Ratings Explained


Wines are rated on a 100-point scale, much like that used in many schools. Here’s how the ratings break down:

80-84 points: A sound wine that shows varietal character.

85-89 points: An unflawed wine that shows some depth and concentration of aromas and flavors.

90-93 points: A Gold Medal wine of its type, showing balance, depth and secondary flavor profiles found in the best of its style.

94-97 points: Hedonistic pleasure in a glass. Remarkable balance, aromas, flavor and length. A pure expression of the varietal or type.

98-100 points: A wine for the ages! Will drink sublimely for decades.

Note: It is Wine Lines’ policy not to publish reviews of wines that are rated lower than 80 points because it is not our intent to negatively impact a winery’s sales. Wines can sometimes suffer damage while in transit, and it’s possible that we receive “off” bottles on occasion. When we encounter a wine that scores poorly or seems to be “off,” we inform the winery, just in case there’s a problem in its cellar or storage facility.


You’ll note that some wine reviews include an “A-B-C” grade in addition to Wine Lines’ numeric rating. In these cases, the wines were included in a consumer tasting involving between 50 and 80 people, and the grades represent a group composite, based on show-of-hands voting using an A, B, C, D and F grading system. The consumer groups — culled from Glen and Mary’s High Desert Wine Explorers club in California — typically included a wide range of wine drinkers, from newcomers to experienced.

Wine Lines was the first wine column to regularly publish consumer grades in addition to its authors’ wine ratings. For many years, it was the only column to do so, and there were three main reasons for this:

1. Many wine writers believe their palates are “perfect,” so it logically follows that their assessments will be “correct,” and what anyone else thinks is irrelevant. And that mindset is reflected in their writing.

2. Some wine writers are afraid of offending their winemaker friends by publishing less-than-favorable reviews — even if those reviews represent a cumulative opinion of several dozen people.

3. Some wine writers, especially those with no formal journalism training, would rather try to impress you with their knowledge than report on what your peers think.

What has always made Wine Lines different is that we actually care about what consumers think. And providing a forum wherein “amateur” assessments can be compared side-by-side with “professional” assessments not only is educational, but occasionally entertaining as well… as in: “What were those judges thinking, anyway?!?”

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