Unless you are an experienced wine drinker or connoisseur, selecting a wine can be intimidating, especially if you're in a liquor store or restaurant and selecting a bottle on the spot. Your server or retailer may helpfully offer the wine's rating, or you turn to a popular wine review app like Vivino, but what does that rating actually mean?
What are wine ratings?
Scoring or rating wines came about in the mid-twentieth century when wine became more popular in America. American wine critic Robert Parker is credited with developing a standard rating system in the 1970's, based upon the American Standardized Grading System, widely used in grammar schools. Parker's scale is a 50-100 point scale correlating to "grades" ranging from A to F. A wine with 85 or more points (a "B" or higher) is considered a good, above average wine. A wine with 90 or more points (an "A") is considered outstanding.
How are ratings assigned?
Rating a wine is highly subjective, assigned by one critic or a collaboration. The critic(s) taste the wine, assign a rating and write a review. Due to the subjective nature, wine ratings are most helpful when paired with a review, giving the consumer more information on the critic's tastes and preferences.
What are ratings based upon?
Ideally, a critic will base their rating and review on four elements of the wine:
- Balance: What is the balance of the alcohol, acidity, tannins, and sweetness of the wine? Does any element stand out?
- Length: How long does the flavor of the wine linger on the palate?
- Intensity: Is the appearance and fragrance of the wine light or deep?
- Complexity: A wine's flavor is influenced by chemical changes due to aging, the blend of grapes, and barrel fermentation.
However - the critic's rating is influenced by their personal preferences for various types of wine.
The next time you are selecting a wine, consider the rating, but also read the reviews to determine if the wine fits your tastes and preferences.