From Grades to Points

A Paradigm Shift

The last two reviews I’ve done have not included my traditional A-through-F letter grades that I normally give to wine. Instead, they have received point scores out of 100.

Why? When I started this blog, I gave out point scores, just like the vast majority of wine writers out there. On the “Robert Parker 100 Point Scale.” This is an oft-ridiculed score, ridiculed for being arbitrary, and subjective, and perhaps too specific.

The classic argument tends to go, “how can you tell the difference between 89 points and 90 points?”

The thing is, all scoring systems are arbitrary. All of them are subjective. So what’s the difference? The difference is ubiquity. Familiarity.

Wine consumers are used to the 100 point system. They “get” that 95 points is an awesome wine, that 85 is ok but not great, and 75 should probably be avoided. This makes sense to them. My letter grades? They work in relation to each other, but they are not self-evident when compared to the points people see everywhere else.

My being different does me no good, and does you no good. So it is time for change.

I’m really only going to grant scores between 70 and 100. Something that would earn a score under 70 will simply be marked “sub-70” (a little pun I’m throwing in for my wife, and no, I don’t care if you “get it” or not, we’re going to laugh about it).

In a rough translation from old system to new, I can say I will be treating the grades like so:

  • F, D-, D, D+: “sub-70,” avoid
  • C-: 70-72
  • C: 73-76
  • C+: 77-79

In all cases, scores under 80 are essentially “not recommended” wines.

  • B-: 80-82
  • B: 83-87
  • B+: 88-90
  • A-: 91-93
  • A: 94-97
  • A+: 98-100

In the low-to-mid 80s, the old B-minuses and many Bs, I’m recommending but not real excited by the wine. I start getting excited by the mid-to-high 80s, some of the best Bs, and all the B-plusses. These are wines I really like and am emphatically recommending.

And the very best wines come next. The 91+ point wines, my A-minues, As, and A-plusses (or I should say, A-plus, as the 2003 Chateau d'Yquem remains the only A+ I have ever given out).

I will be going back and changing all letter grades on old wines to number scores on this scale. Some old B-plusses will receive 88, and some will receive 90. This also gives me a bit more wiggle room to discern between wines that are very close, but about which I do not feel exactly the same.

I’d love to hear if anyone reading has an opinion, positive or negative, on this change. I think it will be an improvement all around, but I’m still interested in hearing feedback.

Leave it below. Thanks for listening, and we’ll get back to the fun soon. Promise.

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