• Alexander Smith

What is a 100 point wine?

This can cause a great deal of debate in the wine world. Robert Parker started the 100 point wine scale in the 1980's, a way to recognize and score wines out of 100. Other critics quickly adopted this scale, European wine critics also use a 20 point scale as well. Confused? Well not all critics agree, and so you can have a wine that might score 87, 90 or 94 points. Urgh! But what does all this really mean?

Clos Apalta 2013 - A 100 point wine!
Clos Apalta 2013 - A 100 point wine!

This means that anyone including you, yes you! can rate a wine out of 100! So why don't you? Challenge is on!

Now, this is how I rate wines:

  • 82 and below - Not recommended

  • 82-85 - Drinkable, little depth or quality, some defects.

  • 85-89 - Good table wine, some depth, however quality is missing. Fruit and secondary notes apparent. Length and finish not harmonious.

  • 90-93 - Excellent. A wine showing good balance and length. Fruit, barrel and secondary notes very much apparent. High potential

  • 93-96 - Outstanding, well balanced, length and a good display of fruit, barrel and secondary aromas. Harmonious

  • 96-99 - Truly outstanding wine, with perfect balance and excellent characteristics of the terroir and/or display of fruit, barrel and secondary aromas. Good length and a harmonious finish.

  • 100 - Perfect. The same as 96-99 however with zero imperfections.

The above is my scale, which I will use on this site to judge different wines. 82 is my minimum, since the reader will get the picture without me being unkind. There is no value added in grading a wine at 50. I know this will confuse many readers. Why use a scale on 100, where you only use 18% of the numbers to grade? Good question, hopefully, Robert Parker has the answer :)

When grading a wine I tend to compare similar styles of wine. For example, I will grade a Cabernet Sauvignon on the same scale, whether it is from Chile, Napa or New York State! I cannot compare a Cabernet Sauvignon on the same scale as a Sauvignon Blanc, this is like comparing apples and oranges, or red and white grapes ;) Blends are more tricky, I try to group them in a style, such as a Bordeaux blend; from the left bank to a Super Tuscan.

Back to the original question, what makes a 100 point wine? Well hopefully by now you will be able to answer that question. In summary, it is perfect. Every aspect of the wine is spot on from the fruit aromas on the nose to the length and complexity of the finish. I remember my first 100 point wine this year in Chile; Clos Apalta 2013. It was perfect. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to find a fault; I failed. Everything just worked.

A question I get asked a lot, can a $20 bottle of wine receives 100 points? Probably not. There are a lot of work that goes in to that glass of wine you are holding; The way the grapes are grown in the vineyard to the aging process in the barrel. Yields, natural yeast, soil, geographic location, dry-farming, organic, hand harvesting, style of fermentation, barrel selection, aging length, the list goes on and on. Most of the above will be financially difficult to do at a cost of $20.

The sweet spots for me are those wines that score between 90-94 and which cost around $30-40. South America, New Zealand, and South Africa are able to produce wines of excellent quality at a price which will not break the bank!

Are 100 point wines worth it? Do you even care what wine critics say? How do you choose your wines? Let me know below

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