Did you know that there is a grading system for wine? It’s true! Just like a grade on a school test, wines are also tested and given a specific point value to help inform consumers about the quality of a wine. The higher the score, the better the quality of the wine. Below is a breakdown of the point system – where it came from, who decides the rating, and what it really means to be a 90+ wine.
Where did the point system come from?
Today’s most popular wine rating system was popularized in the late 1970s by American wine advocate (and critic) Robert Parker. Based on the European 20-point scale, Parker believed that the existing system “did not provide enough flexibility and often results in compressed and inflated wine ratings.” (Robert Parker) Thus, the 100-point scale that is widely used today was created.
This 100-point scale examines a wine based on not only elements like color and flavor profile, but also the complexity and the quality of ingredients used. All wines are tested and graded during a blind test with small panels of wine specialists. The cumulative number of points in each testing category is added together to determine a wine’s final point value.
What does it mean to be 90+?
If a wine is rated at 90 points or above, you can rest assured that the wine you are about to drink is of a very high quality. While some reviewing groups use different methods and classifications, generally any wine at 90 or above is an “outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, terrific wines.” (WTSO from the Vine) Below is a common breakdown of a 100-point scale classification.
Here’s a sample Wine Scale to see where your wine falls:
Who awards points?
Typically, food and wine critics use this scale when evaluating a new wine. Others, like Wine Inspector, are often contacted by vineyards or distributors to evaluate a wine before it goes to market.
A word of caution: critics, like us, have their own opinions and preferences. Wine ratings should be used as a guide to selecting a wine you will like. Just because a wine may fall under 90 points, doesn’t mean the wine is not enjoyable – it simply means that the critics that reviewed and rated that particular wine, did not personally find the wine to be outstanding. It does not mean that you should avoid trying the wine; it may end up being your new favorite!
Some of our favorites to try
For starters, we love 90+ Cellars as great wine options at an affordable price. The great part about this wine is that they don’t in fact even have a vineyard! 90+ has taken wines that have been rated at 90 points or more, stripped them of their name brand labels, and sell the wine with only limited details: the points, the varietal, and the lot. This is a great way to get an excellent wine at an even better price.
Other 90 point (or higher) wines include:
Try any of the wines on the list? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Please drink responsibly.