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100 Point Scores: Therein Lies the Rub

A well-known California wine writer, Laura Ness, recently asked me about 100 point wine scores. This got me to thinking.

I have never given a Pinot Noir a 100 point score and only awarded one wine a 99 point score. 100 points imply perfection and I don’t believe any Pinot Noir achieves that distinction. Apparently the cadre of wine writers agree since only Cabernet Sauvignon or red Bordeaux blends have been deemed worthy of such a score. The only exceptions I am aware of include the 2007 Williams Selyem Litton Estate Pinot Noir, the first time a major wine publication (in this case, the Wine Enthusiast) gave a wine a perfect score, and the 2018 Kokomo Gopher Hill Pinot Noir that was awarded a perfect score at the 2018 North Coast Wine Challenge.

Scoring wines is completely subjective and there is no agreed-upon objective way of scoring wines. Perfection is subject to the taste buds of the beholder.

There are a multitude of technically sound Pinot Noir wines today but only a very few have a powerful charisma that sets them apart. For me, it is not an objective feature like balance, texture or aromatics alone that confers potential near perfection on a wine alone, but the added presence of emotion that the wine elicits. It is a truth that it is not what is written about a wine, but what is emoted that truly define’s a wine’s greatness. How many points is emotion worth?

For me, a wine that is exceptionally sound technically and nearly free of all noticeable drawbacks is worthy of a score of 94-96, and any score above that level is based solely on the emotion elicited while drinking the wine. A wine that awakens fervor that remains in my memory for days, weeks or even years later falls into that 97-99 score category.

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