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1/22/01

C'mon, Spectator!

Itís been an interesting few weeks.  My twin daughters (Future Winettes in 2021, or FW21 for short) have gone through ear infections and viruses and Sometimes-A-Wino Sharon and I have not had the time for Winoing (wow, is that a word?  Maybe Winostuff.com will make the news one day for coining new terms in popular Americanese!).  Without a specific topic to opine on, Iíll comment on a few that Iíve been saving in my inbox.

S-A-W Sharon and I went to a party over the holidays.  The day after the party, the hosts called us and asked if we had the issue of Wine Spectator with the Top 100 List of 2000.  I said that we did.  They asked if we could fax them a copy of the reference card enclosed in the issue.  I didnít realize that Wine Spectator provides a handy-dandy pocket reference guide, but sure enough, it was there.  The reason our hosts had asked us to fax the list was that during the party the previous evening, someone had torn the list out of the issue and purloined it.  Wow, classy party guests, for sure.

I usually donít pay much attention to the Wine Spectator Top 100 List.  I have been a long time subscriber to Robert Parkerís Wine Advocate (www.wineadvocate.com for those of you interested in ordering).  For those of you uninitiated to the debate, Parker maintains that there are a lot of wine publications whose reviews are biased toward the companies that advertise in their publications.  Parkerís review is by subscription only and he does not accept support from vineyards.  Parkerís claim may be buttressed by the most recent Top 100 List.  In the first 20, there are only three wines listed with prices under $40 per bottle.  All three of those wines are non-US.  In the next 20, nine wines are listed with prices under $40 per bottle.  In the middle fifth, 11 of the 20 are priced under $40 per bottle.  31 of the final 40 are priced under $40 per bottle.  I donít have the engineering bent of Wino John, but it seems interesting that if all the wines were blind-tasted, that the distribution of less expensive wines would be to the bottom of the list.  After all, there are thousands of wines in the world, so blind-tasting them all should lead to a fairly normal distribution.  Most of us donít buy wines at prices over $40 per bottle.  Yet, quite a few of us have an appreciation for fine wines.  I wonder how much of the $120 per bottle price of Joseph Phelps Insignia goes to advertising in Wine Spectator.

After reading with interest the Top 100 List, I couldnít wait to open the January 31, 2001 Wine Spectator since its cover caption was 165 Smart Buys For Your Cellar, great wines under $50.  Either the editors were oblivious to the previous issue Top 100 or thereís another goal in mind, because the wines in the 165 Smart Buys list didnít always match the Top 100 List.  For example, under the collectible California Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Blends (on page 37), Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Cinq Cepages 1997 was listed for $50 with a score of 96.  Since the 1996 Cinq Cepages was the number one wine in last yearís Top 100, it wouldnít surprise me that the 1997 (a better year) was a 96.  However, the 1997 was not in this yearís Top 100 at all (an oversight, I think not since a 96 rating is a Classic).  As to the 1997ís availability, I visited the winery last year and could not obtain a bottle of the 1996 one month after the Top 100 list was issued.  Maybe thatís why the 1997 wasnít rated in the Top 100.  The Smart Buy 165 lists St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997 but doesnít list the St. Francis Merlot Reserve 1997 which was number 68 on the Top 100 and sells for $40 per bottle.  It also doesnít list the Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon which was number 28 on the Top 100 and sells for $45.  I could go on and on.  Iíll let you draw your own conclusions.

Just because Wine Spectator takes advertising, it doesnít mean that the wines it rates are not good.  However, you can get carried away if you only buy rated wines.  And, if you stock a 200-bottle cellar with wines that cost you an average of $40, youíll have $8,000 tied up in wines.  Some of the vineyards that make the highly rated reserves that sell for $50 per bottle also make excellent wines for under $20 per bottle.  Go with your taste buds.  Thereís nothing wrong with enjoying an unrated bottle of wine that cost you $13.  Ask some friends, ask your retailer, andÖ.check out Wino Bobís reviews.  Sometimes he goes for the expensive bottles, but he wouldnít be a Wino if he didnít appreciate wines in all price categories.

 


 

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