How we score

Last updated: 19 February 2024

Our scores

Below is a rough guide to what our numbers mean. Although we are not very comfortable with scoring wines because it is so difficult to encapsulate a wine's qualities in a single score, we do realise how useful scores are for those reading and buying (and selling) in a hurry.

20 – Truly exceptional
19 – A humdinger
18 – A cut above superior
17 – Superior
16 – Distinguished
15 – Average, a perfectly nice drink with no faults but not much excitement
14 – Deadly dull
13 – Borderline faulty or unbalanced
12 – Faulty or unbalanced 

We occasionally give a '+' or even '++' to suggest that we think (but are not 100% sure) that the wine will improve, and if a score comes with a minus attached, it means that it has a drawback, usually described in the tasting note. But I'm sure these are annoying and we will try to keep them to a minimum.

As background, and for amusement, you might also like to see the comparative score sheet compiled by Steve De Long of reviewing many different scoring systems.

Our scores are for how the wine tasted when we tasted it, combined with any perceived potential. So a one-year-old first growth bordeaux is likely to be given a pretty high score, even though it may be not much fun to drink at that point (and not even bottled in fact). If we taste a wine that is obviously on the way down from its peak of maturity, the score denotes how it tasted when we tasted it and not how wonderful we imagine it might have been at its best. See also Why are there sometimes multiple tasting notes for the same wine?

I do not believe there is a single objective yardstick of quality by which a Beaujolais, for example, can be measured alongside a Napa Valley Cabernet. I know it would be much more convenient for everyone if there were a single objective quality scale against which every wine in the world could be measured, but I'm afraid I just don't believe such a scale exists given the myriad styles and archetypes of wine that, thank goodness, still exist. And even if such a single measuring stick did exist, adhering to it would not be very useful. If we imagine for a moment that it did, then on a 20 point scale, practically every 1982 bordeaux would merit something above 18, every de luxe champagne perhaps something above 19, which would not make for very informative reporting on their relative merits. When reviewing, for example, New Zealand Pinot Noirs, we score the wines in the context of New World Pinot Noir rather than on the same scale as we would mark red burgundies. So with a score of 18.5, a 2003 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir is not equal to a 2003 DRC and never will be!

Fortunately, I am confident that my fulltime assistant Julia Harding MW has a palate that is remarkably similar to mine. The rest of the team share our love of balance, eloquence, finesse and, where appropriate, ageability above sheer mass.


Here is a brief guide to some of the abbreviations you may find in our tens of thousands of tasting notes. 

Initials at the end of a tasting note denote the following tasters (you can read more about these members of the team via Team Jancis):

No initials – Jancis Robinson
JH – Julia Harding MW
RH – Richard Hemming MW
TC – Tamlyn Currin
WS – Walter Speller
MS – Michael Schmidt
FC – Ferran Centelles
ECB – Elaine Chukan Brown
PS – Paula Sidore
MH – Matthew Hayes
AC – Alstair Cooper MW
VD – Victoria Daskal 
CG – Caroline Gilby MW
LG – Luis Gutiérrez
AWH – Andy Howard MW
PH – Paul Howard
AH – Alex Hunt MW 
TJ – Tim Jackson MW
MJ – Melanie Jones MW 
JL – James Lawther MW
LM – Linda Murphy 
TP – Tom Parker MW
YS – Young Shi  
JV – José Vouillamoz
AY – Alder Yarrow
SCJ – Samantha Cole-Johnson
MA – Max Allen
TQT – Tara Q Thomas
FG – Florencia Gomez

We also use the following abbreviations: 

GV – good value 
VGV – very good value 
QGV – quite good value
NHB – naughty heavy bottle!
BME - beginning, middle and end
OTT – over the top
CS – cask sample
TS – tank sample
% – percentage of alcohol by volume 
RS – residual sugar 
TA – total acidity 
VA – volatile acidity 
MLF – malolactic fermentation/conversion
g/l – grams per litre 
m – metres 
hl/ha – hectolitres per hectare 
POA – price on application
TBA – to be advised (price)
TBC – to be confirmed (price)
dpd – duty paid delivered
ib – in bond