ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What role do grape varietals play in Wine Spectator's reviews? Is there a view that some varietals (such as Sauvignon Blanc), even in their very best examples, can never achieve 100 points because it can never be as complex as Cabernet Sauvignon? Is a 90-point Viognier supposed to be theoretically as good as a 90-point Bordeaux, even when the rating ceiling for a Viognier appears to be 93 points and dozens of Bordeaux wines achieve 90+ points every year?

—Jordan, Philadelphia

Dear Jordan,

This question seems to be popping up a lot lately, so I checked in with executive editor Thomas Matthews for a response:

"Wine Spectator's 100-point scale attempts to be universal—that is, all wines are judged against each other, on the same criteria. So theoretically, any wine could score 100 points, if it meets the criteria for a 'perfect' wine. (And two 90-point wines should be equivalent in quality no matter what their origin.)

"It's not easy to define 'perfection' in wine, nor are 100-point scores frequent at Wine Spectator; fewer than 50 wines, out of more than 170,000 reviewed, have earned 100-point scores in blind tastings on release. (For more information, see "Portraits of Perfection," by James Suckling, in the April 30, 2005, issue.)

"In summary, though, a 100-point wine would be concentrated and complex in flavor, yet perfectly balanced, with the structure to improve over a long aging period. It would show the distinctive character of its grape(s) and its vineyard, while reflecting the specific conditions of its vintage. It would both embody the typicity of its category, and reveal a unique personality of its own. And it would deliver something extra: an excitement, a surprise, a 'message in the bottle' that convinced the taster that this wine was truly something special, something so good that it can only be described as 'perfect.'

"None of us get to taste such wines very often. Long history and wide consensus lead us to conclude that certain grapes, from certain regions, are more likely to achieve this quality than others. But the most optimistic among us believe that any grape or region may one day create a 'perfect' wine."

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories