Wine Scoring Systems: A Comparison

I've recently bumped into this Wine Score System comparison

"HOW WE RATE WINES (and other things)"

But You can find similar comparisons between wine rating systems around the web, e.g.


Let's start with some fundamentals: In my opinion, wine scores outside the context of an overall wine evaluation ARE WORTH NOTHING.

Provided this preface, I'm noticing an extremely sad and increasing habit: entering inside many wine shops, you can see some sad bottles (they are nearly crying) with a collar reporting A NUMBER (e.g. 94pts!!). It's like a noose for a poor guy sentenced to death (far from a metaphor, as we are really killing the true essence of Wine, in a foolish attempt to boost sales).

Anyway, nothing wrong with wine critics here. This is just the retailers' fault, it's just a questionable attempt to increase profits. Business is business, after all.

What's instead the problem with international wine critics?

Let's go back to the comparison of the scores systems. Some wine guru uses 100pts scale, some other guru uses 20pts scale, some other a 5pts or stars scales.

They even tell you what these numbers means. For example a 18pts wine is "A cut above superior"; a 90-94pts is "Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style". And so on and so forth...

What's the problem? Where is the lack of transparency? Why some people accept these scores as lightening guides in wine purchase? Why many other people perceive instead these scores like ridiculously useless and unreliable stuff? 

The answer, in my opinion, is very simple: 

  • A SCORE WITHOUT THE BREAKDOWN OF THE EVALUATING CRITERIA HAS ZERO SIGNIFICANCE: what is a "superior" wine? superior with respect to what? superior accordingly to which criteria? MYSTERY. Who cares if you use a scale of 5, 20, 100 or 1 billion points?? You need to tell me the criteria that make the final number!!!  

  • MYSTERY: this is the key word. If the evaluation system is cloudy and unclear, far from transparent, Wine 'ranking' remains a mystery to many. Fantastic. That's the trick. You need a guru, a wizard to guide you in the woods. And gurus decide their own path accordingly to their own taste, and this may not  be always the best one (or the one you will really like).

  • SURF THE NET: which international guru clearly declares the criteria adopted in the  wine evaluation? I did this exercise and I've found few example. The Italian AIS, the American wine society, or Luca Maroni systems are clearly declared, the U.S. Vino Joe from and systems are clearly declared as well. Neal Martin wrote a piece on NobleRot Magazine (issue 8) stating his personal criteria to great wines are balance, sense of place, complexity, age-ability (why not reporting them in his published scores? I think It would be useful). Recently, has released an app in which users can rate their own wine: the final score is the average of 4 criteria (aroma, taste, finish, overall). That's a good example.  Maybe there are few other examples I'm missing... I don't know...but can't find anything about the general international critics (the ones used at the end of the day by international wine retailers, the ones that drive the market). This is strange, and in my opinion, it's a major key of their success: maybe people want just a number, an easy-to-follow direction. They can't really be bothered with wine fuss. Fair enough...

I instead think we should really wake up and understand that wine is not black magic! Wine is not a mystery! You can decide on your own what you like! We are not puppets! We don't need any guru's or witch doctor's hand to guide our movements. Drink what you like! And, if you want to evaluate and score a wine, put down first which criteria (and their weights) are important for you! What makes a great wine for you! Wine is one of the most honest products of our Earth, and MUST be treated with honest humbleness! The Earth belongs to all of us, not to the few gurus! We live in this planet! Don't let other people shaping the planet for you!

For me, it's clear and simple. And I share it with you with extreme transparency. Here are my 5 criteria.
  1. Integrity (with respect to grape variety and terroir): How much of the original fruit, soil and climate characteristics can you find in the final wine. Are the original characteristics there, or are they stripped off by inaccurate/aggressive wine-making or spoiled by unwanted bacteria/yeasts?
  2. Balance/Harmony: How the Acid/Tannic components are counterbalanced by the Sweet/Alcoholic components. How the external components (e.g. oak tannins) integrate with the fruit extracts.
  3. Complexity: is the wine offering just a uni-dimensional sensation (e.g. fruit forward) or layers after layers of different flavors are coming one after another?
  4. Persistence (length): how long the goods delivered by the wine last in your mouth after your swallow/spit it? Just few seconds or a minute or more?
  5. Hedonism: The hedonic evaluation is absolutely personal, but I believe it's fundamental to be included in determining the final score. It is an indication of which level of pleasure the wine delivers to you. At the end of day, wine is made for giving pleasure not just for being a fluid to be analyzed by a robot. Even a wine that is technically faulty can deliver the highest level of pleasure to some palate or being just disgusting for others.  

You can follow some or all of them or identify your own (e.g. value for money, beauty of the label :-), food-friendliness, age-ability, whatever you may be interested in).

FINAL TOTAL score for me is 1 to 5 points = average of the 5 criteria above: SIMPLE, EASY, TRANSPARENT.

That's the beauty of giving a breakdown of the criteria. Two wines may score the same points (let's say 4.0/5). But one can get this score with scoring 5points in criterion1 and 3points in criterion2, while the other can feature the opposite situation.

I think this is much more helpful, for both consumers and producers.

Just my point of view, of course. But, hope it make sense! 

Enjoy and remember:

Be clever! Use your own eyes! Use your own nose! Use your own mouth! Use your own brain!

Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.
( Ulysses, accordingly to Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia, Inferno canto XXVI )


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