You scan through the plethora of options in a wine store, and you ask yourself, “Which bottle should I buy?” Choosing a vino to add to the collection in your cellar can be a challenge at times, especially if you’re a newbie at collecting. Most wine aficionados check reviews or ratings before they decide on purchasing a bottle. Who makes these reviews, and are they really that important?
A Brief History of Wine Ratings
You’ll hear long-time wine collectors often say, “I only buy wines that score 90 points and above.” It makes you wonder whether they can really distinguish an 89-point from a 90-point wine – they most probably can’t!
The experience that wine gives varies from person to person. The same bottle of Chardonnay that can make one person happy can make another squirm. This is because each individual has a preference. But, if wine tasting experiences are very subjective in nature, why do we have ratings assigned to each bottle? Where did all this begin?
The Davis System of Rating Wine
It all began in 1959 when an Enology professor at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Maynard Amerine, developed a scoring guide called “The Davis System.” In this scoring system, a number of points are assigned to ten categories. The points are then added to achieve the overall score of the wine.
The categories of “The Davis System” include:
Wine can generally be white or red, with variations of darkness from yellowish to burgundy. Two points are assigned to this category.
3. Aroma and Bouquet.
The scent that a wine gives off contributes greatly to the overall tasting experience. A pleasantly aromatic wine can get up to four points.
4. Volatile Acidity.
The wine is tasted to determine the strength of its vinegar content. If the wine does not smell like vinegar at all, it can get a maximum of two points. A hint of vinegar in its odor can garner a wine one point, while a strong and pungent vinegar smell can give a wine zero points.
5. Total Acidity.
The level of acidity contributes to whether the wine is enjoyable or not. Wine with less acidity can be scored with a maximum of two points.
Wine is also observed for its sugar content and how its sweetness balances the acidity. Well-balanced sweetness versus acidity can get a vino a maximum of one point.
When the wine is tasted, it is evaluated on how it feels in the mouth – light, medium or heavy. Its alcohol content is also observed. A maximum of one point can be given in this category.
A rich and well-balanced flavor can give a bottle of wine a maximum of two points in this category.
Some wines are very astringent to taste, and this means a high tannin content. Too much tannin in wine will make it unlikeable. The most points for wines with the right amount of tannins is two points.
10. General Quality.
This category is completely subjective, depending on the preference of the evaluator. A wine can get a maximum of two points here.
How the Scores are Interpreted
17 to 20 points: The wine has no defects and has purchase-worthy characteristics.
13 to 16 points: These are typically considered as standard wines. They have no defects, but they don’t have outstanding characteristics.
9 to 12 points: These are wines that are sold on the market at very low prices. They have slightly noticeable defects.
5 to 8 points: Wines that fall within this score range are below commercial acceptability.
1-5 points: These are scores for wines that are completely spoiled.
The 100-Point Scale of Rating Wine
The Davis System of rating wines was generally accepted until the mid-70s when a wine critic named Robert Parker and his friend Victor Morgenroth, realized the scoring method was faulty. They didn’t like the feeling of deducting points from a wine. So, they introduced another system of scoring, and that is the 100-point scale.
This scoring method gives 50 points to all wines just for being wine. Then on top of those 50 points, it adds up to five points for color and appearance, a maximum of 15 points for aroma and bouquet, 20 points for flavor and finish, and a final 10 points for overall quality.
This 100-point scale is most popular among wine lovers in the United States, because the scoring system is relatable to Americans. This is because the system is similar to the grading methods in our schools.
Interpretation of the 100-point Scale Scores
Unlike the Davis System, the 100-point scale is more positive in its qualitative analysis of the scores. After adding the points assigned to each category on the 100-point scale, the scores are interpreted as:
95 to 100: Classic.
Wines with this rating are considered highly recommendable.
90 to 94: Outstanding.
Wines with scores that fall within this range have superior characteristics and style.
These kinds of wines have distinctive qualities that are worth trying.
80 to 84: Good.
This rating means that the wine is solid and well-made.
75 to 79: Mediocre.
Wines with this rating are still drinkable, but they may have minor flaws.
50 to 74: Not Recommended.
Wines that have scores that fall below 75 points are not recommended for consumption.
Wine Ratings as a Guide to Purchasing Wines
Wine ratings are mere numerical interpretations of other people’s opinions. And, opinions are, well, just that! They can have their thoughts about a certain bottle of wine, and you can also have yours.
When scanning through the various wines in the wine store, you can use the wine ratings as a guide on which wines are most recommended. But, at the end of the day, it’s still your taste buds that matter. Don’t hesitate to try different kinds of wines and create your own rating system to rate each type.