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Wine Rating Systems Explained

Like most rating systems, whether it?s used to determine the best hotel, Olympic ice-skater, or next pop singer, they?re highly subjective and dependent upon a variety of factors. When it comes to rating wine, things like the taster?s personal preferences, the type of wine glass used, or the wine?s serving temperature, one system?s winner may not be another?s. So, keeping that in mind, don?t simply rely on a certain wine rating system?s choice for the best tasting wine without knowing what your own likes or dislikes are. It?s like reading a glowing movie review only to find that when you actually see the movie you?re not as much of a fan of French subtitled epic dramas about turn-of-the-century mimes as the reviewer might have been.

There are a variety of published wine ratings systems that are considered respectable in the wine tasting community. You can view these ratings in many wine publications, such as Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast , or Wine & Spirits Magazine. You can also pay to subscribe to the many online wine rating guides. Some of these wine guides are quite expensive, so only do so if you know your tastes are similar to the reviewer?s tastes. Most wine rating systems use either a 50-to-100 or a 1-to-20 ratings scale. The 50-to-100 wine rating scale is probably the most widely accepted and used. Many wine connoisseurs feel that this scale is more descriptive and all-encompassing than the 1-to-20 scale, but again you should decide on your own which wine rating system matches up with your own personal wine tastes when buying wine.

You should never depend solely on a numeric rating for any particular wine. With each wine review and rating there will usually be a written description of the wine and how it received a particular rating number. Just because a wine got a 98 on a particular wine rating scale, it doesn?t necessarily mean you?ll enjoy it. Of course, many times the highest rated wines are the most expensive wines, but this doesn?t mean that everyone will enjoy those particular wines. Sometimes an affordable, respectable 79 wine rating is one that you might prefer over the higher rated ones. Don?t let the ratings system dictate what wines you should or should not like.

One of the most popular, respected wine rating systems is by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate. According to his 50-to-100 scale, wine generally falls into six scoring categories: extraordinary (96-100), outstanding (90-95), very good (80-89), average (70-79), below average (60-69), and unacceptable (50-59). Parker awards each wine points based on its color, aroma, flavor, and overall quality. While this wine rating system is a good one to use to narrow down your choices of wines to taste, you should again depend on your own likes and dislikes in determining which wines rate highest on your own palate.

Other professional wine raters, such as Stephen Tanzer of Food & Wine Magazine, use a similar wine rating system, but you don?t always need to rely on the experts to determine which wines to choose from. You can develop your own wine rating system as you travel down the road to understanding wine and what you like and dislike about different varieties and flavors. Things to consider when rating your own wines can be divided into four categories: sight, smell, taste, and finish. Assign your own numeric rating system based on the different aspects of wine that you would consider poor, good, or great. Don?t worry how the experts do it. As long as it?s meaningful to you, that?s all that matters.

- Chrysta Lea Baker
Chrysta is a freelance writer who enjoys wine and hopes to bring a sense of fun and enthusiasm through her writing for new wine enthusiasts.

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