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Wine Critic Scores...How Do They Differ?

There are many different wine critics and bloggers, all diffusing their opinions on the quality and features of the world's wine offerings. While it is impossible for us to follow them all, we do consult the following critics and we often publish scores and notes from the top 4 critics listed below.

WA - Robert M. Parker, Jr. (Wine Advocate)
WS - Wine Spectator
ST - Steven Tanzer (International Wine Cellar)
BH - Allen Meadows (Burghound.com)
MB - Michael Broadbent
CC - Clive Coates

The prevailing rating system is the 100-point scale used by Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer, Allen Meadows, although you'll notice that each of them have unique point breakdowns.

According to Wine Spectator: "Wines are always tasted blind. Bottles are bagged and coded. Tasters are told only the general type of wine (varietal or region) and vintage. Price is not taken into account." Ratings are based on "potential quality, on how good the wines will be when they are at their peaks."
•95-100: Classic, a great wine
•90-94: Outstanding, a wine of superior character and style
•80-89: Good to very good, a wine with special qualities
•70-79: Average, a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
•60-69: Below average, drinkable but not recommended
•50-59: Poor, undrinkable, not recommended

One of the most well-known and respected wine critics, Parker's rating scale is based on "peer-group, single-blind conditions meaning that the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known." "Every wine is given a base score of 50 points. The wine's general color and appearance merit up to 5 points. The aroma and bouquet merit up to 15 points, depending on the intensity level and dimension of the aroma and bouquet as well as the cleanliness of the wine. The flavor and finish merit up to 20 points, and again, intensity of flavor, balance, cleanliness, and depth and length on the palate are all important considerations. Finally, the overall quality level or potential for further evolution and improvement -aging- merits up to 10 points."
•96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase and consume.
•90-94: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
•80-89: A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
•70-79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
•60-69: A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.
•50-59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable.

Stephen Tanzer's rating scale is described as such: "Wines are scored relative to their peer group based on their expected quality during their period of peak drinkability. A `+' after a score denotes a wine that is likely to merit a higher rating in the future. Precise scores are provided only for wines in bottle; ranges are offered for unfinished wines."
•95-100: Extraordinary
•90-94: Outstanding
•85-89: Very good to excellent
•80-84: Good
•75-79: Average
•70-74: Below average
•<70: Avoid

BH - ALLEN MEADOWS (Burghound.com)
Meadows' scale is based on a wine's "expected quality at peak drinkability" and "are evaluated within the context of their appellations." Further, "finished, bottled wines are assigned specific scores as these wines are market-ready. Wines tasted from barrel are scored within a range. This reflects the reality that a wine tasted from barrel is not a finished, market-ready product."
•95-100: Truly incomparable and emotionally thrilling. A wine so rated is as good as Burgundy gets. By definition, it is reference standard for its appellation.
•90-94: Outstanding. Worth a special effort to purchase and cellar and will provide memorable drinking experiences.
•85-89: Good to high quality. Burgundies that offer solid quality in every respect and generally very good typicity. "Good Value" wines will often fall into this category. Worth your attention.
•80-84: Average to good quality. The wine is "correct," displays no noticeable flaws and will provide pleasing, if straightforward, drinking.
•75-79: Barely acceptable quality. The wine is not worth your attention nor is it good value.
•75 and below: Don't bother. A wine with noticeable, irremediable flaws.

Other rating systems include the 5-star scale used by Michael Broadbent and Clive Coates' 20-point scale, both of which you can see below.

Another well-respected wine authority and author of many books including Wine Tasting and Vintage Wine, Broadbent popularized a 5-star scale in his 1980 book, The Great Vintage Wine Book.
•5 stars: Outstanding
•4 stars: Very good
•3 stars: Good
•2 stars: Moderately good
•1 star: Not very good, but not bad
•No stars: Poor

Clive Coates, author of many wine books and another very influential wine critic, uses a 20-point scale that awards points in the context of the overall quality of the vintage. For example, an 18.0 out of 20.00 wine in a 14.0 out of 20.0 vintage would be the same as a 14.0 out of 20.0 wine in an 18.0 out of 20.0 vintage.
•19.0-20.0: Excellent, the best
•16.5-18.5: Very good to very fine indeed
•15.0-16.0: Good to very good
•13.5-14.5: Quite good
•12.0-13.0: Not bad, average
•10.0-11.5: Disappointing, if not poor
•Less than 10.0: Somewhat disagreeable, if not faulty