Today we begin the countdown of our Wine Spectator Top 10 wines of 2010. That's a small slice of the Top 100, and those 100 wines are chosen from more than 15,000 reviewed in blind tastings this past year. It's not easy to pick out the best, and our list always generates a lot of attention and discussion. That's exactly why we do it.
Our Top 100 started out in 1988. We were brainstorming for ideas. I'd just read Rolling Stones' Top 100 albums of (I think) all time, and thought that would work perfectly for us covering wine.
The Top 100 proved to be a huge hit with wine lovers. The hunt to find wine No. 1, or any of the top wines, was a fitting way to wrap up a year. Not surprisingly, it is our top-selling issue.
Our first Wine of the Year was Bordeaux's Château Lynch-Bages 1985 (97 points, $37), beating out 1985 Margaux and 1985 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg. It was a Top 10 weighted toward European wines. Only one California wine, Spottswoode 1985 (95, $25), made the Top 10. For perspective, the U.S. dollar was strong then, unlike today, and European wines were great values. It was a perfect time to discover Europe.
In sifting through all the candidates each year, just about every wine with an outstanding rating (90 points or higher) is considered (more than 3,000 this year). So many wines are so close in terms of quality, price and score that a coin toss could decide the winner. So we came up with a more subjective criterion we call the X-factor to help make our choices—this weighs how exciting a wine is, how important it was in terms of what happened in wine this year.
Only two wineries, Caymus and Beringer, have twice had wines of the year. Only one wine, Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon has won the honor twice (winning in 1994 with the 1990 vintage and in 1989 with the 1984 vintage). Beringer won with its Cabernet Private Reserve 1986 in 1990 and its Chardonnay Private Reserve 1994 in 1996.
Both of Caymus' wines came from Caymus' Rutherford estate, and the winery and this wine have maintained an unusually high level of quality with a string of outstanding wines. Curiously enough, winemaker Chuck Wagner, who's been there the entire time, has since changed course. The Napa native came to realize that he could make a better wine, and a more consistent one, by blending vineyards from around Napa Valley than by relying on just his property. Most high-end wines believe their terroir is tops. Few would consider blending.
We've had a choice or two we wish we could have back. But hindsight is 20-20 and in my experience every cellar has its clunkers. All you can do is drink up and learn from your mistakes.
We hoped our Top 100 would be a shopping list for wine lovers. That's one reason we give credit for large productions (Lynch-Bages produced about 20,000 cases of the 1985). But wine isn't like books or movies, where if you have a hit, you just manufacture more copies. What's made was made, and there isn't any more. So we've come to accept that the Top 100 is more an honor roll, recognizing the most exciting wines of the year.
Each year's list has its own personality. We try to recognize greatness and value, tradition and innovation, great winemakers and great vineyards. It's a delicate balancing act, and we hope you find it fun to watch. Give it a try yourself. What are your top wines of 2010?
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — November 15, 2010 6:05pm ET
Jason Thompson — Foster City, CA — November 15, 2010 6:22pm ET
D Scott Fortune Md — Nashville, TN — November 15, 2010 8:48pm ET
Christopher J Ascher — Shorewood, MN — November 15, 2010 10:11pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — November 15, 2010 11:23pm ET
Andrew J Grotto — Washington, DC — November 16, 2010 10:22am ET
Lew Price — Quixote Winery — November 16, 2010 2:18pm ET
Richard Millang — Santa Cruz, CA — November 16, 2010 8:08pm ET
Brian Peters — Broomfield, CO — November 16, 2010 9:38pm ET
John Kmiecik — Chicago, IL — November 17, 2010 8:55am ET
David Blakeley — New Jersey — November 17, 2010 10:36am ET
Ryan Jones — Stamford CT — November 17, 2010 2:08pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — November 17, 2010 2:16pm ET
Michael De Polo — W. Bloomfield, Mi — November 17, 2010 8:06pm ET
Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL — November 17, 2010 9:41pm ET
Orlando Hernandez — Cincinnat, OH 45239 — November 18, 2010 7:08am ET
Mace D Howell Iii — fremont,ca,usa — November 18, 2010 9:11am ET
James Moseley — Rome,GA — November 18, 2010 10:35am ET
Joseph Kane — Austin — November 18, 2010 5:09pm ET
Chuck Palazzolo — Pelham,NH,USA — November 18, 2010 8:35pm ET
Brad Paulsen — Saratoga, CA — November 18, 2010 9:43pm ET
Mace D Howell Iii — fremont,ca,usa — November 19, 2010 8:30am ET
Andrew Cobin — Irvine, CA — November 19, 2010 11:43pm ET
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