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Nov 16, 2011 08:59 AM

WS Top 100 of the year: any comments on top 10? Wine of the Year? Legitimacy of such a list?

Well, it's that time of the year again. The time when powerhouse Wine Spectator teases us with its "Top 100 Wines of the Year" list. This week, it has counted down wines 10 through 2 and today revealed its "Wine of the Year": Kosta Browne's 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot.

As uneasy as I am about this list, I am like a driver passing a wreck: I scan the list each year and see how many of the choices are in my cellar. And, as uneasy as I am about WS's relationship to the food and wine industry, its ability to make or break small winemakers and boost the already inflated egos of famous chefs, I have been a subscriber for many years.

I happen to think that this year's #1 choice is a darn good choice. Here's a great wine with a great heritage. It is priced within the reach of most wine buyers who buy an occasional special-occasion bottle and it is plentiful. Of course, the retail industry gets a copy of the top 100 before the public and this $54 bottle is now listed online for more than $100.

What do you think of WS's top 100 this year and in general? Any comments on individual selections, including #1?

Before you get typing, here's a link to a blogger who has some particularly keen insights into the WS top 100 phenomenon in general:

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  1. It should come as no great surprise that most people in the trade live in fear of this list, and dread its release every year. Bottom line for retailers: it's the year's biggest headache, and no amount of morphine (let alone Motrin) will make this headache go away!

    Overwhelmingly, since this is a "Top 100 OF THE ENTIRE YEAR," most of the wines on the list are typically sold out -- and were a long time ago. Yet the overwhelming number of consumers who look at this list will expect each and every one of these wines -- at least the first 15-20 -- to be in stock and in plentiful supply at the local wine store. If not? "Well, this isn't much of a wine store, is it?"

    As far as the overall legitimacy of this list, I find it dubious at best. By their own criteria, the Spectator has said it's not the 100 best-scoring wines of the year, in that they (allegedly) give weight to those produced in larger quantity -- so, in theory at least, a 300 case "micro-lot" won't be on the list, but the 10,000 case production wine will . . . and while some large volume lots *do* appear, so, too, do the wines which are always on allocation, impossible to get, waiting list only, etc., etc.

    This is the one time of the year when, more so than any other, I thank my lucky stars I am no longer in the retail trade . . . .


    1 Reply
    1. re: zin1953

      I was speaking to a retailer, some years ago, and he allowed similar. When the consumers would show up with their list, he'd run away. Guess that he did not have a morphine IV handy.

      Some folk are so anal about points, or ratings, that they are laughable.

      Going back to that Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages, I gifted one bottle (remember, it became Wine of the Year) to a good friend. He needed it for his boss, who could not find it anywhere. That one bottle got him a very, very big raise. Glad to help a friend out.


    2. Though I passed on my WS subscription long ago, I do have to say that I have had some Costa Brown PN's that were very good. However, now the prices at both retail, and in restaurants will go through the roof.

      Going back some years, the Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages received that title - Wine of the Year. I had bought a half-case at about US $ 25/btl. Suddenly, it went to US $ 60. One local restaurant still had it at US $ 55 on their wine list. Over the next few months, I, and my guests, drank their supply. One steakhouse in Denver had it at US $ 250, initially, and then bumped the price to US $ 350. A good friend, and also a mutual friend of the sommelier, was there about 9 mos. after that rating. The price was then US $ 750 per btl., and he inquired about that. The answer, on why it was now so expensive was, "Because I can get it." Well, that WAS back when the expense account dinner was in full swing. People were flying up to The French Laundry in their Citations, and drinking Screaming Eagle at US $2000 / blt, just for lunch.

      The remainder of my half-case went to the Meritage vs Bdx tasting dinner, though the Jos. Phelps Insignia 2001 beat it out, as did one of the Dominus wines (cannot recall the vintage now, but have it in a printout, somewhere). Some of the members of the Wine & Food Society complained that the cost of the dinner was US$ 75 per person. Heck, one of the wines was then selling in Denver for US $ 750 / btl, and another at US $ 1000 / btl. Plus, they got 10 other noteworthy wines, plus my personal chef's meal to accompany the wines. It cost me over $ 4,000 for the dinner, above the money charged for the event. Who knew? After the complaints, I declined to do any others, except for my avowed wino buddies. For the rest of them - fee on them!

      Points is points. I care more about the wines, than the pts.


      1. If I had any of the KB, you could have it. Didn't care for it, and glad I only had a glass of it at a friend's home. Ratings may work for some folks, but not generally for me.

        2 Replies
        1. Wine Spectator's ranking is as legitimate as any other publication's, and more so than some. It is all opinion. Does it make the price go through the roof, of course it does, supply and demand. Because it is on the list, demand goes up, supply remains static, so the price goes up. I can't begrudge anyone for selling for what the market will support.

          I'm on the KB allocation list so I can buy it if I want. Since my wife likes it, I tend to buy the application series but pass on the single vineyards, just too much money for wines that are not particularly to my taste. If I buy 6 bottles a year, I can keep my wife happy. As to the other wines on the list, I have no quibble, after all, it is a subjective list and the list is prepared by a respected (if not on these boards) and well known wine publication