Value Rating/How I Taste & Score


Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor recommends outstanding, smaller-production “artisan” wines from around the world. An important consideration in making a recommendation is the wine’s value. Dan seeks out not just the best wines to recommend, but the best wines for the money.

This is where The Value Rating comes in. The formula:

The Value Rating = (DDWA Score/Retail Price) * Wine Factor
Put into words, the Value Rating is a wine’s Score (given by Dan Dawson’ Wine Advisor) divided by suggested retail price, then multiplied by its Wine Factor.

Let’s break it down.

The DDWA Score is a rating given to a wine by Dan, using the 100 point scale.
Here’s the DDWA Scoring Guide

The Retail Price is the wine’s suggested retail price in California. In retail-speak, it is called “SRP” for suggested retail price.

The Wine Factor is a multiplier given to 8 mutually exclusive wine categories, as determined by Dan Dawson. The Wine Factor is used to compare the value of all wines, regardless of grape, place or type. Without a wine factor, a low-priced $12 wine would have a higher value rating than a $60 wine every time. The wine factor allows DDWA readers to compare wines’ values both amongst its peers AND all wines of the world. Here are the 8 Wine Categories and their Wine Factors.

The result, The Value Rating, is a number, ranging from below 1 to 7, that quantifies a wine’s value. Below 1 is not a good value in Dan’s opinion. A Value Rating of 7 would be an extraordinary value. Which takes us to the grand finale, the Value Category.

Don’t care for all the numbers and eqations? Go straight to the Value Category. This is Dan’s opinion, in English, of a wine’s overall value, as determined by the wine’s Value Rating. Value Categories, in order from good to greatest values, are OK Value, GOOD Value, VERY GOOD Value, GREAT Value, AWESOME Value and HALL OF FAME Value. Each of these Value Categories connect with a Value Rating range.

Check out the Value Rating/Value Category table here.

Here are two examples of the Value Rating in action:

Mr X Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014, DDWA Score: 93 points. $70/bottle.

93/70 = 1.33

1.33 x 2 (Wine Factor for Napa Cabernets) = Value Rating 2.7, a Good Value.

Mrs Y Chablis A.C. 2015, 89 points, $25/bottle

89/25 = 3.6

3.6 x 1 (Wine Factor for “Daily Drinkers”) = Value Rating 3.6, a Great Value.

So there you go. If you don’t care for the numbers and the math, just look at the Value Type (Good Value, Great Value, etc) and you’re all set. Also remember, a $70 bottle of Napa Cabernet can be a very good value for certain wine lovers, but not for everyone. For many, there is no $70 “value” wine on the planet. Understand that values are in context of wines from that particular region.


I’ve been tasting wine doing professionally since the early 90s.
I could write 10 pages on how I taste and evaluate wines. If you’d like more explanation or discussion, please contact me. My worthiness as a wine critic is a big deal, and your trust in my opinion is something a value dearly.

I don’t taste blind. In the process of evaluating, there is context to what the wine is. Knowing the wine in your glass can alter expectations, no doubt about it. I want to speak to your expectations, should you have some, for a particular wine. The context of the wine (who, what, where, when, how much) is vital to a recommendation. And though I’m by no means impervious from expectations, I’m experienced enough in tasting to focus on what’s in my glass. And I think it’s vital that I consider the story of the wine in making my recommendation.

I smell and taste for quality, typicity, distinctiveness and deliciousness.

Let’s take them one at a time.

Quality. Smell, taste, texture and finish are the big 4 (sorry, color, got to make some cuts). Strength and complexity of smell and taste. Texture is one many don’t think about but it’s a big deal. Light, heavy, tannic, expansive? Length of finish, and is it different than the taste?

Typicity. Does the wine have the “normal” taste of its area? That’s typicity. If yes, great. If not, is it a good thing or bad thing?

Distinctive. Is there something that makes it different than all the wines that are trying to gain your favor for the same purpose? That’s a big one in buying for a wine shop. We would ask ourselves, “who would choose to buy this wine, and why?”

Delicious. Is it? That’s the trump question in wine evaluation, really. We all like delicious, don’t we? If you got that, the other factors take a back seat. In my world, high marks for deliciousness discount the other factors, but don’t render them meaningless.

Passing out the points.
Wine scores have been a part of my professional life since I got into the wine biz in 1992.
I read the most important wine critics’ reviews and scores, then observe the correlation between the score and customer satisfaction. Through tasting, selling and, most importantly, paying attention to customers’ preferences and purchases, I have a keen understanding of what you, wine lover, like the most. My experience and success in the wine retail business makes me uniquely qualified to assess point ratings to wines.

Remember, the written word is more important than a number.
Please read my reviews.

How I Score

I am more conservative than most critics in giving out high scores (90 and above).
I use a broader range of points for the wines I recommend than most publications. In my system, a DDWA Score of 83 is not a BAD score, and in fact is a GOOD score for a low-priced wine ($10-12 let’s say). I do this so I can utilize a broader range of points to express my opinion by numbers (which is not my preferred avenue of communication, but I understand some people like it best).

This means, generally speaking, for an equally highly regarded wine, my score will be 89 and The Wine Advocate & The Wine Spectator will score it 91-92, maybe 93 even. Vinous will score it 90, maybe 91. Going up and down the point ladder, expect the DDWA Score to be 1 to 4 points lower than other critics. It’s not that I think less of the wines:  It is simply a matter of scale.

Also, I incorporate half points for an even greater spread of score possibilities.
Please read the following scoring qualifications for DDWA.

Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor (DDWA) Scoring Guide

80-85 points. A sound, well-made, simple wine. Likely a wine showing good typicity from a wine region that offers mostly low-cost wines. Wines featured in DDWA at 80-85 are quite likely $10-$19 wines.

86-88 points. A well-made, high quality wines showing above-average character and distinctiveness with good intensity, texture and deliciousness. A lot of the best values you’ll find in DDWA will fall in the 86-88 point range.

89-91 points. 89 is the new 91 at DDWA! These wines show very good depth of flavor, texture, deliciousness and/or typicity with average complexity and uniqueness.

92-94 points. These wines show excellent deliciousness, depth of flavor, intensity and above average typicity and/or distinctiveness. Special wines. About 1 out of 20 wines I review will receive a score of 92, 93 or 94.

95-97 points. Balls-on wonderful wines. Excellent deliciousness, depth of flavor, intensity and typicity and/or distinctiveness (let’s say the wines score excellent on 4 out of those 5 criteria, with the 5th being good to very good). I estimate 1 out of 100 wines reviewed (1%) will receive a score of 95, 96 or 97.

98-100 points. Such wine scores are reserved for very few and the very best. These wines have it all. Outstanding deliciousness, depth of flavor, intensity, typically and distinctiveness. I have yet to score any wine 98, 99 or 100. I estimate 1 out of 200-250 wines reviewed will receive a 98 or higher.

Value Ratings and Value Category

Range from below 1 to 7. The higher the value rating, the better value the wine. Here’s the Value Rating Chart with its corresponding Value Category:

Value Rating Value Category
Not a Value (never recommended by DDWA)
1 - 1.99
OK Value (Highly rated wines in the $75-100 range often fall into this category)
2 - 2.99
Good Value
3 - 3.49
Very Good Value
3.5 - 4.49
Great Value
4.5 - 4.99
Awesome Value
Hall of Fame Value

Wine Factor Chart

The Wine Factor is a Value Rating multiplier. It is used to compare all wines’ values, regardless of grape, region and price. Wine Factors range from 0.5 (“Bargain Basement Wines…under $15/bottle) to 4 (Luxury Wines).

“Bargain Basement Wines” (Both Import and Domestic). Wine Factor 0.5

“Daily Drinkers” (Both Import and Domestic). Wine Factor 1

Domestic White Wines – “Weekend Wines”  Wine Factor 1.5

California and Oregon Pinot Noir. Wine Factor 2

California & Washington Cabernets/High End Blends. Wine Factor 2

All other California Reds – “Weekend Wines.” Wine Factor 1.5

Imports. “Weekend Wines.” Wine Factor 1.5

Imports “Special Wines.” Wine Factor 2

Luxury Wines (All – Import & Domestic). Wine Factor 4

Each wine on Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor (DDWA) has four numbers:  its retail price, DDWA Score (100 point scale), Wine Factor and Value Rating. Here is the formula for determining the Value Rating:
(DDWA Score/Retail Price) * Wine Factor = The Value Rating

Put into words, the Value Rating is a wine’s DDWA Score divided by suggested retail price, then multiplied by its Wine Factor (more on this in a minute). The Value Rating quantifies a wine’s value. And with the DDWA Value Rating system, it identifies “value wines” beyond “bargain wines” by using the Wine Factor (you’re getting closer to the explanation).

The Wine Factor is a Value Rating multiplier. It is used to compare all wines’ values, regardless of grape, region and price. Wine Factors range from 1 (Daily Drinkers) to 4 (Luxury Wines).
The formula: (DDWA Score/Retail Price) * Wine Factor = The Value Rating
When comparing all the wines of the world, you’re comparing apples to oranges to pears to grapefruits to peaches to…grapes. The price of wine is wildly different depending on where it’s from and what the grape is. How do you compare the value of a (typically pricey) Napa Valley Cabernet to a (usually inexpensive) French Mediterranean white, for example? If you simply divide a wine’s rating by its price, the $13 wine will beat the $75 wine no matter what. How do solve this problem? You got it, brothers & sisters: The Wine Factor.

I’ve put all the wines reviewed and recommended in DDWA into 8 categories. Each category has its Wine Factor. Here again is the formula:

(DDWA Score/Retail Price) * Wine Factor = The Value Rating

The Wine Factor makes it possible to compare the value of two totally different wines, regardless of price. Before I show you the wine categories, here are a couple of examples.