While a well-written note shouldn’t need a score, its inclusion makes it easier on the note taker by providing a clear delineation of preferences and allows a more concise note. In short, a score provides a clear context for the note and allows the writer to focus on the individual aspects of a wine as opposed to always having to explain why they feel a very good wine rated 88 points isn’t as good as an outstanding wine rated 96 points.
The scoring system I use is roughly based on the High School Grading System most US students grew up with, beginning at 50 points and ending at 100 points. My scale can be broken up as follows:
100 to 96 – As good as it gets. These wines reach the peak of my personal scale of quality.
95 to 90 – Outstanding wines. These wines are outstanding for their type and are worth the extra effort to seeking out.
89 to 85 – Very Good to Good. These offer real character and can be age worthy.
84 to 80 – Good to Barely Good. While still good, these wines lack character or fail to show a significant number of positive traits. Wines in this category can deliver pleasure, particularly with a meal or in a setting where the wine won’t be the center of attention.
79 to 50 – Quaffable to Undrinkable. Wines rated less than 80 points are not recommended. They will range from passable to flawed and undrinkable.
Evaluations based off peer groups consisting of wines from the same region are not used. Instead, a wine is evaluated based on how well it carries the style in which it is made. After being at blind tasting after blind tasting and seeing expert tasters fail to correctly identify not only the region, but also the variety, I’ve come to believe that grouping and ranking based on this criteria is useless and misleading.
Wines are scored on their overall quality. The note should indicate my best guess at when the wine will be at maturity, but drinking young, structured wines can provide just as much pleasure as drinking fully mature, completely integrated bottles. If you prefer that latter and don’t like young, tannic wines, don’t open a young Chateauneuf du Pape and expect the same level of enjoyment I get from it.
Scoring is a subjective portion of wine evaluation and as such, is simply my personal preference/opinion for a wine. Nothing more, nothing less. Any score or note in isolation is close to worthless and it’s only after reading multiple notes and tasting multiple bottles that a reader can start to understand where the note taker is coming from. Scores from committees, panels or legions of tasters are worthless in my opinion.