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Wednesday’s Meritage #152 – Top 100 Lists

December 16, 2020 3 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!

 

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