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Wednesday’s Meritage #152 – Top 100 Lists

December 16, 2020 2 comments

Meritage time!

Yes, it is the top time again. A time for the tops? Whatever. A Top 100 time – that’s what time it is.

Today’s Meritage is all about numbers and wines. By now most of the wine publications released their Top 100 wine lists of the year and being a number junkie, I want to ponder at them – analyze might be a bigger, but better-suited word. On one side all the Top 100 lists seem to be fun and games – on another side, there is serious business associated with those lists. Of course, they all have different carrying power, but Wine Spectator Top 100 is a serious selling tool – as soon as this list is published, the wine stores go out of their way to get as many as possible of the wine on that list, as wine consumers ask for those by name. So let’s play the game, shall we?

For this post, I took 3 Top 100 wine lists to analyze – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020 list, James Suckling Top 100 of 2020 list, and Wine Enthusiast Top 100 of 2020 list.  All lists are based on tens of thousands of wines tasted by publications’ wine reviewers throughout the year – all the specifics of the process for each publication can be found using the links provided above.

Let’s look at the Wines of the Year first – the cream of the crop so to speak.

Wine Spectator’s wine of the year is 2010 Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial ($139, WS96) – I had some other Castillo Ygay wines in the past, but not this one. I’m sure it is a well-deserved recognition for this wine – but this choice doesn’t strike me as anything out of ordinary. James Suckling’s wine of the year, on another hand, is something quite unique in my book – 2018 Chacra Pinot Noir Patagonia Treinta y Dos Argentina (wine-searcher $123, JS100). This does strike me as an interesting choice – yes, I had good Pinot Noir wines from Argentina, but considering the price, and the fact that this wine was selected ahead of such heavyweights as Chateau Margaux, California Bryant and Abreu, or Australian Henschke and Torbreck, this must be one hell of the wine. I would love to try it, but I’m sure the wine will have zero availability for the next number of years. Wine Enthusiast choice for the wine of the year was 2017 Lail Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($80, WE97) – never heard of this wine, but you can’t go wrong with Napa Cab, can you?

Comparing the wine lists in their entirety, we can see some interesting differences. James Suckling’s list clearly stands out in ratings, region representation, and prices of the wines. All 100 wines at James Suckling’s list are rated either 98, 99, or 100 – with 99 being the median value. At the same time, Wine Spectator’s list has wines rated from 90 to 97, with a median rating of 93; Wine Enthusiast’s ratings range from 90 to 99, also with a median value of 93.

Price-wise, James Suckling’s list is the most expensive – only 9 wines are priced under $50, and another 30 under $100 – the rest (70!) is priced in excess of $100, and 13 most expensive wines priced above $300. The most expensive wines are California cults – Bryant Family and Abreu ($688 and $685, respectively). I have to note that Suckling doesn’t provide release prices – each wine is listed with the link to Wine-Searcher, which complicates things a bit, with some of the listed vintages not even yet available. The average price of wine on this list is $173, with a median value of $123.

Wine Spectator’s list priced a lot more reasonably (based on the release prices), with Top 10 being some of the most expensive wines, with only one out of ten priced less than $90. The most expensive wine on Wine Spectator’s list is Ridge Monte Bello at $230. The average price of wine on Wine Spectator’s list is only $50, with a median value of $35.

Wine Enthusiast’s list is priced even better than the WS’s list, with the most expensive wine being Brovia Garblèt Suè Barolo at $92, the average wine price on the list at $34, and the median value of $28.

Last but not least we can look at the regions represented in the three lists. To simplify the comparison, I created a little table for you:

Region JS WS WE
Argentina 9 4 3
Australia 19 3 4
Austria 3 1 4
California 9 18 19
Canada 1
Chile 6 2 4
France 12 20 17
Germany 17 2 3
Greece 1
Hungary 1
Israel 1 1
Italy 20 19 16
New York 1 1
New Zealand 4 3
Oregon 1 7 5
Portugal 1 1 7
South Africa 3 1
Spain 2 9 5
Uruguay 1
Washington 1 3 5

Here you can see that James Suckling’s list is uniquely standing out with the number of Australian and German wines far exceeding those in the other lists. I happy to see a good coverage of my beloved Spanish wines in the Wine Spectator’s list, and I would like to commend Wine Enthusiast for giving appropriate attention to the Portuguese wines. For any further insight, I will let you continue peeking at these numbers on your own.

Here you go, my friends. There are lots and lots more of the Top 100 lists available today, but I limited my analysis to these 3. You can definitely continue the analysis on your own, but for me, it is the time to work on my own Top Dozen list.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

The Curse and Mystery Of The Top 100 Wine Lists

December 5, 2019 4 comments

Lists and numbers – who doesn’t like that? We, humans, are all about lists, we like to sort things out – to-do lists, shopping lists, “best” lists, “best of the best ” lists, Top 10 lists, Top 100 lists. No area of people’s interest is immune to the lists – and of course, the world of wine is no exception – come to the end of the year, and you are guaranteed to see lists and lists of the lists, ranking wines, wineries, regions, winemakers, what have you.

I don’t know how much attention you are paying to the top wine lists. Talking about myself, I like to ponder at the Top 100 lists, especially the one produced by Wine Spectator – not because it is any better or different than the others, but simply because I had been a subscriber for a long time, and it formed more into a habit. My main interest is to see what wines can I recognize, and then to play with the data a bit – countries, prices, grapes. I’m a number junkie. It is always fun to organize numbers in a few different ways, no matter if it means anything or not, and so the Top 100 lists present a good opportunity to conduct such a “research”.

Before we delve into the numbers, let’s talk about the Mystery. What is mysterious about the top 100 wine lists? I would say most everything? How the wines are chosen? How wine #1  is decided? According to the information on the James Suckling web site, they select the top 100 wines out of the 25,000 wines tasted throughout the year. How do decide on 100 out of 25,000? Do you run a separate list of potential candidates throughout the year, or do you sit down at the end of the year and try honestly recall the most memorable wines of the year? What role the ratings play?

Here is what Wine Spectator says on the subject: “Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality, value, availability and excitement”. I like the “excitement” part, this is how I decide on my top dozen wine of the year. The other two publications I studied with Top 100 lists don’t talk about their methodology, they just talk about the content of their lists.

So here are some stats we can gain from looking into the details of the Top 100 lists.

Wine Spectator:

Wine Spectator offers two lists – the regular Top 100 Wine and Top 100 Value Wines, which includes wines priced under $25 (you can find all the lists here). I didn’t spend time with the top value list, so all the numbers below are related to the Top 100 list:

  • Distribution by country: France – 23, California – 22, Italy – 21, Spain – 7, Australia and Oregon – 5 each, Chile and Portugal – 3 each, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, and Washington – 2each, Argentina, Israel, and South Africa – 1 each
  • Distribution by the wine type – 74 reds, 21 whites, 1 Rosé, and 4 Sparkling.
  • Prices – most expensive – $197, least expensive – $13. 14 wines are priced above $100, 13 wines are in the $75 – $99 range, 11 wines are in the $50 to $74 range, 27 wines are priced in the $25 – $49 range, and 35 wines are in the $13 – $25 range.
  • Ratings: the top score is 98, the lowest is 90. There is only one wine on the list with a rating of 98, 6 wines have a rating of 97. The ratings of 96, 95 and 94 are assigned to 14 wines each. 11 wines have a rating of 93, 10 wines each have ratings of 92 and 91, and 20 wines have a rating of 90.
  • Wine Spectator’s top wine of the year 2019 was 2016 Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien with a rating of 97 and priced at $98.

Wine Enthusiast:

Wine Enthusiast produces not one, but 3 Top Wine lists – Top 100 Wines, Top 100 Best Buys, and Top 100 Cellar Selections – these links will allow you to retrieve PDFs for each list. General notes on Wine Enthusiast site say that more than 24,000 wines are tasted during the year and afterwards condensed into the 3 Top Wine lists. Note that Wine Enthusiast Best Buys list covers only wines under $15. Focusing on the Top 100, I did a limited analysis, using the data already provided in the PDF file:

  • Distribution by country: California – 18, Italy – 17, France – 16, Australia, Oregon and Spain – 5 each, Argentina, Chile, Portugal and Washington – 4 each, Austria and Germany – 3 each, NY State and South Africa – 2 each, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Uruguay and Virginia – 1 each
  • Prices – most expensive – $114, least expensive – $16. Only one wine is priced above $100, the majority of the wines are less than $50 with an average price of $33.
  • Ratings: the top score is 99, the lowest is 90. There is only one wine on the list with a rating of 99, 3 wines are rated at 98, 5 wines have a rating of 97, 8 wines are rated at 96. Most of the rated wines fall in the 91-93 range (55 wines)
  • Wine Enthusiast top wine of the year 2019 was NV Nino Franco Rustico Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore with a rating of 94 and priced at $20.

James Suckling:

This one is the most exclusive Top 100 club in a number of ways. First, you need to be a subscriber to see any wine details. Second, all the wines on the Top 100 list are rated 98-100 points. This is the only stats available from the James Suckling Top 100 Wines website: “We have 41 100-point wines in the list and another 35 with 99 points. The rest of the wines scored 98 points. All the wines were produced in quantities of 300 cases or more.”

Let’s leave James Suckling Top 100 list aside and talk about Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast lists. The makeup of both lists is quite similar when it comes to the countries – California, France, and Italy represent at least half of the Top 100 wines (2/3 in case of Wine Spectator list). Where the list differ quite a bit is in the pricing – 14 $100+ wines on the Wine Spectator list versus only 1 on the Wine Enthusiast. But the biggest difference to me is the Wine #1 – Grand Cru Classé versus Prosecco. Okay, call me a snob or whatever you want, but I’m really missing the point of the Wine Enthusiast choice. To my defense, I can only say one thing – I tasted this wine. Nino Franco Rustico is a nice Prosecco, and but it is really, really far away from the memorable, exciting wine. Here you go – another case of the wine list mystery.

I also wanted to talk about the “curse” of the Top 100 wine list, for sure when it comes to the one from the Wine Spectator. As soon as the wine makes it on that list, it instantly becomes unavailable. Adding to the mystery side, it is a mystery to me why an average wine consumer puts such a value on the Top 100 list nomination. But talking about availability, are we looking at the scalping phenomenon in the works? Buy bulk and resell for a quick buck? This is annoying, and it is a real problem for the wine retailers who can’t find enough of those top wines to offer them to consumers. It also gets worse every year – a friend of mine, who has a wine store in Stamford, was able to assemble about 40 Top 100 wines to offer to his customers last year – this year he will barely make it to 20.

There you have it my friends – a deeper look into the mystery (and curse) of the Top 100 wine lists. Do you pay attention to those? What do you think of this year’s top wines? Do you see any trends? Cheers!

Following Wines Til Sold Out – Top 100 Tuesday

May 27, 2012 3 comments

If you are reading this blog regularly, you probably have seen some of the previous posts about Wine Til Sold Out, one of the best online wine stores. Every once in a while Wine Til Sold Out (WTSO for short) hosts a special “marathon” events, where they offer lots of wines during 18 or 24 hours period – here is a link to one of my previous “follow” posts.

About a month ago WTSO run a new type of marathon – this time, all the wine offered for sale were listed in various Top 100 lists by Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and other wine publications. Marathon started at 10 AM on Tuesday, April 24th, and was continuing until midnight. On average, new wine was offered for sale one per hour – however, couple of wines (Bodegas Los Astrales and Orin Swift Saldo) were sold out within 5 minutes of being offered, so the other wines had to take its place. For most of the offers it was necessary to buy 4 bottles to receive free shipping, however for some of the wines it was only 3. All in all, lots of great values were offered – you can see for yourself in the table below. I also couldn’t resist but to include the last wine in the table, White Cottage “Risa” – it was not the part of the Super Tuesday, but it represented a great value.

As always, here is the guide to rating abbreviations typically used in the WTSO offers:  WS – Wine Spectator, WA – Wine Advocate, ST – Steven Tanzer, WE – Wine Enthusiast, WRO –  Wine Review Online, W&S – Wine and Spirits, MS – Mari Stull, JHN – Jonathan H. Newman, D – Decanter Magazine, rating goes in stars ( 5 stars is max).

And here is the table:

Time Wine Name Rating Orig. Price WTSO Price % off
10:00 am Bodegas Los Astrales Astrales Ribera Del Duero 2008 – #53 Top 100 WS WS94
10:04 am Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese Riesling 2009 #78 Top 100 WS 2011 WS93 $36.99 $24.99 32%
10:45 am Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Ribera del Duero Crianza 2005 #26 Top 100 WS 2010 WS94 $36.99 $23.99 35%
11:04 am Domaine Louis Cheze Caroline Cuvee Prestige AOC Saint Joseph Syrah 2009 #98 Top 100 WS 2011 WS92 $65.00 $29.99 54%
12:00 pm Orin Swift Saldo Zinfandel 2008 – #69 Top 100 WS 2010 WS91 35%
12:05 pm Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre IGT Veronese 2008 #60 Top 100 Wines WS 2011 WS90,  WA89 $23.99 $16.99 29%
1:00 pm Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco Seleccion de Familia Rioja Crianza 2008 #59 Top 100 WS 2011 WS90 $19.99 $13.99 30%
1:05 pm Fattoria Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 #40 Top 100 WS 2010 WS93 $34.99 $21.99 37%
2:30 pm Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005 #96 Top 100 WE 2010 WE92 $26.00 $17.49 33%
3:30 pm Cascina Adelaide Preda Barolo DOCG 2007 #37 Top 100 Wines WE Italy 2011 WE94, JS93 $86.99 $42.99 51%
4:30 pm Super Tuscan 2007 Terrabianca Campaccio Toscana IGT #36 Top 100 WS 2011 WS93,WA92 $34.99 $22.99 34%
5:30 pm Bodegas Ondarre Reserva Rioja 2004 #58 Top 100 WS 2010! WS91 $22.99 $11.49 50%
6:30 pm Rivetto Barolo Serralunga 2007 #59 Top 100 2011 Wine Enthusiast WE94,WS94 $74.99 $37.49 50%
7:30 pm 2010 Albarino Rias Biaxas Bodegas Martin Codax #77 Top 100 WE Best Buys 2011 WE90 $17.99 $12.49 31%
8:30 pm Domaine Louis Cheze Caroline Cuvee Prestige AOC Saint Joseph Syrah 2009 #98 WS Top 100 WS92 $65.00 $29.99 54%
9:15 pm Michele Chiarlo Reyna Barbaresco 2006 #6 Top 100 WE 2009 WE93 $50.00 $29.99 40%
10:15 pm Bodega Tikalo Kios Elite (Vina de la Tierra de Castilla) 2004 #77 Top 100 Wines WE WE91 $34.99 $16.99 51%
10:50 pm Bodegas Ondarre Reserva Rioja 2004 #58 Top 100 WS 2010! WS91 $22.99 $11.49 50%
11:26 pm Super Tuscan 2007 Terrabianca Campaccio Toscana IGT #36 Top 100 WS 2011 WS93,WA92 $34.99 $22.99 34%
12:00 am April-25 White Cottage Estate ‘Risa’ Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $45.00 $19.99 56%

If you are not following Wine Til Sold Out – you really should, WTSO means real savings. Enjoy! Cheers!

Categories: wine stores, WTSO Tags: ,

Counting Up and Counting Down

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

It is that time of year again – all you hear from all the sides is counting up and down. Top 10s, Top 100s, 10 best of this and 5 best of that, umpteen days until Christmas and only so many days before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, let’s join in and do some counting here as well.

Starting with the closest one, tomorrow (or today, depending on when you will read this post)  Wine Spectator will announce its number one wine of the year. Every year Wine Spectator publishes a list of top 100 wines of the year (paid subscribers can access those lists going all the way back to 1988). For now, top 9 wines of 2011 out of the 10 are already announced, and you can find that list on the Wine Spectator web site (the list is open to public until November 27th). Looking at the list, you can find there wines from California, Italy, France, Washington and Portugal, with ratings from 94 to 96 points and prices ranging from $35 to $90. We only have to wait until tomorrow to find out what the Wine Spectator Wine Of the Year 2011will be.

Moving on to the next countdown, there are only 2 days left until the release of Beaujolais Noveau – first wine of 2011 vintage officially released in France in Beaujolais region . Yes, this holiday didn’t exist until 1985, and you can call it just a marketing ploy – nevertheless, it became a modern tradition which is celebrated with midnight releases, parties, food, wine and all appropriate extravaganza. If we look at the trend of last 3-4 years, we actually have something to look forward to – the quality of the Beaujolais Noveau had being steadily increasing, with 2009 being really good, and last year’s, 2010 being even better than the one before. Stop by your neighborhood wine shop, talk to your friends, check your social media outlets – you will definitely find a place to celebrate wine’s new beginnings in style. If you live close to Stamford, CT, I can recommend the place already – stop by Cost Less Wines on Thursday for the taste of Beaujolais Noveau 2011.

Talking about events, here is last, but definitely not least – there are only 3 days left until PJ Wine Grand Tasting. This coming Friday, November 18th at Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City you will have an opportunity (it might be once in a life time opportunity) to try Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug, 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2000 Chateau d’Yquem, 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, 1985 Chateau Haut-Brion, 1952 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva and many other incredible wines, all in one evening. It is still not too late to get your tickets, and you can use discount code Talk-a-Vino to get $10 off your ticket price (here is the link for you to click).

Lastly, I want to report some counting up – I added three more new grapes, thanks to the 2008 Monasterio de Corias Ocho Meses Tinto wine from Spain. The new grapes are Albarin Negro, Carrasquin and Verdejo Negro. The wine was very interesting, with pronounced acidity, limited fruit expression, good minerality and roasted tomatoes on the nose, very food friendly (Drinkability: 7+).

To conclude, I’m curios where you think the Wine Spectator Top Wine of the Year will be from. I’m torn between Oregon and Spain. Oregon is simply because I believe Oregon makes great wines and should be represented in the top 10. At the same time, Spanish wines are getting rapidly growing acceptance, and they are also great in my opinion, so it will be only fair if top wine of the year will be from Spain. Well, we are not going to wait for a long time. If you have any predictions, please share them here. Cheers!

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