Drink Magazine

About Those Wine Scores …

By Brian @WineInMyGlass

I started out using the popular 100-point scale for wine ratings on this blog. I’m not sure if that’s the best rating system to use, though. I’ve been using it partly because that’s the system CellarTracker uses for entering wine ratings. There are, however, a few problems with it, in my opinon.

First of all, it isn’t really a 100 point scale. Possible scores range from 50-100, so it’s only a 50 point scale. Furthermore, Anything under 70 is undrinkable as far as I’m concerned, so that really only leaves 30 points for most wines, and 20 points (80-100) for the majority of “decent” wines. Calling it a 100-point scale isn’t really an accurate description.

Even still, a score within that 20 or 30 point range has some uncertainty with it. When I rate a wine, the “true” rating is most likely within ±3 points of the rating I give it. For example, if I give a wine a score of 87, it would be better described as a range from 84-90. I might give another wine a score of 92, giving a range of 89-95. Since those two ranges overlap, there isn’t necessarily a significant difference between the wines, and I can’t say with certainty that the 92 wine is better than the 87. Essentially, the score I give a wine is an estimate.

Now, I realize that a professional wine reviewer may indeed have the wine tasting process precise enough to say a wine is definitely a 92, and not a 91 or a 93, although I expect there may still be a certain degree of uncertainty even with the experts. In any case, I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy that enjoys wine and enjoys writing about it.

I am, however, an engineer, and I have concerns about publishing a number with an implied precision higher than I can really claim. (Generally, a number such as 87 has an implied precision of ±0.5.)

What should I do instead? I’m not sure at this point. It seems to me, based on what I’ve discussed above, that a reasonable system would have a rating that corresponds to a range of 5-7 points. With an effective 30-point range, that would leave 4-6 ratings. I think 4 would be insufficient, so I’ll go for something with around 6 rating levels.

Perhaps this:

  • Extraordinary (96-100)
  • Excellent (90-95)
  • Very Good (86-89)
  • Good (82-85)
  • Average (78-81)
  • Below Average (74-77)
  • Poor (70-73)

What do you think? Please leave your comments below. Thanks!

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