EDITOR'S NOTE—Best of 2009


If only economies could run on fermented grape juice, there's plenty of it flowing into the American market. Reflecting the growth in that market (in volume if not in revenue), our tasting submissions jumped nearly 1,000 bottles this year—a record 10,200 wines over the past 12 months. It's a lot for anyone to sort through, which is why we put together an annual brief from those tastings, our Buying Guide.
     The explosion of choices on wine shelves has been met by an explosion of information, with community-driven wine sites developing critical mass on the Web. This year, W&S entered a partnership with Snooth.com to augment its user-driven content with our own recommendations from current issues. Sites such as Snooth and Cellartracker are fast developing influence in the market, as users share their own opinions about wines they've been drinking. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in the American wine industry, and it likely will have as profound an impact in the coming years as critics have had in the past two decades.
     The last few years have also seen an explosion of tasting groups, as more professionals prepare for the Master Sommelier or Master of Wine exams. Forming such a group requires little more than a few like-minded friends each investing in a bottle, wrapping it in brown paper and gathering to taste them. But what they learn from blind tasting can be invaluable. Taking the brand and price out of the equation, tasters can rely only on pattern recognition and pure pleasure. There are no labels to sway our opinions, no names that may prejudice our expectations. It's why blind tastings can generate such surprising results.
     At W&S, our blind tastings are simply a high-tech version of such a traditional tasting group, which is why so many professionals studying for their exams come to taste with us. It's a rigorous and transparent program that separates this magazine from all the others. We invite a wide range of professionals to taste blind with us, and we report only on wines recommended from these tastings. There are no exceptions.
     We find that blind tastings lead us to remarkable discoveries, such as the new wines Domaine Faiveley is making under the Joseph Faiveley label; or a fresh look at California chardonnay from Lioco; or Moric's great reds from Burgenland—all appearing for the first time in this issue. Our tastings also lead us to some surprises: Sometimes we dismiss the wines of the market leaders, or the cult favorites, names that are sacred in the trade and among collectors.
     What we are left with are the wines that celebrate truly great terroirs and great producers. This issue is a compendium of the best wines we tasted in 2009: the 100 Best Wines from regions around the world, the 100 Best Buys based on price within their own regional context, and the 100 Wineries of the Year—producers working at the top of their game. It's the sort of guide we wish we had before tasting through 10,200 wines—with the sort of results you won't find elsewhere, given our tasting format. Come taste them with us at our Top 100 event in San Francisco in October.