What Is The 100-Point Wine Scale?

What Is The 100-Point Wine Scale?

The 100-point wine scale was invented by lawyer turned wine guru Robert Parker with his friend Victor Morgenroth. It first appeared in his magazine, The Wine Advocate, in the late 1970s and has since become the world's most widely used wine rating system. In this guide to the 100-point wine scale, we’ll look at how you can make the most of it, and also examine some of the controversies that surround it.

What Makes a Wine 90+

The 100-point wine scale explained

The 100-point wine scale rates wines from 50-100 points. These scores are broken down into ranges, so 50-59, 60-69, etc, with each range having the following official description:

  • 50-59 – Unacceptable
  • 60-69 – Lower than average
  • 70-79 – Average
  • 80-89 – Barley above average to excellent
  • 90-95 – Exceptional
  • 96-100 – Extraordinary

Less official, but a lot more practical, are our descriptions of these wine ratings:

  • 50-59 – Unacceptable – but as you will NEVER see a wine rated this low it’s not much use.
  • 60-69 – Lower than average – again, we’ve never seen a wine with a score this low or heard someone mention it. I mean, would you want to tell the world you’re selling a ’lower than average’ wine? It’s not going to get many lovers dancing in their seats, is it?
  • 70-79 – Average – this is an interesting one as it’s rarely seen and on the odd occasion it does appear, the tasting notes are hardly flattering. This is what Parker had to say of the 1975 Château Margaux (74/100). “Displaying considerable amber at the edge, with an old saddle leather, earthy, dusty nose, the 1975 Margaux has always been a disappointing effort. High acidity, austere flavours lacking ripeness and charm, and harsh tannin contribute to the downfall of this mediocre wine. I have had worse bottles than this, so be forewarned.” Sounds a little less than 'average' to us.

  • 80-89 – Barely above average to excellent – there’s a world of difference between an 80 and an 89-point wine. The former isn’t likely to be that great, while the latter can be joyous affairs.

  • 90-95 – Exceptional – for many this is the sweet spot in terms of wine ratings, especially when it comes to fine wine. Why? Well, wines with 90+ scores are not only likely to be great but they are also often great value for money.

  • 96-100 – Extraordinary – this is the most controversial of wine scores. Many critics now feel it should be split into two, with a range of 96-99 and a separate one for 100. A 96-99-point wine will be extraordinary, but a 100-point is perfect. Also, a 100-point score from Robert Parker invariably sends the price of the wine into orbit which is another argument for a separate category.

Who awards the scores?

Robert Parker’s 100-point wine scale has been adopted by many of the world’s leading critics and wine magazines. Scores are awarded by wine journalists such as Neal Martin and Julia Perotti Brown MW (Master of Wine) and Parker himself, though he does less than he used to.

What are wine scores based on?

Regardless of the wine’s style, where it’s made, or the price, critics are typically looking for wines that are:

  • Representative of their origins – so, for example, they want a fine red Bordeaux to taste like a wine from Bordeaux, not from California

  • Wines that show the best a region has to offer – which is why you’ll find wines from around the world with 90+ scores

  • Wines that have great balance – wine, like life, is about balance. A great wine will have the perfect balance of fruit, acidity, structure, and weight

Wine rating controversies

Wine ratings have always attracted controversy. The 100-point wine scale has been criticised over the years for the following reasons:

  • It’s too simplistic – one point can mean the difference between ‘Exceptional’ and ‘Extraordinary’ (‘Perfect'). A fair point perhaps, except one of its great detractors followed a 1-5-star system.

  • It’s made producers make wines one critic loves – a 100-point score can make a winery’s reputation. In the 1990s and 2000s, some big-name producers made wines that Parker would like and saw demand for their wines soar. The fact that wine buyers also loved what they were doing suggested they were doing the right thing.

  • Scores are all that matters – good scores do help sell wines. They’re easy to understand and you don’t need to be a Master of Wine to get a great bottle. That said some wines are unfairly penalised by not being to critics’ tastes, while others become unaffordable to most as they have high scores.

At the end of the day, the best wine is the one you like, not the one someone else says you should like by awarding it 98/100. At Perfect Cellar, we believe wine scores are a useful guide. The world of wine is huge and the number of wines on offer is growing all the time. A critic’s score can help you get more out of wine, but you’re the best wine critic there is when it comes to what you like. So, as you explore the wonderful world of wine, use your Perfect Cellar Virtual Cellar to add your own notes and scores and you’ll soon be scoring like a pro. Perfect. 

Like to know more about wine?

We hope you’ve found this guide to wine ratings useful. If you’d like to explore the world of wine, why not become a Perfect Cellar member? With our exclusive TastingBOXES, interactive tastings via Alexa, and an incredible range of fine wines, we have everything you need to enjoy finer wine. Perfect.

You may also be interested in reading our more in-depth red wine guide, white wine guide and sparkling wine guide.


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