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Parker "100 point system" for wine ratings

I'm not sure many consumers know it's actually a 50-point scale, from 50 to 100.

50 existence
5 color and appearance
15 aroma and bouquet
20 flavor and finish
10 overall quality level and/or potential for improvement

A glass of dishwater would get at least 50 points.


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  1. The problem I have with Parker and his ilk is that people buy into the reviews so completely. The reviews are subjective and tilted towards very ripe, heavily extracted, heavily oaked wines that make a huge impact on the palate. Wineries often make better wines that don't get the reviews. The other issue is that the wine industry has bought into it and wines are being made to please the critics - they all start tasting the same, a big blast of oak with big jammy fruit to compete with the barrel.

    I have more respect for somebody that knows what they like even if it's Gallo Hearty Burgundy or white zin, than somebody who won't buy a wine that doesn't get 90+ from Parker

    1. I think Parker is probably more believable than the Wine Spectator. In fact, I recently dropped my subscription to it. I guess there is a place for ratings but like Calamityville, I think it's important to find what YOU like.

      Living here, I find it far more fun to go taste wines and find what I like without even looking at ratings and that's exactly what we do. I also find that many of the smaller winieries who so not submit their wines and not care about ratings produce outstanding, well crafted wines.

      The other recent trend seems to be high alcohol wines which any many cases are far to "hot" for enjoyable drinking.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rtmonty

        I couldn't agree more about WS. As an Oregonian I am lucky to be close to some fabulous Pinot and to try a lot of it, but I've noticed that WS seems to only give good reviews to the most extracted, new-oak aged pinot they can get from OR. It's disappointing that they can't seem to like something that's a bit subtle.

        1. re: nagrom

          For the most reliable/valid rankings and tasting notes on Oregon Pinots, Stephen Tanzer is your guy. That from the mouths of Oregon winemakers.....

      2. Going by Robert Parker's rating system without reading his notes, is like reading the title of a book without reading the book, you miss 99% of the info. His notes are what make him the best wine critic out there.

        3 Replies
        1. re: byrd

          I guess one could consider Parker the best if one's palate is on the same wavelength as his. Mine isn't. I have little or no use for gobby, high-alcohol, low-acid, oaky wines. IMO, this style of wine is not food-friendly.

          Where he is useful is that he's consistent. If you know how to read his notes, you know what wines to seek or avoid. When the words 'gobs' or 'unctious' are in one of his notes, I go running the other way.

          1. re: Larry Stein

            I've liked some of the rieslings he's rated highly.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Parker doesn't rate German wine. Until recently, it was Rovani (whose palate appears to be similar to Parker's). A few months ago, they hired David Schildknecht away from Steve Tanzer. Schildknecht really knows his stuff when it comes to Austria and Germany.

        2. I think there is a certain truth to this scale. Almost every wine I've ever had (with a few memorable exceptions) is drinkable. I suspect even mediocre supermarket plonk is better than the wine that almost anyone had to drink a couple of hundred years ago. And almost all wine is generally good.

          The corollary of this 100 point scale is the realization that people often pay a lot of money for a wine that is only 4% better than another similar wine. I honestly don't think my palate is exquisite or sensitive enough to taste the difference between an 88 and a 92 - particularly in the context of wine shared with friends during a meal.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Phoo D

            A certain percentage of wine I buy is undrinkable as in spoiled and I return it.

            Beyond that, I've bought a lot of wine that was not spoiled but was to my taste undrinkable, as in I poured it down the sink and opened another bottle.

          2. hello, caitlin m. kindly just linked to this board the NY Times article critiquing the wine mags, and there were two factors, not dealing with palate acuteness/memory or taste preferences, that set Parker apart from many of the others. The absence of advertising in the WA, and that the tasting is done blind. We can always calibrate our own palates with those of published critics if we do our own critical tasting; at the same time, there's a segment of consumers(incl. many who speculate on expensive bottles never intending to drink them) whose perceptions are biased by what some authority figure has said or written. cheers

            4 Replies
            1. re: moto

              To my knowledge, Parker does NOT taste blind.

              1. re: Tom Hall

                sorry, acc. to the NY Times piece, Parker brown-bags what he's tasting. Don't doubt that you've tasted w. him and know better. BTW to the other poster, WA==Wine Advocate, Parker's publication, which as others have noted, does include a few other reviewers at present, whereas it originally was a one-palate show. cheers

                1. re: moto

                  Yeah, he does generally brown bag them. But it is still only a single blind tasting. To me any taster/critic looking for credibility should have to taste wines "double blind"

                  For those who don't know the difference, A single blind tasting involves getting a clue about the wines, such as here are 15 Oregon Pinot's or 20 New Zealand Whites, or a selection of Penfolds wines. Or sometimes all the info about the wines are disclosed but not told to the taster which is which.

                  I swear to god, this is how the WS is able to give Yellow Tail retarded scores in the mid-high 80's. What does someone come in with the brown bags and go "Ok gents, today we are tasting 10 Vintage Champagnes and oh yeah, the lates releases from Yellow Tail... the ones that spend all that ad money.

                  Double Blind on the other hand gives you little to no info. The info might be as much as Chardonnay's from Around the World or Dessert Wines - 1998 Vintage, etc.

                  1. re: newJJD

                    Nope. The real story is that winemakers tailor their wines to please Parker's palate.

                    A score of 80 to 89 is "a barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws." So a score in the mid-80s is nothing special.

                    That's the big problem with the point scale: scores below the mid 80s indicate mediocre to bad wine, and only excellent wines get 90 or more.

                    So almost all good, reasonably priced wines are squeezed into the mid to high 80s, which covers an enormous range of quality.

            2. No one has mentioned that Wine Spectator has advertisments and Parker doesn't, that is the key. They both serve their purpose, but Parker is like a trusted elder and wine spectator is like the loud aunt.

              1 Reply
              1. re: waitress

                I trust Parker to give high ratings to overly alcoholic, jammy wines that I find undrinkable.

              2. See, I'm an easy target. I'll be in Whole Foods or World Market, see that a wine got 94 in Wine Spectator and buy it. Turns out it tastes good to me, but then what do I really know about it? Should I not be doing that?


                2 Replies
                1. re: TexasToast

                  TT, You said "Turns out it tastes good to me"... At the end of the day, that's all that matters.

                  Scores are completely objective in nature. I will never consider Yellow Tail Products to be worthy of a score much higher than 65-70. Before you call me a snob, Let me tell you that the "House" white in my cellar is a Dunavar Pinot Gris from Hungary @ $8.95 a bottle, the red is Stickleback from Australia @ 12.95 a bottle, and I love the Rosado from Ochoa at $15. Yellow tail wines are manipulated with extra sugar and refiners to give them smoothness. They are as close to wine as a Bartle & James wine cooler. Why the high scores (80+ in WS?) Maybe its the millions they spend on advertising?

                  1. re: newJJD

                    I think it's the description that gets me just as much as the score though. And I'll ask the wannabe wine geek who's hovering as well. If WS likes it, and I like the description, and the dude says it's good, there's a good chance I'll like it.

                    Oh, and a good Red I like is the 2002 Red River Merlot from Washington.


                2. myself like Big, Thick, Fruit-bombs as does Parker. I also enjoy rustic wines from Rioja, Navarra an Priorat in Spain, and from the Douro in Portugal. I like Merlot's and Cab's from Oregon and Washington, Pinot Noir's from Oregon and BC, Canada. And that's just the reds...

                  To those who say Parker ONLY rates these heavy, oaky types of wine high is sadly mistaken. Parker rates the Single Vineyard Cote-Roties from Guigal 95-100 year after year. These wines are much more elegant than powerful.

                  By your reasoning, the Chateau Fontenil should have been the highest rated Bordeaux from 2000 and 2003. It was easily the most concentrated, new world wine I have had amongst hundreds of samples and bottles. But yet, tens, no, hundres of more elegant wines scored much higher.

                  I read the notes more than the scores, but I do look at the scores as I am quite conscious of others who flock after highly rated wines, and the amount of $$$ they are willing to shell out to get them. Take Ch. Rieussec 2001 as an example. It sat on the shelves of many stores around here for $90 a bottle. Then the Spectator put it #1 in their Most Exciting Wines Issue. Price went to $150-175 overnight and it was sold out within a week!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: newJJD

                    I look at the scores, read the notes, then start networking with pals about who's tried what. Then I run those facts by a couple of wine sellers in the area that have consistently proven trustworthy and go from there.

                  2. They'd laugh Parker out of the club if he didn't give Guigal Single Vineyard Cote Roties high scores.

                    I've had wines from his favored producers that were dog crap and they still had 90+.

                    There was a cartoon many years ago that had a guy in a wine shop tasting a glass of wine and saying to the proprietor "this wine is wretched."

                    The proprietor replies "The Wine Advisor gave it a 96!"

                    The customer replies "I'll take a case"

                    The best way to get wines in my book is to develop a relationship with the Wine Steward at your Grocery Store Wine Section or Proprietor of a Wine Shop. Tell them what you've had that you liked or didn't like, what you're going to serve it with and if they keep showing you wines you like, keep going back. If they can't figure out reliably what wines you like, you need to deal with somebody else.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Calamityville

                      Laugh him out of what club? He IS the club. I guess then you are saying the Guigal's are over-rated too... What would you score the 1999 La Landonne?

                      He was bold enough to take a shot at Penfolds last year, gave them the lowest scores he has ever given them after years of praise. He has integrity and is consistent. Unlike WS who scores Wolf Blass and Greg Norman wines differently even though they are the same wines.

                      If his palate does not match with yours don't start taking pot shots at the guy. That is why it is a called a reveiw/rating and not an undisputable final judgmnet. I'm sure wines you have enjoyed he doesn't like much. Does that mean you're drinking crap... of course not. Take Parker's words like you would an Ebert movie review.

                      It's not as if he and the WS are the only ones to blame... Cristal sales jumped after Quentin Tarantino and rappers glamourized it, and don't get me started on 'Sideways' and Pinot Noir.

                      1. re: Calamityville

                        this is written in bold letters on the front of every issue of the wine advocate: "...there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself."

                          1. re: newJJD

                            I don't disagree with "...there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself."

                            Unfortunately I have discovered that many folks won't taste anything that Parker hasn't scored - they'll walk out of a tasting room without trying anything if there isn't anything open that isn't in his newsletter - their fault not his. Many People ignore his very best advice.

                            1. re: Calamityville

                              I hate to sound like a broken record, Calamity, but again... Agreed. 100%.

                              I, however, don't find it unforunate at all! It leaves the untasted classics to people like you and I.

                              My new line to use when someone else in the store is contemplating buying the last of a wine I like:

                              "You know what, Parker didn't score that one very high!"
                              (He didn't score it low either, but probably would score it 88+, LOL... I don't lie, but I am fond of half-truths!)

                              1. re: Calamityville

                                Living close to Napa, we find it fun to discover wines that Parker has never rated. Many of them are simply outstanding. They come from small, family run wineries. It would be seldom that I would purchase a wine that Parker rated but that I couldn't taste. One gets spoiled being so close to the source of so many outstanding wines.

                        1. Calamity, have you ever been to Back Room Wines in the town of Napa? I was only there once, about 10 months ago, but loved the store and the owner (David), I think.

                          1. It's so hard to tell, even with the scale being only 50 points.

                            Wine A is an 89, wine B an 88. You taste each and agree: "Wine A is definitely 2% better than B." Sheesh!

                            1. Jeez! Dump Parker, dump the Wine Spectator. Decide on a country. Decide on a wine. Decide on a price range. Buy it and drink it (drink it implies taste it). Outside of like it/dislike it, was it worth what you paid for it? Repeat experiment in different price ranges. And, stop pouring wine down the drain, for cryin'outloud.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Summerfield

                                If you like to drink wine you don't like that's your business, but I'm going to keep sharing it with the drain.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Funny! I guess you and the drain are good drinking partners by now. How do you know that you are not deceiving yourself? Do you get a second opinion? Have you ever dumped a Parker 95?

                                    1. re: Summerfield

                                      No, but a group of us had consensus on dumping a wine Parker gave a 91 to.

                                      1. re: Summerfield

                                        If there are other people drinking and they like it, I don't dump it.

                                        Most of the bottles I dump cost under $10, rarely over $15, and I don't buy wines with more than 13.5% alcohol, so that eliminates most of the wines Parker rates highly.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          $15 does seem to be some sort of threshold. I'll look at the 13.5% alcohol criterion.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Careful with the reported % alcohols on imported wines, especially from France. Import duties to the United States are effected by % alcohol. There is an increase on taxes above a certain level (I think 13%). There is a lot of leeway that the winemakers (and distributers) can use when labeling wines. Most of the '03 Chateuneuf du Papes are labeled as 13%. There is no way these wines are anywhere close to that number. The '03 summer was scorching hot in Europe, producing jammy alcoholic wines.

                                    2. A friend I work with brought up a good point in the tasting room yesterday. What is the real effect of these ratings? Americans have a palate, apprantly, for fruity big wines that are going to be drunk young. The high ratings for this style of wine only seems to encourage this trend. Winemakers are making wines geared to this style because they get high ratings and sell better. This seems to be happening even in France and Italy, though not to the extent it does in the new world. Where does this put the collector in 20 years? What about those of us are are willing and able to store wines for years until they reach maturity?
                                      Are we going to be limited to wines that have to be drunk within 2 years? It's not like this is a life threatening dilemma or anything, but it seems like a much more serious problem for wine in general than just complaints about style prefernce.

                                      1. Don't know if anyone posted this yet...I didn't read the entire thread.

                                        Watch Mondovino if you haven't already. Maybe I was bitter this day, but I felt it had an underlining point that the point system (Parker's and Spectator's) and the globalization of wine are slowly changing winemaker styles and gearing them towards one man's (or arguement of a particular group's) palate.

                                        Personally, I don't react to someone else's scores. If I think the wine is crap, not even my mother could convince me to get excited about it.