Rating System

At Northwest Wine Report, I use the 100-point system to rate wines. Here, this is truly a 20-point scale, using the descriptions below as a guide.

The 100 point system has dominated wine ratings in part because it is familiar to many people from their school days. I have therefore also given what I see as the “letter equivalent” in terms of scholastic ratings. Note that the numerical ratings and “letter equivalents” do not always align. For example, an 80 is not a particularly low academic score. But an 80 is quite a low score for a wine.

Special Designations

In addition to the ratings above, a subset of wines also receive certain special designations. These are based on the following criteria.

Why only a 20 point scale?

Most wine review sites say they use a 100 point scale. However, publications that have categories for wines below 80 points very rarely use them. In fact, many publications don’t score or publish wines below 85 points.

Here, I consider wines rated less than 80 points not commercially acceptable. That is to say, they have at least one significant flaw or fault. Personally, I do not believe there is consumer value in parsing whether that lack of commercial quality equates to a 79 or a 59.

Wine Enthusiast rating system

Some scores in these pages are from my time reviewing for Wine Enthusiast from 2013 to 2022. If so, you will see them denoted as ‘Wine Enthusiast.’ You can read about Wine Enthusiast’s rating system here.

Washington Wine Report rating system

Some scores in these pages are from when I reviewed wines prior to joining Wine Enthusiast in 2013. See information about the rating system used at Washington Wine Report prior to 2013 here.

Updated September 2022. 

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