It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

When is the Perfect Wine not the Best Wine?

Most wine enthusiasts are familiar with the 100-point scale for rating wines.  Those rated 90 and above are the cream of the crop, and The Perfect Wine is the one rated at the maximum 100 points. 

But when is The Perfect Wine not the Best Wine? Is the coveted, 100-point rated Chateau Latour from the highly rated 2010 Bordeaux vintage the best?   Or is the 89-point rated Honig Sauvignon Blanc from Napa’s excellent 2015 vintage the best?  Seems quite clear.  Numbers don’t lie.

Before you decide or otherwise concur, let’s consider the element of costs. Chateau Latour a wine that will make you the envy of all your wine friends, costs a hand-trembling $1795.  (Please note that is PER bottle!)

Meanwhile, Honig (the non-Reserve version), a perennially popular Sauvignon Blanc, costs about $18.   But let’s assume that money is not an issue since you are one of the fortunate few and have amassed great wealth.  Big bucks would always give the nod to Latour.

However, in addition to ratings and costs, we need to consider another aspect.  The anticipated maturity for the 2010 Latour—that time when it should be approachable and ready to sample—lies somewhere between 2025 and 2040. 

And the really good news is that it will age and evolve for another 50 to 100 years.  But exactly when it will be drinkable and how long it will age and improve, depends on one’s palate.

But there is no waiting for Honig’s drinkability.  It can be enjoyed right now, and if properly stored, it should stay crisp and succulent for several years. 

And importantly, their next several vintages can be enjoyed without having to wait for evolutionary improvements.  Impatient drinkers might give the edge to Honig.

The final component of this quiz states that for tonight’s dinner, your significant other is cooking Chicken Marbella, a delicious recipe from the highly successful Silver Palate Restaurant Cookbook. 

This lusty dish calls for capers, Spanish green olives, olive oil, red wine vinegar, prunes, garlic, white wine, bay leaves, oregano and a few other palate pleasing ingredients.  Now, which is the best wine? Chateau Latour or Honig Sauvignon Blanc?   

Of course, I concocted a set of circumstances to propose what I believe what wine is all about.  A few thousand years ago it was consumed because it was safer than drinking whatever water was available. 

Moreover, the bonus of a little mind altering buzz from Dionysus’ bag of blessings was also part of wine’s acceptance and popularity.  The first sip or two was to slake the thirst, but the next several gulps produced a different result. “Isn’t it time for our nap, Sweetie?”

Today, however, wine has a different purpose in life.  While competitive wine tastings—with the biggest and boldest routinely getting the nod as best wine—can be entertaining and educational, they tend to forget that wine’s mate in life is food.  

Food and wine pairing enthusiasts instinctively know that even if the 100 point rated Latour were appropriately aged, it would still not be the best choice for the Chicken Marbella.  (Although, I have a couple red-wine-centric buddies who would dispute that!)

Lastly, in today’s world of relaxed food and wine pairing rules, it’s liberating to note that occasionally there really is no requirement to pair a particular wine with any food.  That is to say, feel free to serve that sequestered, special wine on its own as a separate dinner course. 

While I have never attended such an occasion, one of my wine retailing friends has. He reports that the ensuing discussion and assessment made for an enjoyable departure from the usual dinner course of wine with food. 

While definitely not for everyone, this approach is for those committed wine enthusiasts who occasionally treat wine as being something more than a mere beverage.  To be sure, that is only one of wine appreciation's many modes of enjoyment.

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