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THURSDAY THORNS
09/02/2010
THE REPORT CARD
100 Points For 100 Bottles of 100-Point Wine . . . . . Or Not

The Good

The Naples Florida Winter Wine Festival and auction, one of the most prestigious and successful charity wine auctions in the country has come up with a novel idea. It has gathered 100 bottles of wine rated at 100 Points by wine critics and will use this lot as the centerpiece of its annual January soiree. Look for this event to get big coverage in the slick paper wine press and be prepared to see lots of pictures of the rich and famous as they ante up beaucoup dinero to buy this once in a lifetime collection. We read with great interest that the critics in question were the Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator, and while we are a bit surprised that there are such a large number of perfect wines in the world, we are entirely supportive of the idea that they be used to lighten the wallets of well-heeled in the name of raising money to help underprivileged and at risk children. Bravo. Kudos. Brilliant stuff.

Our Grade for Part 1: A+

Our Reservations

Let’s be clear. We have no reservations about the intent or the concept. Full stop.

But, there is a big question about 100-Point wines. We don’t believe they exist. Wine is ever changing in the bottle and ever-changing in the wineries. The great clarets and Napa Valley Cabernets of 1970 are but relatives, not twins of the wines of today. Not only are the wines riper and richer on both sides of the Atlantic but they are cleaner and more open in style with lifelines that threaten to peak sooner and thus may, in many cases at least, begin to go down hill sooner. They are certainly magnificent wines and one expects that the critics in question understand the difference between immediacy and nuanced greatness. Still, 100 Points is a little much for our taste. Today’s 100-point wine may only rate 95 in ten years. Certainly, Mr. Parker showed that his ratings could change that much for his top wines at a New York tasting of 2000 clarets when the order of finish shifted among his fifteen blind-tasted bottlings. That is one reason why we stop at 98 points and rarely give that number. Perfection is elusive. It does not come along by the 100 bottles. And the giving of 100 Points seems to us to be an act designed to impress both the giver and the reader. If it could be replicated blind over the years, maybe we could talk about validity. But, as Mr. Parker, whose Bordeaux palate we respect greatly, has shown, those scores are not replicable. And thus should not be given. Whether scores or any other symbolic marker (stars/puffs anyone) are useful in any guise is a subject for another day.

Our Grade for Part 2: B-.

Wine of The Day

Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill 2007 may not have earned 100-points from us but our score of 97 points certainly reflects our great enthusiasm for the wine. The vintage has been good across the board and the Cabernets, while perhaps less consistent than the great Pinot Noirs, are nonetheless going to yield the best crop of wines of that variety as we have seen in some time. This wine, buttressed with 12% Petit Verdot and 8% Malbec, is at once bold, ripe, nuanced and very tightly structured. Unlike many big wines, it is not nearly ready to drink, but when it starts to come around, in another five years to eight years, it is going to age like crazy and will add further proof that structure and balance in support of great depth do produce ageworthy wines that will last two decades and more. Its price of $135 may make it more suitable for the swells down in Naples, Florida than for folks seeking an everyday mealtime beverage, but it is certainly a lot less pricey than those DRCs and Screaming Eagles that will be the darlings of the Naples auction.

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