Here it comes… Wine Spectator’s Top 100

I know, I know, I said I don’t believe in the trophy lists of the wines of the year and such. But it doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re entertaining.

Take Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, a trophy that many a wine seller will display proudly to boost sales, in particular with the if-Parker-or-Wine-Spectator-didn’t-give-it-at-least-90-I-don’t- want-to-hear-about-it kind of crowd.

As with any panel or jury that has to make this kind of choice, using criteria that are as much external to the product as internal, the list can be read as much as a political statement, an editorial appreciation of how the wine world is (should be?) as an actual expression of what the actual best juice-in-the-bottle is, for 2007.

In 2002, for instance, Wine Spec chose E. Guigal’s 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a 30$ bottle, arguing explicitely that it was an appropriate choice for the post-9/11 recession mood. In other words, it was the best wine for “hard times”, rather than the best wine period. I’m not sure how I would have taken that, if I had been a Guigal, really.

This year, at number 9, stands Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2004. Why? Well, I’m sure it’s really great, but the editorial note helpfully points out that it was the last year the Mondavis were involved with their winery, now part of the Constellation Empire. So it seems as much a tip of the hat than a tip of the glass.

This being said, I am glad to see the list include wines such as Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate 2005 chardonnay, at number 2, especially when the description of that wine mentions that “The cool, mountain climate keeps the acidity lively and the flavors fresh and concentrated.” Lively acidity and freshness? I wish I could read more notes like that in Wine Spectator.

I recently drank a bottle of Santa Cruz 1997 with a group of friends, and the wine was a star of the evening. It was buttery and golden-colored, with toasted-bread aromas, a nice touch of fruit, still, and enough acidity and bitterness, on the finale, to keep it fresh. I don’t think it would have kept much longer, but it was yet another tribute to Paul Draper’s great winemaking skills and philosophy, something that Eric Asimov, from the NY Times, has just paid tribute to on his blog. Sometimes, we can all be on the same page.

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