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What are Wine Scores?

A wine score is the quickest, simplest way for a wine critic to communicate their opinion about the quality of a wine. Wine scores appear in newspapers, magazines and wine guides, in print and online, and even on wine bottles. They help consumers, collectors and investors to decide which wine to buy, collect or invest in. Many wine merchants cite critic scores on their wine lists, abbreviating Robert Parker as RP, Wine Advocate as WA and Wine Spectator as WS. For information about the world’s wine critics and their top-scored wines, see Wine Critics.

Wine scores are most commonly given out of 100, 20, 10 or 5 points.

100-Point Scale
The 100-point wine-scoring scale was popularized by Wine Spectator magazine and by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate newsletter. The effect of a high score from either publication is hard to understate, and can make or break a wine brand (see these lists of Wine-Spectator Top 100 Wines and Robert Parker 100-Point Wines). There are many who question the value of the 100-point scale, typically because almost all wines evaluated fall within a narrow band between 85 and 100 points. The system is based on the American high-school marking system, so the scale starts at 50 (rather than 0), which has led to further criticism. Despite this the 100-point scale is used by more and more critics – amateur and professional – with each year that passes.

Score Explanation
95–100Classic: a great wine
90–94Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85–89Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84Good: a solid, well-made wine
75–79Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50–74Not recommended
Wine Spectator 100-Point Scale

Users of the 100-Point scale include: Burghound, Bob Campbell, CellarTracker, Falstaff Magazine, Gilbert & Gaillard, La Guia Penin, La Guia Repsol, Huon Hooke, James Halliday, James Suckling, Jamie Goode, Jean-Marc Quarin, The Wine Cellar Insider, Robert Parker (Wine Advocate), Stephen Tanzer, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Wine Pros Archive, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits Magazine.

20-Point Scale
The 20-point scale for wine scoring first emerged in 1959. It was developed purely for academic wine evaluation, by Dr Maynard Amerine of UC Davis’ much-respected Viticulture & Enology department. On this original scale, points were attributed for color, aroma and flavor, as well as more technical qualities including the balance of sugars, acids, tannins and volatile acidity. Even today the 20-point scale retains a slightly technical, traditional feel. One of its key proponents is Jancis Robinson.

Score Explanation
20Truly exceptional
19A humdinger
18A cut above superior
14Deadly dull
13Borderline faulty or unbalanced
12Faulty or unbalanced
Jancis Robinson's 20-Point Scale

Users of the 20-point scale include: Bettane & Desseauve, Decanter Magazine, Gault & Millau, Jancis Robinson, John Platter, La Revue du Vin de France, Vinum Magazine.

5-Point Scale and other systems
5-point scales most often use stars (or other symbols) rather than points per se. For many years Decanter Magazine used 5-star scores, but replaced these in July 2012 with dual 20-point and 100-point scores. John Platter has used a 5-star system in his Guide to South African Wine since the first edition in 1980.
Italian wine magazine Gambero Rosso uses its own unique wine glass symbols (bicchiere) to rate wine, from one to three. Other guides highlight top-quality wines with an asterisk (two for truly exceptional wines).

Score Explanation
5 StarsSuperlative. A Cape Classic
4 StarsExcellent
3 StarsGood everyday drinking
2 StarsCasual Quaffing
1 StarVery Ordinary
Platter's 5-Star South African Wine Scale

For more information on the world's wine critics, competitions and awards, including lists of the top-scoring wines, see Wine Critics and Wine Awards & Competitions.

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