A Better Wine Rating

When is the last time you had a wine rated outside the range of 88 to 93 points? The maximum is 100 points. Do you know the minimum? It’s 50, which doesn’t really matter, since you’ll never see it. No wine, even the convenient store varietals publish a rating, if it’s under 88 points.

That scale goes something like this:

    95-100 — Classic; a great wine
    90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
    80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
    70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
    60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
    50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

Why start at 50?  I guess this is the every-wine’s-a-winner method, with no grape feeling unwanted at 25 points.  A usable spread of only 5 points is like having a speedometer in a normal car that goes up to 2,000.  You’ll only ever use a fraction of the gauge.  The entire 50 points could be used, but isn’t,  Perhaps we don’t want to admit drinking below average wine? “I’d rate that Syrah about a 59, so enjoy dinner and the poor, undrinkable wine I’ve just served.”

A better method would have a broader, more intuitive scale.  The scale would have more room to differentiate amongst the wines at my grocer in addition to those a sommolier recommends.    Tacking descriptions onto those ranges above is arbitrary.  Conversely, translating: “Wow.  I love that wine.” from a qualitative statement to a number, is a challenge too.

My group of wine lovers has adopted a simple process.  It starts the same as you learned in wine class:  You look at it.  You swirl it.  You smell it.  You taste it.  You consider it.

Then you ask, “What would I pay for that?”

That steal you found at CostCo for $14 might answer: $40!  The Opus One I splurged on once at Ruth’s Chris said, “Sorry.  No more than $90.” Ouch.  The bottom limit is zero and while there is no theoretical high, the practical limit is set by common sense.  No wine is slotted into an arbitrary range with a generic label.

Does the potential for one wine drinker with a budget twice as large as another’s skew the ratings?  I don’t think so.  Just because I rate the Sequoia Grove Cabernet at 35 doesn’t mean you’d rate it at 70, just because you can afford to.  There is a natural course correction based on the other choice available.  You would still say to yourself, “For 70, I can have that Silver Oak or Franks Family Farm.”

Here’s hoping you find many a $10 bottle that receives your ecstatic rating of 35.  Enjoy!

Leave a Reply