User ID:

Remember me
Lost password?

Thursday Thorns
101 Point Napa Cabernet For $14

By Charles Olken

Yesterday, Tim Fish of the W. Spectator, headlined his blog with “100 Point Napa Cab--$15”. Of course, no such wine exists. On that premise, I have gone Tim one better.

You see, that is the problem with grade inflation. It has gotten to the point that writers are willing to use the hook of high scores to get you to read their columns. In that, I guess I am at least as culpable as Mr. Fish. In fact, mea culpa and Bacchus forgive me, I am a point and dollar worse. It’s not all bad, of course. One of the folks who responded to his column actually admitted to being a “point whore”.

And with that admission, I am guessing that those who would have us throw the point system out are now laughing up their sleeves at us. Yes, us, folks, because Mr. Fish’s column was read by hundreds and hundreds and maybe thousands and thousands of people—and not one of them objected to being sucked in by the lurid title.

Of course, I would like to say that this blog has never used “titles” to attract readership, but that would be stretching the truth. Titles and headlines are meant to attract attention. And hopefully those of you who are reading this column are not upset with me for sucking you into a column that has zero to do with 100-point Napa Cabs at any price.

But now that you are here, let me pose this question: DOES A 100-POINT WINE EXIST?

I have argued persuasively that it does not. And I have agreed with myself. That is why Connoisseurs’ Guide has never given a score to a wine over 98 points, and only a few of those. For me, at least, I am always hoping that the next wine will be better than anything I have yet tasted. In point of fact, that is often the case. Some of the wines of the 2007 vintage have proven to be better than anything that came before them. At least, that is my impression, and I have no good way of measuring how good my 1973 and 1974 Chalone Pinots may have been by comparison or 1973 Ridge Geyserville or even 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard.

Once a publication starts handing out 100-point wines like they were candy, then 100-points no longer means perfection. There cannot have been hundreds of perfect wines. Maybe a handful. A Tokaji Essencia I once had from a ceramic spoon may have been one. A DRC Romanée-Conti may have been another, but, since neither of those wines was tasted blind against any competition, who knows. The setting and the anticipation may well have made them into some of the best I have ever tasted. My memory certainly thinks so. But, 100 points?

Tim Fish, who is a gentleman and a gentle man, was exaggerating. He said so in the very opening of his blog. But the fact that he attracted so many readers means that he, and I by imitation, are playing on the excesses that do arise in our chosen rating systems. I am sure Bacchus will forgive me, and perhaps Tim will as well. I just could not avoid the opportunity to do him one better—or was it “one worse”?.


Palate Bias
by Mike Dunne
Posted on:10/13/2011 12:03:24 PM

I would have thought that a well-seasoned and consistently balanced wine critic such as yourself would have recognized the old ceramic-spoon ploy that makes just about any 90-point wine taste like one worthy of 100 points. I suspect Bacchus was the first to point it out.

101 Point Tokaji Essencia
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/13/2011 1:59:43 PM

I forgot to mention that it was a sterlng silver ceramic spoon with inlaid ivory and diamonds borrowed from Donald Trump when he wasn't looking.

by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:10/14/2011 8:32:16 AM

I'm guilty of being a Title Whore....

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/14/2011 8:49:21 AM

Sam, you just keep calling me Sir Charles and all will be well.

Leave a comment below, but please limit your comments to 1,200 characters or less. We find it helpful to make a copy of our comments to be sure that they fit. In that way, you can edit them if they run long.

(Please note: your e-mail address will not be visible after posting)



Note: Refresh your browser to see your latest comments.

Having technical problems with the comment system? Click here.