Quite a bit of the research I’ve been involved with has been around scoring in clinical trials. How to measure the severity of acne accurately, to assess whether a new drug has worked, for example, or how to quantify symptoms in patients with bowel disease. There’s a wealth of literature on how these scoring systems should be used, but more importantly how they should be drawn up in the first place. For example, a score must really measure the severity of acne, ideally including the patient’s perception for example. It must also be reproducible, so that if two assessors evaluate the same patient, they will come up with the same score.

With all this in mind, you might argue that we shouldn’t score wine. Tasting is a fairly subjective process, and there are inherent variations between individual bottles, which makes it difficult to come up with just one score for a wine. Fixation with scores as a marker of quality of wine, in the manner of followers of Robert Parker, also detracts from the whole process of making new discoveries, and above all shaping one’s own personal understanding of wine. Above all, as Jancis Robinson says ‘Once numbers are involved, it is all too easy to reduce wine to a financial commodity rather than keep its precious status as a uniquely stimulating source of sensual pleasure and conviviality.’

However, abandoning both my romantic notions about wine, and my scientific principles, I am going to use a score for wines on this blog. I try to write a tasting note on most wines that I drink, not just for educational purposes, but also to make me appreciate what’s in the glass before I quaff it. I’ve found the European-style scoring system of points and half-points out of 20 (favoured by Robinson, Hugh Johnson and Decanter magazine amongst others) really helpful in evaluating wines. Looking back at my tasting notes, all my scores are between 7/20 and 18/20. However, forcing myself to put a wine in one of seven categories (see below) really helps bring the wine into focus.

0-7 Disagreeable/ Faulty
7.5-10 Sound but dull – no character or appeal
10.5-12 Enjoyable, simple and straightforward
12.5-14 Good but not outstanding
14.5-16.5 Very good – some outstanding features
17-18.5 Outstanding with great beauty and articulacy
19-20 A great wine – spell binding with a sense of wonder

In the meantime, I’ll reserve judgement on whether you can really compare wines in this way. Is a white that scores 18/20 comparable to a red with the same score? I’d be happy to fork out for both though.

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