The Wine Spectator recently posted its list of the 100 top wines of 2018, and I was surprised that half of them cost $35 or less, 20 less than $20! The top wine (Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri-Sassicaia) did cost $245. All ranked 20 or above on their list.
I take these lists with a grain of salt, but the Wine Spectator is the most respected major magazine that publishes these lists. They rank the wines based on “quality, value, availability and excitement” not some measure of perfection. In general, however, the realistic rankings start just below 90. Anything ranked below 85 is nothing they’d recommend.
Some of the lists I am sent by other organizations are ludicrous, highlighting obscure wines few have ever heard of, but that happened to sell well because they were featured on flash websites or tasted at an ill-represented tasting. Most wineries don’t send wines to competitions—which generally requires paying to enter—leaving those that do enter better chances to shine.
I haven’t tasted many of these specific wines on the Wine Spectator list but have tried enough from these and other producers on the bigger list to make trying them worth the relatively moderate cost. I definitely can recommend the Cline Zinfandel Contra Costa County Ancient Vines and Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc California, which are almost house wines here.
In general, the Wine Spectator tries to cover good, moderately priced wines as well as treasures, but rarely dips below $10, and for good reason. They tend to simply ignore bad wines, not slam them.
If you want to view the whole list, you can buy the issue or go to https://top100.winespectator.com/
But your nose and tongue are the ultimate judge. Don’t let anyone tell you your tastes are defective just because you like a wine that someone else doesn’t.
Paul Franson lives in Napa Valley, CA.