Wine scores 3 of 5

Exploring wine scores we find wine scores from different scorers do not necessarily mean the same thing. Robert Parker’s 84 means “very good” and Wine Spectator’s 84 means “good.”

There are other major “100-point” wine score systems, and they are tweaked to be slightly out of kilter with their wine scoring siblings just to make life more fun and scorers different.

Stephen Tanzer opts for a 70-100 point system in his International Wine Cellar publication. Here is what Tanzer scores mean:

• Avoid: less than 70.

• Below average: 70-74.

• Average: 75-79.

• Good: 80-84.

• Very good to excellent: 85-89.

• Outstanding: 90-94.

• Extraordinary: 95-100.

So, Tanzer’s 74 means “below average,” Parker’s 74 means “average,” and Spectator’s 74 means “not recommended.”

Wine Enthusiast is the fourth player in the Parthenon of point pushers. WE deploys an 80-100 scale. WE differs from Parker, Spectator, and Tanzer by refusing to even mention hoi polloi wines. If you are not on their list, you probably are not worth drinking. Or, WE did not taste you; sorry, maybe next time. WE’s hierarchy is best read with a slightly arched tone in your voice. Here is what WE says their scores mean:

• Acceptable: 80-82. Can be employed in casual, less-critical circumstances.

• Good: 83-86. Suitable for everyday consumption; often good value.

• Very good: 87-89. Often good value; well recommended.

• Excellent: 90-93. Highly recommended.

• Superb: 94-97. Highly recommended.

• Classic: 98-100. The pinnacle of quality.

Which means Parker’s 82 means “very good”; Spectator’s 82 means “good”; Tanzer’s 82 means “good”; WE’s 82 means “acceptable; can be employed in casual, less-critical circumstances.”

In the beginning, when the world was young and Robert Parker svelte, wine scores were supposed to make it less likely for overwhelmed wine buyers to be duped into buying dreck. Not so much today.

Next week: more on scores.


• Anne Amie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2006. Black cherry, raspberry; nimble cherry, red berry; light body, no edges, almost no tannin, long finish; elegant. Tanzer 88. $33

• Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz 2010. Plush fruit, flavor; red & black berry, plum, spice; ripe tannin; smooth, easy drinking Aussie value. WE rated earlier vintages 84, 85. $9