The Real Review Rating System

As part of The Real Review Alliance, we have harmonised our rating scales, icons and ribbons so our readers are crystal clear on what they mean. We use these icons and ribbons to communicate quality and value.

100 point scale Stars Ribbons Description


Gold (95-100)

These wines are in the big league. They are truly excellent wines which are fully representative of their region, variety and maker; wines of pedigree, great balance and harmony. They sing with a kind of rightness; an effortlessness; a natural symmetry. Over 95 points, they are the best of their breed, with great distinction, a certain thrill factor - and sometimes even uniqueness.


Silver (90-94)

The 90-point threshold is an important one, both psychologically and practically. 90 points is a silver medal in many wine competitions, and that indicates a very high quality wine. Aside from technical quality, it will possess character, balance and that hard-to-define element, style. And also textural refinement, as opposed to coarseness.


Bronze (85-89)

Good to very good, serviceable, fault-free wines for everyday drinking. Some of these will also be cellarable. The best of them are almost silver-medal quality. Even an 85-point wine can be very good value depending on its price.




Wine 360s — beyond 100 points

#TheRealReview comes with our unique Wine 360s - a simple approach for our readers to identify great wines and value for money.

Top Drops

Constantly updated hit list of the best recently tasted wines.


In many ways more interesting than a 100pt rating, the ranking shows where a wine stands relative to its peers of the same variety/style and region.

Price Benchmarks

Show the value-for-money of a wine based on the average price to be paid for the same quality level and variety/style.

How I taste and score wines

In an ideal world I would try every wine twice; the first time blind and a second time with the label revealed. Sadly it is not an ideal world and there are simply too many wines for me to be able to indulge that ideal approach.

For many years I only tasted wines blind but that excluded me from recording tasting notes when I visited wineries, attended winery trade days and joined many exciting private tastings. I next began to taste some wines blind and others not blind but tagged each tasting note accordingly so that I could measure any bias. After a few years I became satisfied that there was no consistent difference between wines tasted blind or with the label revealed and stopped tagging them. I still favour blind tasting but also have some respect for the claim that when wine is tasted with its identity revealed it is able to be tasted in context.

Inevitably I taste many wines two or more times. That allows me to conduct an audit on my tasting consistency both in scores and description. Consistency is very important. When I cease to be consistent it's time to hang up my tastevin.

There is no absolute in wine scoring. A wine might receive a gold medal award from a generous critic while another critic may give the same wine a silver and a wine competition a bronze. Who's right? As long as the critics and wine competitions apply their judging standards consistently they are all right in my view. Consistency is the key.

In an effort to judge consistently I try to do the bulk of my wine tasting before midday and limit the number of wines to less than 25, usually of the same type, region and vintage if I can manage it. I use the same Riedel tasting glasses and sit in the same tasting room which I try to heat or cool to a consistent temperature.

I often enjoy the best, most interesting or perhaps most controversial wines over dinner where I enjoy the luxury of tasting them with food and discussing their merits with family and friends. Occasionally I feel that my tasting score has been too tough or too generous but restrain from changing the score even if I believe I have made a mistake. It's important to have a level playing field.

I try to apply objective quality criteria when I judge wine. In fact I approach each wine in pretty much the same way - considering colour, aroma intensity and characteristics, texture, length etc. Because I consider these criteria in pretty much the same order every time that determines the flow of my tasting note - colour first and length, or perhaps a comment on cellaring potential, last. I tend to write with greater enthusiasm, and at greater length, when reviewing wines that I like very much.

When I first began to rate wines I, like everyone else in those days, used the 20-point system. I later changed to the 100-point system by multiplying my scores by five. In order to sync with the slightly different 100-point scale used by Gourmet Traveller Wine I set up a mathematical conversion on my database which translates my score into theirs. I use the same "Parker-type" 100-point scale here.

I have never awarded a wine 100 points despite having been labelled a "points miser" for not having done so. My argument for avoiding 100 points was that no wine can possibly be perfect although I now think that stance is a little pedantic and plan to use the full 95-100 point scale in order to differentiate quality levels of great wines.

At the other end of the scale I don't attempt to record a scale of badness. 84 points is my default score for wines that don't make the cut. I have deliberately avoided featuring those wines on my website to reduce the risk of litigation by disgruntled winemakers. Under this new website these wines will receive a "Not Rated" (NR) tag.

I never review wines that have not been commercially bottled - they are "work in progress" and there is no guarantee that they will taste the same when they are finally bottled.