it clear why I choose a 5 star rating system for Vino in Love. I have been using this rating system for years now but I felt the need to clarify my way of rating wine. If you have any questions about it then do not hesitate to contact me. Cheers!

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9 comments on “Wine Rating System”

  1. talkavino Reply

    Julian, this is an extremely difficult subject – to properly comment on it, I would have to write my own post 🙂 I personally use 10 points system with + and -, so it would be equivalent to the 20 points scale. I rated the wines at 5 ( I think I had 4 as well), but I would practically never publish a score less than 7- (7 my “it is okay, I can drink it again” kind of rating”). I feel that 5, or more over, 3 points system is very limiting. By the way, note that your system is really a 10 point in the absolute terms.
    As far as Wine Spectator ratings are concerned ( or any other well knows ratings for that matter), people are trained to understand 100 points system, and people need a quick reference – there ware way too many wines available on the shelves, so many people need an external validation that they are buying a good wine, so ratings give them that exact confidence. Again, as I said, this can be a subject of a very long discussion.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Anatoli,
      I agree with you that this a difficult subject and of course you are right that my 5 star scale is technically a 10 point scale.

      However, I disagree with you regarding the usefulness of the 100 point system. It is not good for a quick reference because, in my opinion, way too many wines are rated too positively which is reflected by a way too high average score of 88. Therefore consumers are tricked into believing that a wine with a score of 88 is very much worth buying because WS makes them believe that any wine with a score of 88 is ‘very good’ (the WS very good rating starts at 85 points). How many ‘very good’ wines have you had that were rated 85 points by WS? (On my scale’very good’ wines have 4 stars)
      I prefer the approach of John Platter’s South African wine guide because their average rating is much lower than Wine Spectator’s. Therefore Platter’s ratings reflect the quality of a wine better than WS/WE/WA do. Platter uses a 5 point scale and not a 100 point scale (it is technically a 10 point scale similar to my rating system).

      At the end of the day, every consumer must find the rating system they like best and I understand that for many customers that rating system is the 100 point scale.
      Cheers!

      • Carl Bird Reply

        I agree with Julian about the 100 point scale. Consider that this scale is really a 50 pont scale (50 – 100). Also consider that WS/WE/SA almost NEVER publish a rating below 70. Now also consider that the average score for wines rated by WS is about 88.3, then they are calling wines with the average rating of 88.3 very good. To me average is not very good.

        Now consider Julian’s 5 (10) point scale. A wine that scores a 1 he considers to have “major flaws”. This is a wine rated in the low 70s for those who use a 100 point scale.

        So for me, a 5 star rating is more useful in general.

        HOWEVER!! The best rating system is one’s own personal preference and likes. You could sit the raters from WS/WE/WA side by side and ask them to rate the same wine from the same bottle and you would get 3 different ratings.

        So, trust your own palate and preferences and buy wines you like.

  2. Espressito Reply

    Wine ratings in general are a complicated subject because each system has its advantages and disadvantages. I guess it would be best if all were using the ideal system but that is never going to happen because it does not exist.
    Even though Decanter uses a 5 point rating it is in truce a 3 point rating because they never publish any reviews with 1 or 2 points and I find a 3 point system just way too limiting which is why I also dislike the way the Gambero Rosso rates wines. I like the way Jancis Robinson and her team rate wines best because I feel they are the most objective ones.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Espressito,
      You are right that wine rating systems are a difficult subject and maybe a perfect system does not exist but in my opinion the 5-point scale is still better than the 100-point scale. I really dislike that Wine Spectator says that any wine they rate with 85 points or more is ‘very good’. I found this too many times not to be true. The 5-point system seems more transparent to me and I like it more but I understand if another customer prefers a different system but luckily in Europe the 100 point scale has less influence than it has in North America 🙂 Cheers!

  3. Andy Andy Reply

    Your comments on the different ratings helped me understanding them better. Thanks!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Andy,
      I am really sorry that I somehow missed your comment! Thanks for stopping by, as always 🙂 Glad to hear that you found my post useful. Cheers!

  4. i-am-a-thirsty-drinker Reply

    The 100 point scale makes it very easy to determine whether a wine is worth buying or not. It’s a sign telling you: This wine is good or bad. Wines with 90 points onwards are very good. Those are my 2 cents on that matter.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter. I disagree with you though as I find that the 100 point wine rating system does more bad than good for reasons mentioned in the above article.
      Cheers!

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