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How to Understand Wine Rating Systems

Jun 23, 2008
Many people use wine ratings to help them choose wines. These rating systems can be confusing because there is no standard for how they rate wine or even what factors they use to rate the wine. Since there is no main standard recognized by the industry, you have to take it upon yourself to review the rating system you are using.

There are several wine rating systems in use that are quite popular. Below is a brief explanation of two popular systems: The Wine Advocate Rating System and The Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine. As you can see by the names of these rating systems that some systems rate only specific types of wine.

Basics to Know

The main thing you have to recognize about rating systems is that they are very biased. One person usually writes the ratings, and they are solely based upon his or her specific tastes. So, the only way to get real use out of a rating system is to find one that suits your tastes.

You need to start by reading wine ratings and then tasting the wine yourself. Then you can see if you agree or disagree with the rating. Do this for a variety of ratings and try out a few different wines that each system rates. Eventually you should find a rating system that matches with your tastes. You can then use that system to help you choose new wines.

The Wine Advocate Rating System

The Wine Advocate Rating System is written by Robert Parker and runs from 50 to 100. The ratings are based upon the color, appearance, aroma, bouquet, flavor and overall quality of the wine. Anything over 80 is considered very good and anything over 90 is considered excellent. You know better the cost of a bottle of wine and the wine's ratings.

Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine

The Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine is a magazine that rates wine from 90 to 100. It uses a star system to rate wine.

* A rating of 80 to 86 is good but there is a note that it varies.
* A rating of 87 to 90 gets one star.
* A rating of 91 to 94 gets 2 stars and
* A rating of 95 to 98 gets 3 stars.

Each star is representative of how good the wine is, but the ratings number system is still used to distinguish between those on the low end of the spectrum. For example, a two star wine with a rating of 94 will be better than a two star wine with a rating of 91.

As you can see, rating systems vary greatly in many aspects. You alone can decide what makes a good rating system. Everyone is different. Even once you find a good rating system you may disagree from time to time with the ratings. Only you can really rate wine and how it tastes to you, but rating systems can be a handy guide when you are looking to try something new or choose a good wine for a special occasion.
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