oops thought I'd clicked publish on this quite some time back...
Cats piss (self explanatory)
Barely Drinkable (probably flawed or just plain very ordinary)
Acceptable (ho hum wine)
Agreeable (ok, well and truly drinkable)
-- You'll almost never see the above ratings here
Recommended (good quality wines)
Highly Recommended (faultless high quality wines)
Excellent (benchmark wines)
Outstanding (few and far between)
The Ultimate (almost as rare as rocking horse dung)
* Bad news - wines with delusions of value
** Normally not worth buying unless its very high quality special occasion wine.
*** Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; average value for money.
**** The extra good value drops that we all search out.
***** Like hens teeth, the bargain of the year category.
+ Likely to improve with some age
++ Certain to improve with some age
+++ Requires and will reward cellaring
1. My ratings are heavily based on the TORB system, and I try to mark as hard as he did and for exactly the same reason - I want to buy high quality wines at better than average value, and those need some work to find.
2. You probably won't see me actually review anything under Agreeable. I will rarely be able to justify trashing somebodies hard work - the exception is cheap plonk that I really think would please nobody and needs a warning label. Actually, as time has passed, I find I can only be bothered to write something up if it's at least Recommended, and there's a very large amount of wines never posted.
3. Conversely, very few wines will rate Outstanding unless they have some age to them. To me Outstanding should mean exactly that, standing out from the many good and great ones.
4. To indicate how I am guessing they will age I've roughly stolen Philip White's system, where no + means drink it's already at it's peak.
Right, now to explain why I refuse to use a 100 point system. TORB sums it up like this:
Firstly readers need to understand that I profoundly dislike all numerical based rating systems, believing that assigning an objective score to a relative assessment, unless in a show situation, is folly.
Let's say that unknown to you, two reviewers independently agreed and both considered a particular wine as "excellent" yet neither used that term in their review, instead one gave it a score of 92 and the other a 94. To get a meaningful comparison you then need to find out what each number for each reviewer actually means when related back to a descriptor. And really, which is the more relevant rating to the reader, "Excellent" or the arbitrary numbers?
Simply put, an excellent wine is an excellent wine, regardless of some unrelated, made up, inconsistent
and randomly scaled number.