On Score "Inflation"

Brian’s “Guess the Score” thread, wherein a seemingly bad wine merits 87 points, got me thinking about so-called score inflation. This is a trend which I think is difficult to see for those who’ve been following wine scores for less than, say, 10 years. However, before telling you to get off my lawn, let me say that I remember a day when a WA 85 score meant a very good wine, and 90 was exceptional. Today, 90 is average and maybe even a little boring, and below 88 is not even worth drinking. I don’t believe this is because all wines are just better - I can name some 90 point wines which would have been a respectable 82 in 1990. I regularly get e-mail offers on wines discounted sub-$20 which attached scores in the low- to mid-90s which is absurd. I can only think that scores have become meaningless, but ITB folk assure us that scores absolutely move wine.

If we can acknowledge that this trend exists, until someone throws a 101 out there (I believe this will happen soon), I don’t think what’s happening can technically be called “inflation”. This is more like compression, and other than the confusion bred by multiple people using different 100-point scales to score wine, I’ve come to think that maybe this is not a bad thing.

One of the criticisms leveled against the 100-point scale is its false sense of precision. It has been suggested in every one of these threads that a 20-point scale, or a 10-point scale, or 5 stars, would more accurately reflect the real precision in our ability to judge one wine against another. So maybe what’s happening is actually a self-correction in what was a flawed scale to begin with.

I’m 92 points on score compression. Maybe 95 in 10 years.

Regarding scoring I’d like to see a range approach, with each having a fully defined set of characteristics and criteria that touches on all areas of wine analysis (bouquet, body, alcohol level, acidity, palate, finish etc. etc.).

Example of wine scoring ranges:


The 64K question is, who would be responsible for creating such a standard rating system? Perhaps it could come from a board of directors within the Master Somm ranks. Just an idea, I don’t think this will ever happen, but it’s something to consider.

The major publications, include the guy who popularized the scale, have published detailed explanations of the scale, but these haven’t been adopted as standard, not even by the writers working for those publications, or even the writers of the standards, let alone the random amateur CT note. So I agree standardization is never going to happen. My thinking is, the flaws in the scale will naturally self-correct, so no need to write a standard.

BevMo is advertising their 5¢ sales on the radio. Buy on get thenext for 5¢. The girl says, “Well I only drink 90pt wins.” The advertiser says,“We have lots of 90pt wines”

You’re right Larry the 100pt scale is growing even more skewed by the day.

I suspect the reason for a lack of standardization is twofold:

A.) Subjectivity
B.) Ego

A Wilfred Wong 90 points is different than a James Molesworth 90 points.

I can’t believe that some sly wine reviewer has not yet developed a 110 point scale. 'Cause some 100 point wines are better than others.

How about we get together and start to the Lake Wobegone Wine Rating System? It will begin at 90!

When RMP’s scores on 2000 Bordeaux were released and I decided to stock up on a bunch of low level “cheap” wines from the vintage, I went through and picked one or two wines from each commune with a score of at least 87 or 88, a note that sounded good, and a price under $X. I do not remember what X was. I ordered a total of six or seven cases. I no longer subscribe to WA, but I would love to see what the same wines scored for the vintages 2009 or 2010 compared to 2000, all of which vintages get plenty of hype. Does anyone have the data. I bought the following items, case or half case of each (PS - The Lascombes and the D’Issan both exceed $X, but I splurged a bit):

2000 Château D’Aiguilhe; 2000 Château d’Armailhac; 2000 Château Cantemerle; 2000 Clos René; 2000 Château Cos Labory; 2000 Château Fontenil; 2000 Château Fougas Maldoror; 2000 Château Grand Mayne; 2000 Château d’Issan; 2000 Château La Fleur de Jaugue; 2000 Château Lascombes; 2000 Château de Sales.

Totally! It’s just like guitar amplifiers. See, most people’s amps only have volume up to 10. Mine, though, goes up to 11! See, check out the control knob!

This Is Wino Tap!

Craig NZ from the Aussie forums had a 109 point scale with 3 decimal places ‘accuracy’. That seemed to fi the bill.

That would be an interesting comparison Jay; I’d love to see the data.

I looked up these wines but there was no discernable trend on these scores. There was vintage variations but not an upward trend of more than a point on just a couple. Lascombes, for example, jumped up in scores in 09 and peaked in 10 but then dropped back to the 90 point area it had been in before. I did not do a statistical analysis (I’m no mathmatician) but the scores went up and down over the period from 2000 - 2011. It would seem that the only factor in play was related to the quality of the vintage. (At least with these wines)

p. s. De Sales wasn’t rated after 2001.

Mr P, the subject of scoring is meaningless anymore, although many will disagree and so I speak for myself in this regard. We have essentially a 10 point scale, as retailers aren’t going to market a wine below 90, as the public is now conditioned to look for the high scores. And, it seems too that we’ve conditioned the lower end of the 10 points to the extent that some won’t buy a wine at 90, 91 or perhaps even 92.

The whole thing is a cluster.

I agree with you.

I like a 10 point system. 5 stars isn’t quite enough fidelity. Also for consideration, it’s well known that people don’t use the ends of a likert scale - perhaps the 100 pt system, if nothing else, makes people a little less afraid of the right side.

Personally, I prefer to just see a note that qualitatively describes a wine using a small handful of adjectives (sucked,average, good, exceptional, mind-bending).


I personally like letter scores best, although I don’t use them as much as I once did (got out of the habit, I guess). Lots of ‘90 pt’ wines might realistically be scored as B’s, which probably seems more acceptable than slapping an 85-86 on a wine. I know I would happily buy a ‘B’ wine from a trusted palate here, for mid-week consumption, but an 85 pt review seems to suggest something more negative and less likely to spur a purchase.

No, absolutely not.

In my tasting of white Burgundy Grand Crus a week ago we had 28 wines, at least 22 wines (2 were corked) out of 28 merited (IMHO) an outstanding score of 90 points plus.
So with a 5 * scale 22 would have been 5*,
four would have got 4*
2 off.

In a 20-point scale 22 wines would have been between 16.5 and 19 points …

Very informative … (no, nonsense)

It´s not about precision, it´s about clear information: If I score a wine 94 points, another one 93 points, this simply means that both are exiting wines, but I like one slightly more … very simple.

Otherwise it would read: 5*, 5*+ , 5*- 5*++ … is this better ? [scratch.gif]

It´s another question, if a (simple, cheap) wine merits 90 points or more, this is the responsibility of the taster - I´m quite conservative regarding this - but the solution cannot be to reduce (simplyfy) the scoring scale …