Washington Wine Report Rating System

This is the first of two posts intended to provide background information about Washington Wine Report. This post is intended as an elaboration of the information previously listed here.

Rating System
All wines reviewed wines on Washington Wine Report are rated as follows:



Rough Equivalence in a 100 Point System

Equivalence in a Five Star System


An exceptional wine. Buy it now and either tell all your friends about it or keep it very, very secret, depending on your personality and availability.




An excellent wine. Convince a friend to buy some and share it with you.




A good wine. Worth drinking. If it represents a particular value I will list it as Recommended.




A decent wine. Drink it if you must.




Not recommended or a flawed wine. Refuse this wine if served.



· Wines are rated irrespective of price. However, if a wine with a ‘+’ rating represents a particular value, I list it as Recommended.

· I try generally not to give slash ratings (e.g, +/*). Rather, I rate down if a wine sits between two categories (never up). If I feel doing so greatly misrepresents the wine in some way, I will, occasionally, give a slash rating.

· All wine reviews include tasting notes. Additionally, I try as best I can either in the tasting note or post itself to describe a winery’s style so that readers can steer towards it or away from it based on their own preferences.

· I try to rate wines as best I can regardless of my personal preferences. Wines are made in a variety of styles, some of which I personally favor and some of which I do not. However, when evaluating a wine, I try to put aside my personal preferences and ask “What is this wine trying to do? Does it do it well?” For varietal wines, I do consider whether the wine is varietally correct.

How I Taste Wine
I taste wines in a variety of settings. While reviewing all wines in the same, controlled environment would be ideal, as an independent blogger it would unfortunately greatly limit the number of wines I am able to review.

For this reason, I sample and review wines in both private and public settings. Private settings are controlled environments with respect to temperature, light, stemware, and other variables. Public settings include tasting rooms, events, and other settings. Of course, if I do not feel I am able to properly evaluate a wine for whatever reason, I do not include a review of the wine regardless of the setting.

Given that I taste wines in both public and private settings and that I am a one-person operation, I rarely review wines under blind conditions. If I were able to taste all of the wines I review under blind conditions, I might consider doing so. Given that I cannot, I do not.

I prefer to sample red wines between 62 and 66 degrees and white wines between 50 and 55 degrees. If there is any variation between these temperatures and the temperature I sample the wine at, I note this.

Background on the System
My rating system is a non-standard one. The system evolved organically. One day, with a long list of wines to sample on a printed sheet, I needed some way to keep track of what I had already tasted. I used a dot. I discovered a wine I liked and gave it a plus, a wine I liked more and gave it a star, and a wine I liked most of all and gave it two stars. If a wine was bad or obviously flawed, I gave it a minus.

I had no idea at the time that this essentially equated to a five star system or even that such systems were used for rating wine. Rather, I found it to be a practical way of looking at wine. I equate these ratings with various buckets: a decent wine (.); a good wine (+); an excellent wine (*); an exceptional wine (**); and a bad wine (-). I added the additional text around these categories more for fun than to be taken seriously.

Over the years, I have considered moving to other systems, such as the 100 point system, which consumers favor, or a traditional five star system. When I started this blog, I did not use a 100 point system because I felt I had no business rating wines in this manner. As I have gained more experience, I have resisted moving to this system.

I personally have nothing against the 100 point system and believe it has its place in rating wine. I do not use it on my blog, principally, because I prefer to provide categories that are broader and have differences that are more readily understandable to the average consumer. Is a wine bad, decent, good, excellent, or exceptional?

I have resisted moving to an explicit five star system for more esoteric reasons. The five star system – like the 100 point system – has a great deal of scholastic connotations to it, connotations I like to avoid in providing my ratings of wines. Additionally, I see this system as a slippery slope. With five stars, I would no doubt soon find myself giving 3.5 stars and maybe even 3.25 stars! 20 points would surely follow. Could 100 be far off? I am partially joking here, but partially serious as well.

Trust me, I do not expect my rating system to take the world by storm. And any rating system has its pluses and minuses. While at times my system does limit me, overall it forces me to make decisions about a wine. I find that it has worked for me. Hopefully you will find the same.

If you have any questions my rating system, please contact me at wawinereport@gmail.com.

Sean P. Sullivan

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