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.

Other reviews found on this site

In addition to reviews from Northwest Wine Report, you will see reviews from this site’s original name, Washington Wine Report that are from 2004 to 2015. From 2013 to 2023, I was a contributing editor at Wine Enthusiast. Explanations of the rating systems for Washington Wine Report and Wine Enthusiast are below.

Wine Enthusiast rating system

You will see these reviews denoted as ‘Wine Enthusiast.’ Wine Enthusiast also uses a 100-point rating system, from 80-100 points. All wines at Wine Enthusiast were tasted blind. You can read about Wine Enthusiast’s rating system hereWine Enthusiast also uses the following  special designations. Of note, Editor’s Choice and Cellar Selections were selected at my discretion. Best Buys are at the discretion of the magazine.  Editors’ Choice – wines are those that offer excellent quality at a price above our Best Buy range, or a wine at any price with unique qualities that merit special attention.

Cellar Selections are wines deemed highly collectible and/or requiring time in a temperature-controlled wine cellar to reach their maximum potential. A Cellar Selection designation does not mean that a wine must be stored to be enjoyed, but that cellaring will probably result in a more enjoyable bottle. In general, an optimum time for cellaring will be indicated. Best Buys are wines that offer a high level of quality in relation to price. There are no specific guidelines or formulae for determining Best Buys, but they are generally priced at $15 or less.

Washington Wine Report rating system

This is a five point rating system, which was modified to a five star system in 2012. All wines at Washington Wine Report were reviewed  non-blind. Most reviews from April 2004 up to June 2007 were not published on this site. These reveiws are also not in the database. Some can be found here.

Updated March 2023.