In school, a grade of 100 pts, or A+, meant I structured an essay correctly. I had a good intro, well defined thesis, well structured body with supporting points, and finally, a conclusion that tied it all together in a way that made sense and left the reader with very few questions. Although this was the exception and not the rule, I did occasionally receive an A+ for an essay, but more often it was for a portrait I drew in my art class. During lunch, those of us with a bit of parental cash would walk through the cafeteria line joking how the A+ pizza washed down with fine examples of vintage sodas, or pops – depending on your region! Ah, the life!
The simplicity of this example amazes me. Having taught for awhile at the high school level, I know now that many of those grades that I fought so hard for were the result of simple formulas that over worked teachers used to make their jobs easier. While at lunch, we mocked those same teachers as we enjoyed our slabs of pseudo cheese covered bread crusts, swearing that they were out to get us. In reality, they often were too tired to care.
To imagine that this system was the impetus for today’s 100pt wine scale is at times hard to believe. It is the system we either love or we loath depending on where our wine of choice falls on the rating scale. Here is a general guide to interpreting the numerical ratings, as taken from Robert Parker’s own explanation:
90-100 is equivalent to an A and is given only for an outstanding or special effort. Wines in this category are the very best produced of their type. There is a big difference between a 90 and 99, but both are top marks. As you will note through the text, there are few wines that actually make it into this top category because there are not many great wines.
80-89 is equivalent to a B in school and such a wine, particularly in the 85-89 range, is very, very good; many of the wines that fall into this range often are great values as well. I have many of these wines in my personal collection.
70-79 represents a C, or average mark, but obviously 79 is a much more desirable score than 70. Wines that receive scores between 75 and 79 are generally pleasant, straightforward wines that lack complexity, character, or depth. If inexpensive, they may be ideal for uncritical quaffing.
Below 70 is a D or F, depending on where you went to school. For wine, it is a sign of an imbalanced, flawed, or terribly dull or diluted product that will be of little interest to the discriminating consumer.
Notice his constant referral to school as a point of reference for understanding his scores.
In truth, I love the 100pt scale. It gives people a quick understanding of what a wine’s overall quality is, or of what a wine should be. When done consistently, and with a set standard in mind, a person can learn to follow an individual’s set of scores in order to calibrate their palate accordingly. My biggest issue, however, is with the people who use the scale, and the rules they apply to it.
Robert Parker is probably the first person we think of when we see this scale or try to define it. For him, wine must be big, thick, rich, and ready to age. He has given some, though I believe few, ratings to whites, and only when those wines presented a potential for aging more than 5,10 or 15 years. I may be wrong (feel free to offer me an example), but I don’t believe a wine has ever been given a 100 pt rating followed by a note saying, drink now.
There are many people who employ this scoring method, but only those hardcore wine geeks out there seem to know which professionals rate what wines, in which way, and how that calibrates to their own palate. We banter back and forth about wines that received wildly differing scores across wine journals arguing whether it was due to a bad bottle or stylistic preferences on the part of the taster. All the while trying to decipher if we will like the wine as much as they seemed to. In reality, we should create our own standards for wines we taste, so that when we rate wine, we do it for no other person than ourselves. We should make up our own minds.
Thus, I come to the point of my post. Today, I tasted perfection. For the first time on this blog, I want to give out a 100pt rating. You heard me, 100 POINTS, the perfect wine. But first, I must tell you what a perfect wine is to me.
- It is a wine that tastes good. If complex, it is truly complex. If simple, then the purity of flavors are such that my mind gets lost in the elegance and singularity of it, making me return to the glass again and again till the night fades away.
- It must stand above others in its style. If it’s rich Priorat, it’s richer than the richest Clos Mogador and darker than the inkiest inkwell. If it’s Cava, the bubbles must be finer than Tinker Bells pixie dust and more ethereal than an angel’s daydream.
- It must be appropriately priced. It may be expensive, it may be cheap, but it needs to make sense. If I’m dining at a five star hotel and eating food made by a chef with Michelin stars, then I expect to and am willing to pay for more, rich foods often need rich wines. But if I need something to soothe my backache after a long day of work, it can’t make me fear breaking the bank. Some wine is meant to be paired with Foie Gras, while some is meant to be quaffed with pizza; therefore, price should reflect it’s consumption environment.
- It must be pleasurable. When I open this wine, I choose to for many different reasons, one of the most important being its ability to make me smile. Maybe the wine is from a long lost vintage; and when opened, the wine fills the room not only with aroma, but with history, leading to a night filled with stories told among old friends who become new again or with new friends who remain forever. While on the other hand, another 100pt wine it might still taste of its recent fermentation – alive with a spirit and vigor having just left the tank, pure of fruit, frizzante with life and full of fun. This is the wine I open on the roof with friends where conversation is king and laughter is required. No other wine would do. No other wine would win any points in my book.
A wine that tastes good, is correct for its style, comfortable in its price range and leaves me with a smile. A wine like that is a 100 point wine. For me this is perfection!
So to my 100 point wine for today:
Name: Dolce Prima
Sweet, slightly fizzy, with a purity of fruit I rarely see. Very reminiscent of a well made Moscato d’Asti, but more alive! The slight fizz, only makes it more easy to drink, while the low alcohol assures that you can continue to sip it no matter how long the conversation lasts. Light acidity, helps to balance the residual sugar that really is no more sweet than a well ripened peach, of which it shares flavors with. 100pts, and HIGHLY recommended if you come to Spain. It’s as far as I can tell only available at Mercadona a local chain grocery store.
I’m not kidding either. This is what wine should be. Or at least tonight it was. Who knows about tomorrow.
What is your 100pt wine?