When I am buying wine, there is very frequently a label on the wine showing what the wine received on a 100 point scale from some wine rater. The overwhelming majority are Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, or Wine Spectator.

From what I can tell, the ratings are not equivalent, and I am often disappointed. Since I haven’t really done a dedicated analysis of them, I am not sure if it’s just lower standards, different preferences, or other factors that influence the scores. It could be that a 95 from each is meaningful if I knew some way to interpret the rating or knew about how each rater evaluates, but at this point I have just taken to ignoring the number.

Is there a (mostly) objective way to prioritize and normalize these ratings so that I can actually use them to help inform my wine buying?

3 Answers 3


Since Robert Parker invented numerical rating of wines there have been a number of imitators. In my opinion there is a lot of grade inflation. You basically never see a wine rated below 86 in any of the ratings. Most seem to be rated from 90 and above. I'm assuming there is some renumeration when a wine producer uses a particular rater's trademark and grade when promoting a wine and you can price a 90 higher than an 89.

One assumes a 95 or above is a very special wine and 93 is very good. I think a grade of 90 is suspect but probably palatable. I suspect the very best values are wines rated 89.

In any case, I think it is more important to figure out what varieties of wines you like. I personally would almost always prefer a Rhone red to a Burgundy regardless of rating. The fact that they are usually cheaper is a bonus.


The problem of those wine ratings, especially the Robert Parker 100 point scale, is not necessary comparing them, but understanding them.

The 100 point scale won't tell you if you will like the wine, it will just say how well the wine matches the characteristics of that style of wine.
You may love an 85 point Rhone Syrah but hate a 95 point Riesling. You should know the style of wine you like and then use the ratings to find the best wines within those regions.

Also, the scale doesnt start at 0, but at 50 - which would be an unacceptable wine. 70 - 80 is average, 80 - 90 is good, and 90 - 100 is very good to outstanding. There are some wine reviewers that tend to give very high ratings (the infamous 99 Luca Maroni points), so that their name will appear on the lable. But appart from such shady reviewers, there are a lot of very reliable and trustworthy ones.

As an advice I would say, take several rating into account. One single 92 doesn't say very much, but when 4 or 5 renowned reviewer gave >90 points, it should be a good wine. And when you find a reviewer (could also be a blogger, for example), that matches your taste, you can weigh their opinion more than others.

  • 1
    This is a good answer. That said, I challenge anyone to show that 70-80 represents average wine. I don't think I've ever seen a single wine rated in the 70's on anyones scale.
    – Eric S
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 16:39
  • @EricS That's likely because of two things. 1. Wineries can decide when to put a rating (badge) on the bottle, so only high ratings will appear there. 2. Sites like Wine Spectator focus on respected wines / wine makers which tend to score better. They don't review every discount wine for example. But it happens, that a wine scores 75 points, and they release it on their website (where no one looks except wine geeks).
    – d4zed
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 17:37
  • One can subscribe to the Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator publication (or website). I did for a while and never saw a rating in the 70's and very, very few in the low 80's. The actual average is probably nearer to 89 or 90 for Wine Spectator. Now one might argue that they only review better wines, but I still believe there is a lot of grade inflation which makes the grading far less useful than it could be.
    – Eric S
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 18:06

The issue is there are many different type of wines and many different ways of rating them.

Some people will just rate with "I like it"/"I don't like it". Some people will go through the full process of seeing, smelling, tasting, touching. And depending on the complexity rate it by following criteria.

The issue there is nobody feels the taste the same way and likes the same thing. Some people will rate a wine with a good note because it has a smoky taste to it while you prefer a raspberry taste for example. Some people prefer complex wine while others don't feel any difference between a basic and a complex wine...

For wine (and everything you can taste: food, beer, spirits, ...) what really matters is not the rating but the notes and the comments associated with the ratings.

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