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Wine Ratings Explained


You may know what a five-star hotel is, but do you know what wine ratings mean? For instance, is a 90-point wine a well-regarded wine or one you should probably leave on the wine store shelf? Knowing a little bit about wine point systems can help you get the most enjoyment out of your wine club wine package.

About wine point systems

Like hotel rating systems, there is no universal wine point system. In fact, there are several that you’ll see commonly used.

Parker system: Created by wine writer and enthusiast Robert M. Parker Jr. in the 1970s, the Parker system is arguably the most commonly-used wine point system. The ratings range from 50 to 100, with 100 being a perfect wine and 50 being something barely fit to drink. “Wine Spectator,” “Wine Advocate” and “Wine Enthusiast” magazines use a variation of this system.
Star system: Some wine critics, most notably England’s Michael Broadbent, use a star system to rate wines, similar to the hotel rating system. In this system, a five-star wine is the best and a one-star wine is the least desirable. However, you’ll likely only see four and five-star wines in your wine club package.
User-generated ratings: The proliferation of social media sites has given birth to user-generated, interactive rating systems. Web sites, such as CellarTracker, allow users to rate a wine and leave tasting notes. The cumulative, constantly-updated score is posted on the site.

Critics of wine point system argue that a number or a star rating doesn’t take into account the myriad of factors that contribute to a wine’s flavor profile, such as where the grapes were grown (the terroir), the varietal, the wine maker’s skills and how the wine was aged. For instance is a 90-point Cabernet Sauvignon really equal to a 90-point Riesling? Many would contend that they are too different to compare. Still, understanding a little about the wine point systems can help you evaluate and make your own decisions about the wines included in your monthly wine club package.