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Where’s Bordeaux?

There are a number of serious wine collectors, trade buyers and journalists who have questioned why our Top 100 does not include any Bordeaux. One of them, W. Blake Gray, recently posted an entry at his Gray Report, commenting that we had “excluded” Bordeaux producers from the tasting.

Just to set the record straight, we have no intention of leaving out Bordeaux. On the other hand, we do not make exceptions in our tasting policies.

The Top 100 selections are based on quality and terroir expression, attributes we assess through blind panel tastings in our offices. Our main goal is to provide wine reviews for the trade and consumers. Our tastings work on other levels as well: as an educational opportunity for high-level trade, providing the opportunity for them to taste a range of new-release wines from one region blind; and as a marketing opportunity for producers, particularly those who feel confident in the perceived value their wines will demonstrate in a blind tasting.

We have designed our Top 100 selection to showcase the wineries that perform best in our tasting process. Since our process is blind, one-offs do occur, both on the high and low end. This is why we insist on a winery having at least three strong recommendations to be considered for the Top 100. It’s not a statistically relevant number, but it does weed out the strays.

The top châteaux of Bordeaux sell their wines before they are bottled. They do this through the en primeur system, asking journalists to participate in their sales efforts by measuring success based on barrel samples. All journalists know that a single barrel is not the final blend, and some single barrels can be sublime. Yet most journalists consider en primeur ratings as news, and so they score the unfinished wines.

We do not. Instead, we treat Bordeaux as we treat all other wines, tasting them on release, blind, in our offices. Perhaps as more and more people express interest in our Top 100, the Bordelais will as well. Personally, I love Bordeaux and have spent a significant amount of time developing a knowledge of the wines, tasting at the châteaux for background and at our offices for review.

When it comes to gathering Bordeaux for our panel tastings in New York, we focus our efforts on the top châteaux and other wines of interest to our readers. Together with wines submitted by importers, those tastings usually add up to about 250 to 300 bottlings. A comprehensive tasting would be significantly larger.

As Blake and I discussed at our event in San Francisco, many châteaux produce only one or two wines, though some do offer a wider range. We are now working on assembling 2009s, which, given its success en primeur, may be difficult to source. But if we can assemble a deep enough selection, perhaps we’ll find some Bordeaux producers to include in next year’s Top 100.

This article is a W&S Web Exclusive.




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