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Tudor's Faint Praise (75–84) Table (September 9, 2002)

My wine writing colleague Dean Tudor has compiled a list of wine descriptors that damn a wine by faint praise. The wines in question usually fall into the the numeric values of 75 to 84 points for those reviewers who use the 100-point scale.

Tudor's Faint Praise (75–84) Table

©2002 by Dean Tudor. All rights reserved.

"I rather like bad wine," said Mr. Mountchesney. "One gets so bored with good wine"
—Benjamin Disraeli (in his novel, Sybil)

Tired of having to wonder what to say about a nice, but not exciting, wine?

At a loss for words after the initial vagueness of "floral"/"berry"/"aromatic" nose or "light mouthfeel" or "short finish" or "fairly priced"?

Need more descriptors for those wines you've just tasted, and rated between 75 - 84 ?

Then – look no further than Tudor's Faint Praise (75–84) Table, which emphasizes the positive (believe it or not, it does!).

For a spin, you could use the French or Italian non-cognate translation of the term, for that (wink-wink) cachet...

Dean Tudor, professional wordsmith and member of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada, has developed an incipient WHEEL of terms, divided into two major categories – and further subdivided into three SUM categories.

One: Phrases, subdivided into Standard, Useful, and Modest (the SUM of it)

Two: Words, subdivided into Standard, Useful, and Modest (the SUM of it all)

All of these words and phrases have been used by dozens of wine critics in thousands of reviews of wines ranging from 75–84 points; the use of French and Italian is my twist alone...

The WHEEL format will develop from this, and emerge a multi-coloured laminated you-know-what. Orders are already being taken. Price: a bottle of $9.95US wine through

Meanwhile, enjoy the text:

I: PHRASES (which can be modified to fit the situation)

STANDARD (phrases) = average (~75 points)

  • à la mode
  • after a fashion
  • all in a day's work
  • all right
  • as expected
  • exhausts its possibilities
  • follows the mean
  • gets the best out of it
  • goes on quietly
  • in a manner...
  • just short of...
  • keeps to the middle
  • makes the most of it
  • manages well-enough to...
  • matter-of-course
  • matter-of-fact
  • more or less
  • near enough
  • no better than it should be
  • no surprises
  • not in the least...
  • passes muster
  • pretty good
  • the gentleman's C
  • within bounds

    USEFUL (phrases) = above average (~80 points)

  • a notch above
  • all-purpose
  • as good as you could expect
  • does yeoman service
  • drinkable now
  • for everybody
  • has good intentions
  • in constant use
  • not bad
  • of service
  • performs a function
  • suits one's purpose
  • there's a use for it
  • well-meaning
  • well-priced
  • worth drinking

    MODEST (phrases) = completely above average (~84 points)

  • as good as it gets for the price
  • avoids excess
  • hints of...
  • in character
  • in fair condition
  • in some measure
  • in the region of...
  • manages to...
  • more cut out for
  • non-extreme
  • not loud
  • not to be taken for granted
  • on the brink of...
  • on the verge of...
  • small-framed
  • to a certain extent
  • to some degree
  • up to the mark
  • well-framed
  • within an ace of...
  • within sight of...


STANDARD = average (~75 points)

  • acceptable (It. gradevole)
  • available (It. efficace)
  • conventional (Fr. classique, conventionnel)
  • correct (It. di buon gusto)
  • customary (Fr. habituel, coutumier d'usage)
  • decent (Fr. convenable, bienséant)
  • everyday (Fr. quotidien)
  • fair (Fr. moyen)
  • familiar (Fr. amical)
  • fine (Fr. raffine)
  • genuine (Fr. sincère)
  • generic
  • honest (Fr. honnête)
  • household (Fr. famille; It. famiglia)
  • impartial
  • innocent (It. semplice)
  • innocuous
  • interesting
  • legitimate
  • middle-of-the-road (Fr. du milieu)
  • mild (Fr. benin)
  • moderate (Fr. modique)
  • natural
  • nice
  • neat
  • normal
  • orthodox (Fr. bien pensant)
  • passable (Fr. assez bon)
  • pleasing (fr. aimable)
  • positive
  • proper (Fr. à propos)
  • real (Fr. vrai)
  • regular (Fr. en règle)
  • satisfactory
  • simple (Fr. candide)
  • sincere
  • solid (It. sodo)
  • sound (Fr. robuste)
  • standard
  • straightforward (Fr. sans detour)
  • telling (Fr. puissant, efficace)
  • tenuous
  • tolerable (It. sopportabile)
  • traditional
  • true
  • typical
  • uniform
  • universal
  • unpretentious
  • unspoiled
  • unstudied (It. spontaneo)
  • unvarying
  • usual (Fr. courant)
  • vinous

    USEFUL = above average (~80 points)

  • accommodating (Fr. obligeant)
  • adaptable (Fr. souple)
  • adjustable (It. regolabile)
  • amusing (Fr. drôle; It. divertente spassoso)
  • approachable
  • apt (It. atto, adato, capace)
  • authentic
  • beneficial (Fr. avantageux, salutaire; It. vantaggioso)
  • competent (Fr. apte)
  • consumable
  • convenient (Fr. pratique; It. comodo)
  • droll
  • edifying
  • effective
  • effectual
  • efficient
  • favourable (It. propizio)
  • friendly (Fr. amical)
  • fun (Fr. plaisant)
  • functional
  • handy
  • healthy (Fr. bien portant)
  • helpful (Fr. serviable, secourable)
  • immediate (It. prossimo, vicino)
  • likeable (Fr. agréable, apprécie, populaire; It. simpatico, amabile)
  • multi-purpose
  • obliging (It. compiacente, gentile, servizievole, cartece)
  • popular (It. in voga, ben voluto)
  • practical (It. fattibile)
  • pragmatic
  • quaffable (It. tracannare)
  • ready (It. abile, pronto)
  • reasonable (It. ragionevole)
  • refreshing (It. ristorare)
  • reliable (It. fidato)
  • representative
  • salutary
  • serviceable (Fr. utile)
  • sensible (Fr. doué de bon sens)
  • suitable (It. adatto)
  • supportive (It. sostenere)
  • trustworthy (It. fidato, sicuro)
  • ubiquitous (It. omnipresente)
  • unobjectionable
  • unobnoxious
  • usable (Fr. utilisable)
  • useful (Fr. pratique)
  • utilitarian
  • valid (It. valevole)
  • versatile
  • wholesome (Fr. sain)
  • worthwhile (It. valore, merito)
  • worthy (Fr. digne)

    MODEST = completely above average (~84 points)

  • agreeable
  • amicable
  • appealing (It. supplichevole)
  • aromatic
  • attractive (It. attraente)
  • calm (It. placido)
  • charming
  • clean
  • comfortable (It. comodo)
  • compact
  • complaisant
  • composed (Fr. assuré)
  • dainty (Fr. delicat; It. raffine)
  • delicate
  • encouraging (It. incoraggiante)
  • evanescent
  • fetching
  • forward (Fr. audacieux)
  • fragile
  • fragrant (It. odoroso)
  • fresh
  • fruity
  • good
  • graceful
  • humble (Fr. modeste)
  • hushed (It. far tacere)
  • lean
  • light (It. sparuto, scarno, smilzo)
  • lively (Fr. vif en joue, plein d'entrain)
  • mellow
  • modest (Fr. sans prétention)
  • muted
  • original
  • placid
  • pleasant (It. gradevole, dilettevole)
  • pliant
  • polished (It. lucido)
  • positive
  • propitious
  • quiet (Fr. tranquille, paisable)
  • refined (Fr. bien élevé)
  • restrained (It. restrizione)
  • rounded (It. tondetto)
  • scented
  • self-effacing (Fr. sans amour-propre)
  • slender (Fr. svelte)
  • slight
  • smooth (Fr. moelleux)
  • soft (Fr. tendre, doux)
  • steady (It. fermo, soldo)
  • subtle (It. sottile)
  • sure (It. sicuro)
  • sustaining (It. provare)
  • tenuous
  • tranquil
  • underrated (It. svalutare)
  • understated (Fr. minimise)
  • undervalued (It. sminuire)
  • unspoiled
  • worldly


Dean Tudor, Wine Writers' Circle of Canada, Professor Emeritus of Journalism, Ryerson University.

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