A wine that scores 96 to 100 points is exemplary. It has multiple layers of aroma/flavor compounds, many of which will evolve or have evolved over years of cellaring. The wine exhibits impressive ripeness for its style, neither over nor under-ripe, delivering concentration, complexity and structure, which together form a harmonious composition. This category of wine further possesses a degree of singularity, expressing attributes that can be linked back to its provenance, the vintage, and the winery. Scores within this range are rarely awarded and even then, only after careful consideration. They are truly worth the hunt!
90 - 95 Points
The wines within this score range are excellent examples of their style, exhibiting well-judged ripeness, depth, harmony, and skillful winemaking. Any wine with a 90 point+ score comes highly recommended.
80 - 89 Points:
These are good to very good wines that are well-made and fit-for-purpose, warranting attention for everyday drinking. Wines within this score range will likely lack the necessary complexity, intensity, balance, or structure for significant further development in the bottle to deserve a 90 point or above score.
70 - 79 Points:
At this score level, the wines are below par to mediocre. Quaffable yet unexciting, they may possess minor flaws but are otherwise suitable for everyday drinking.
60 - 69 Points:
A wine scoring within this range can be considered distasteful and is best avoided due to issues such as ripeness, poor winemaking, or faults.
50 - 59 Points:
These are wines that are faulty beyond all possibilities of recommended consumption. In our modern era of better-informed grape growing and winemaking, fewer and fewer wines fall into this category. Today, it is almost impossible to make and bottle a wine this poor for commercial release. Almost.
Parentheses/Bracketed Scores: (## - ##)
A wine tasted from barrel, e.g., during Bordeaux primeurs, is given as an approximate score range tucked within parentheses/brackets. (95-97), for example.
A Score Followed by a Plus Sign: ##+
A plus sign after a score suggests that the wine is likely to improve over time and could well earn a higher score in a future tasting.
A Question Mark Instead of a Score or a Score Followed by a Question Mark: ? or ##?
A question mark in place of a score means that the wine was considered to possess a fault that goes beyond what could be judged to be bottle variation. Examples include smoke taint, excessive volatile acidity, Brettanomyces, reduction, geosmin, grey rot, TBA (affecting the winery), etc. A corked or oxidized wine will not be reviewed and a second, unaffected sample will be sought.
Scores are an essential part of a review, informing wine consumers where a wine sits qualitatively versus its peers. But, just as a scholastic score evaluates a student’s performance, wine scores comment on the collaborative qualitative performance of aspects such as site, vintage, and winemaker. In other words, scores are a grade reflecting the measurable quality factors within a wine. These factors include the absence of flaws, fruit ripeness, intensity, complexity, balance, length of finish, etc. And so, just as a student sitting an exam can achieve a grade of “100” if they answer all the questions correctly or if the quality of their work is of an infallible standard, a wine can, exceptionally, achieve 100 points.
A grade on an exam or relating to a student’s performance in a subject isn’t everything; it is just part of the story. A test grade tells you nothing of the student’s personality, their sense of style, or if you will even like them. Why? Because a score cannot begin to relate all those qualities of a person (or wine) that are immeasurable.
Wine scores tell the reader nothing about the wine’s style or character. They do not convey whether the wine is light-bodied, perfumed, and elegant or if it is full-bodied, rich, and generous. A score doesn’t tell the reader if the wine is savory, fruity, spicy, herbaceous, or toasty. It doesn’t explain if the wine is too young to drink, is within its drinking window, or is over the hill. The score simply tells you if it is a good example of its style, whatever that style may be.
Most wine drinkers have specific style preferences, which can vary according to occasion and mood. This is where scores falter because they can’t help you find the style or type of wine experience you crave. At The Wine Independent, we’re here to help you hone in on your style preferences. We offer a broad range of new filters that aren’t available on other websites, allowing you to search by body type, alcohol level, primary grapes, etc.
Finally, a well-written, accurate tasting note is essential for managing your wine experience expectations. Our tasting notes contain all the style, character, and maturity information necessary to give you an accurate indication of the kind of experience you can expect. Furthermore, anyone who has truly been bitten by the wine bug will know that some wines, like people, can trigger emotional responses. Wine can be a mind-blowing, sensual, mesmerizing, haunting, jaw-dropping, or heart-stopping experience. Conversely, wines can be innocuous, boring, confusing, and plain awful. A score cannot rate the emotions that wine elicits, but our critics are on hand to describe those emotional experiences, further helping you with your wine buying decisions.