100 Point Rating System

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Anyone reading my reviews will notice I use a 100 point rating system. Not just any 100 Point Rating System but the one created by Robert Parker Jr. – referred to sometimes as the Wine Advocate Rating System (WARS).

Some history: When I started with the Opimian Society I religiously reviewed the tasting notes sent to all members never questioning their origin or validity. The notes didn’t come with stars, numbers or grape clusters. I relied on the verbal descriptions of a Master Oenologist, one who travelled the wineries worldwide, sampling and contracting cases of wine for Canadian members. I had faith. It was a religious experience.

In January 2005 I started writing my own tasting notes. By this time I had left the Society and started following local wine reviews. Some used numbers. Some didn’t. Regardless, I started finding some instances a wine was described eloquently but I wouldn’t serve it to guests – and even if a wine was good, how good and compared with what? For myself, had I become the benchmark? I think so and decided to find a way to express it.

Numbers wouldn’t come to me until mid 2007. Being analytical (likely to a fault) I adopted WARS. The Wine Advocate website outlined the components to look for in each tasting. Starting from a Base of 50 then adding points for colour appeal(5), nose(15), flavours and finish(20), and cellaring potential(10), each of these components totalling to a max of 100. That meant a wine’s merit could be stated numerically. Does this mean a wine’s essences could be calculated with mathematical certainty? NO! Verbal descriptions remain key whereas the numbers, stars, grape clusters are an index to position a wine relative to others of a similar type. I found 100 to be a nice round number to work with. The following ranges bracket bottom line enjoyment levels.

96 – 100 Extraordinary
90 – 95 Outstanding
86 – 89 Interesting to Excellent
80 – 85 Drinkable to Enjoyable
70 – 79 Uninteresting to Simple
60 – 69 Unpleasant
50 – 59 Unacceptable

And when a wine just isn’t ready to serve I note ‘Cellar’

 
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Andrew Nairne 1 post

As a new user of WineAlign, comming from the Wine Access’s First-in-line E report, I am used to both a 100 point scale and a value for money rating. I can’t think of a better system than the 100 point scale for rating quality as it gives a great enough range to allow a reviewer to quantify subtle quality differences between the many wines reviewed.
However, quality is only half the equation, the other is a value rating. What I always looked for first in First-in-line E report for a Vintages release was the value ratings or “best buys”. A high value for money rating generally required a high quality rating, at least 87 points, so that it can greatly narrow the search of reviews to ponder in the vast number of wines released every two weeks. Reviewers often state their preception of a wines value equation in the body of a review, but finding this is inconvenient and does not provide a search screening criteria for a site like WineAlign. A standardized rating system for value is also important although it does not need the precision of a 100 point system. First-in-line used a 3 star system with 1/2 points being awarded, it worked, but a 5 or 10 point system would be better.

 

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‘Value’ is often in the ‘pocket book of the beholder’ so I have difficulty envisioning a numbering or star system that could qualify it satisfactorily – as a Reviewer or as a User. Perhaps you have somehow rationalized a Rating number and Stars to pick out personal values. I first have to be aware of who is providing the Rating. If I’m confident of the source I can then have some confidence of converting a Rating into Value by looking at the price. Some critics add a ‘half star’ for value… that just doesn’t compute. For a summary of LCBO Best Buys I go to Rod Phillips book and wander through that time to time though it’s not the only approach.

 

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Yesterday I met with an agent for a wine distributor… his comment, one I’ve heard several times so his view is not unique. First he went into a discourse on the Gambero Rosso 3 glass rating system… (Unfortunately I have never been able to interpret 3 of anything except for ‘if you fool me once, you can fool me twice, but not a third time ’). Many of the Agent’s wines were Italian so a GR rating is well entrenched in their wines and the agent view although Robert Parker ratings are often shown. After explaining GR his comment was Robert Parker’s system started at 50 and most of his wines were rated well above 80 so really it’s less than a 20 point system. How three unrelated factors could be put together to form a rationale critiquing a Rating System I can’t comprehend. And yet a 3 glass system was felt somehow more appropriate. Personally it doesn’t make a difference what System is used to go along with the verbal as long as 1: one is used and 2: it’s explained somewhere. Otherwise a number is just a thumbsuck.

 
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Wine 4 Me 55 posts

I only use ratings as a guide. I have tasted too many 90+ point wines that have disappointed to take them as seriously as I used to. Of more interest to me is what the taster says about the wine as some traits I intensely dislike (eg too much oak). Finally, for me, it is important to have some knowledge of the tasters preferences. For example, Mr Parker (despite his denial) tends to prefer high-alcohol, high-glycerin, modern wines. Fair enough, so I know where he is coming from and will often avoid some of these wines as not being to my tastes.

 

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Here’s some guides I’ve adopted. It’s from my ‘April Promos’ blog – they apply to words or numbers:
A tasting note that’s not dated and/or without a source isn’t worth reading.
A tasting note that’s older than a year for whites or two years for reds is no longer valid.
A tasting note included within an LCBO Promo (or other Ad) is just ‘marketing‘.
A tasting note by a critic local to a wine’s region is suspect.

 
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wayner9 3 posts

Why use a 100 point scale but then not use the bottom 50 points? When reading RP or WS reviews it seems like 99.9999% of ratings are between 70-100 – so why not use a 25 or 30 point scale.

It is kind of like Spinal Taps having amps that are louder because they go to 11!

 

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I don’t see a rationale in not using 100. RP, WS, DL, ST, and every critic I’ve read doesn’t taste even mediocre wine let alone a wine that gets in the 50 to 80 range so we don’t see them. That doesn’t mean there’s no bad wine on the shelves. And why make up a new scale… I’d rather spend my time tasting that devising a better system. WineAlign has a good range but again it doesn’t allow calling a bad wine bad… it’s ‘Fair’ or even ‘Average’ when it gets around 70’s. We’d throw that stuff out! WineAlign sticks to a range that serves critics not us plonk drinkers. I would like to understand the system used by ‘readleroy’ – now that’s mystifying. (eg. see Fassati Pasiteo, 642009) Cheers, B
PS I asked a local critic once why there were no wines rated below 80, in fact in the low 80’s, in his column. His reply was he tastes a lot of bad wine over a year tasting but doesn’t give print space for them. I offered to blog them privately but he declined. Another food & wine critic in Australia was sued for ‘slandering a restaurant’. Critics imho take the safe route – and I don’t fault them for it.

 
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Andrew Hunter 3 posts

I use the 100 pt scale as well simply because it seems to be the most common. It’s almost unheard of to find an undrinkable wine these days which is why almost every wine for sale will at least get a “drinkable” score of 80. Which is to say it’s better than homemade or what you would make in a do-it-yourself wine shop (this is where the 50’s 60’s and 70’s scores can be used!).

Bad commercial wine is uncommon. Modern wine technology and science is such that it’s just easier to make decent wine than ever before. The knowledge is out there. This means that just by virtue of the fact that someone made a bunch of wine and bothered to stick labels on it and got it into stores means that it’s at the very least drinkable.

This is why the 100 pt scale is in practice a 20 pt scale…80-100. The way it works for me is basically this: 80-84: drinkable, forgettable, 85-89: above average, something I would buy again, 90-94: Way above average, makes you say “oh wow!”, 95+: Orgasmic, so good you want to punch the guy next to you out of frustration at your loss of words.

Price should have no bearing on the rating unless you specify that you’ve curved your score accordingly. But a 92 should be a 92 regardless if it’s $20 or $200.

Ironically it is Parker’s own ratings (and his helper Jay Miller) that I’ve found most dubious…I shake my head at some of the boring or superextracted wines they’ve given 90+ ratings to.

Of course I’m also of the opinion that a wine can’t truly and properly be tasted unless you swallow it.

 

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Critics have acquired tastes and an approach to tasting wine likely nurtured by circumstances of their business. If one works the trade in Ontario with ‘cool’ climate wines for example ratings can be more tolerant of sharp and light reds. 70’s move up to mid 80’s whereas someone influenced only by the fluid in the bottle… definitely swallowing not once but several times over several minutes tasting will end up with a different evalutation. A noted critic this week took part in a marathon tasting each wine having to be rated in 6 minutes. This is like running a marathon and describing the fragrance of field flowers along the way. The 100 point rating given a wine is only as good as the elements on which it’s derived and the time taken to evaluate. I find WineAlign’s rating levels, 80 and below, are defined to please the winemaker – nothing is bad just poor, fair, average or good.

 

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And this is one of the current articles worth reading debunking a wine critics’ view of having a universal ability… http://tiny.cc/NZxN2 . But then it could be an ability we, as novices, impose on them and once imposed becomes de facto worth rewarding. A whole set of roles is created.

 
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Dan Trcka 21 posts

For a while, I also have been pondering about what the rating system means and what it means to me, seeing that some reviewer’s scores are completely off (I must however salute Mr. John Szabo’s accurate and consistent skill). I myself wanted to rate wines but didn’t know how or which scale to use. Mr. Robert Parker’s rating system appealed to me the most for two reasons:
1. It looks good. Even though it is true that majority of today’s reviews are somewhere between 80 and a 100 pts and hence we could use the ‘out of 20 scale’; we live in a society where percentages are embedded in our minds since childhood (getting anything greater than 80% on a test was awesome). Also, our brain knows that 88/100 = .88 is greater than 8/20 = 0.4 and therefore has a hard time equating the two, as our logical centre is stronger than the associative one.
2. In the 100 pt system, there is more room for accuracy. I come from Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia) where we used 1 to 5 scale (1 being the best), hence I can understand the 5 star or 3 glass rating systems and I know that these systems are highly inaccurate and easily skewed.

I understand why Mr. Parker came up with his 100 pt scoring system, he travelled to different parts of the world and different wineries, where he encountered a vast variation in quality than we ever will, as the loyal LCBO customers we are. The LCBO has done a great service shielding us from bad products and I would say that most wines, if not all, score above 80 pts. I, however, feel that his system doesn’t fully apply to the vast number of us Ontarians that only have access to the selection of a local store, and hence think that some criteria in his rating system can be dropped. For example, the ‘color of wine’ needs NOT to be scored (its subjective anyway) and ‘cellaring potential’ is often unpredictable – sure the wine can last (most can last at least a couple of years, even in the cellar of a condo), but will you like how it tastes after 10 years? What if you like berry driven wines? These aromas will be lost and replaced by woody and animal notes. So this rating is also subjective.

Not finding any rating system to my liking, but wanting to express myself I set out to make my own rating system (see my profile). After all, I am sure that the idea or a question directed to one-self whether a personal rating can withstand the influence of ‘delight’ and one own’s impression or whether it can be truthfully transposed and empower other people, has struck anyone who time-and-time-again has attempted to describe their own sensations and judgments.

 

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You may find the early chapters of ‘The Wine Trials 2010’ pertinent to an understanding of tasting wines. Results of studies by wine researcher Frederic Brochet found that knowing the price, seeing the colour, reading a label or even discussing the particulars of a wine can affect an ‘evaluation’ significantly.

 

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In his column today (G&M Sept 29) Beppi will add ‘scores’ to wines he writes comments for starting this Sat. http://t.co/pmHflST Time for me to start reading his column again perhaps. Ww

 
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Wine 4 Me 55 posts

Why should it matter whether Beppi publishes scores or not in his columns? Aren’t his tasting notes sufficient? I mean, I don;t think that his tasting skills have improved as a result. Either you trust his palate or you don’t.

 

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I followed Beppi for several years… then as I followed other writers I found I needed something to put words in perspective…. numbers do it for me (as long as the numbers represent taste components that are consistent and ones I can relate to – but seldom do writers define the components that add up to their number. There seems to be a reluctance to admit to using something created by Robert Parker). If, for example, Anthony Gismondi gives a wine a 90, DL gives it an 88, and JS an 84… it makes a difference what each means and what their notes say – often they say the same thing only slightly differently but their numbers differ. When it comes to trust… I don’t like broccoli no matter how much my wife says – maybe if she gave it a number??. Trust is a journey.

 

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Now Beppi’s column has dimension… Great