Hunting for the Top Wine

Oct 12, 2006

Come this time of year--and a lot earlier for some of you--many folks start guessing about Wine Spectator's annual Top 100 list and the Wine of the Year.

Over the years, we’ve used essentially the same criteria to make our decision: The factors include a wine’s quality (as reflected in the rating), its value (based on its release price) and its availability (based on the number of cases produced, or for foreign wines, the number of cases imported). So, for example, if wines with the same rating and price have different case productions, that might give the more widely available wine a slight edge in the voting. But years ago we also decided to add what we call the excitement factor--the X factor, for short--which helps act as a sort of tiebreaker.

One way to get in the hunt early--and admittedly it's not an inexpensive approach--is to buy along the way as the wines are released. Highly rated wines that look like good candidates should be among your considerations.

Sure, you’re thinking, that’s great advice. Why not spend thousands of dollars trying to hedge your bet on picking the wine of the year?

But I don’t see how you can lose, really. Any of the contenders that you might be able to pick up early in the year at good prices are going to be great wines irrespective of whether they end up as our wine of the year or even on the Top 100.

Waiting until the winner is announced has its own complications, not the least of which are a mad scramble by thousands of consumers and, unfortunately, often a price squeeze by those who have the wine in stock, or access to it, such as retailers or distributors.

Care to share your wine of the year strategy?

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