The top 100 wine lists are pouring out of wine critics as usual this time of year. The top 100 lists are scattered with 100 point wines. There are a hundred reasons that these hundreds aren’t worth a C-Note.
Is there a perfect wine? Can you reduce the thousands of wonderful wines in the world to the 100 best? A hundred says if you think so you are either selling wine magazines or spending too much for wine. Another hundred says you’re missing out on hundreds of wines that are exciting in hundreds of ways you’ve never even considered.
Yet, last night I had a 100 point wine. Well at least it was was a 100 point experience for me at that exact moment in time. This wine was perfect at that moment, with that meal and because I was 100% ready to appreciate the hundreds of things that made this a perfect wine. It’s possible that I could have this same wine hundreds of times in the future and never again will it be that perfect 100 point wine epiphany. It will certainly be wonderful, but not perfect. That’s because perfection in wine is fluid, it’s hundreds of things coming together at just the right moment to make my experience of that wine perfect at a precise point in time.
This perfect wine last night was 2006 Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo. A wine that cost me all of $24 when I bought it about eight years ago. What made this wine perfect? First it was made by my friend, the extraordinary winemaker, Andrea Sottimano. Second, I know the story of this wine. The Sottimano family had just purchased a site in the famed Basarin Vineyard in Barbaresco when I was visiting them some years ago. While the Sottimanos could have called this wine Barbaresco, they decided to only label the wine as a Lange Nebbiolo even though this meant they would have to sell the wine for a much lower price. The reason they chose to do this was that their vines were “only” fifteen to twenty years old at the time. In the New World we would have called wines from these vines “Old Vines” on the label, but for the Sottimanos it was not yet worthy of the Barbaresco name. Now at its tenth birthday, this wine radiates a beautiful purity that outshines many famous Barbarescos selling for many times the price. This stunning wine was a gift from the Sottimano family to all of us. Also, I had made the effort to nurture this bottle for eight years. I had a relationship with this bottle.
I selected this wine then spent the afternoon cooking. First homemade chicken stock filled the house with wonderful aromas. Then I made Umbrian Farro in a risotto style with chicken from the stock pot, the day’s chicken stock, leeks, tomatoes and grana padano. It was everything I hoped it would be and the harmony of the wine and food was memorable and emotional.
All of this came together to make my 100 point wine. The memories of my friend and the inspiring story of the choices their family made to create this extraordinary bottle on my table combined with a relaxing day in the kitchen filling the house with enticing aromas and creating a dish just as delicious as I imagined it. Hundreds of things came together at one place and time to create one unique, perfect, experience and a perfect wine. The farmers that nurtured the grapes, farro, chickens, celery, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, onions, oregano and my respect for what they created all came together at one point in time and created my 100 point wine.
People make their top 100 lists and rate wines 100 points, but for me perfection in wine is not quantified by numbers, but in feelings. Wine brings happiness and pleasure to our lives. It is not a math problem.
A hundred of this or a hundred of that and every once in awhile you find that perfect moment. I don't have a top 100 wine list for 2016 because each year there are hundreds of small moments of perfection that together make the year my own. Sometimes perfection is to be found in simplicity and other times in complexity. These perfect experiences are to be treasured as they can never be exactly repeated. The next one will come when you are ready for it. It is not something that you can buy or put a number on.
Perhaps one hundred is the loneliest number. Why limit yourself?