Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 61, The Parker 100s, How Much Will It Cost to Buy a Robert M. Parker 100 Point Perfect Wine? September 3, 2018.

(Readers please note that this blog post was originally published on September 3, 2018, and was republished on September 13, 2018 after our site was hacked).

Robert M. Parker is well known worldwide as the premier wine taster and critic over the last 40 years (1978- 2018). His opinions moved wine markets and certainly influenced prices for individual wines. Winemakers would covet a high score from Robert Parker, and curse a low score. Over the 40 years that Robert has been active as a wine critic, he tasted and rated tens of thousands of wines and built a cult following (those who subscribed to The Wine Advocate) who based most of their buying decisions on his ratings. So much so that the “Holy Grail” in wine collecting often became the number of Robert Parker 100’s (100 point or perfect wines) that you had in your cellar. Some would call them their “Trophy Wines”.

Everyone should know that wine scores are very subjective, and often just a reflection of what that particular critic happens to like best in wine flavors. Robert Parker clearly favored over his career the California and Bordeaux regions, and many a disgruntled Bordeaux winemaker would voice an opinion that Parker was trying to influence, through his wine appraisals, Bordeaux winemakers to make their wine in an American fashion, with full throttle fruit and a ripe, ready to drink now, format. The criticism was probably well deserved as many Bordeaux producers were making bone dry closed in wines requiring 20 years or more to open up and reveal their true potential.

I remember once getting into a heated discussion with one wine collecting friend of mine who would only collect Parker 100 point perfect wines. I asked him if he would ever consider buying a Parker 99, or even, god forbid, a Parker 98. He was mortified, and gave me an emphatic ”no” response. His rational was that every wine in his cellar was a perfect “100” according to the world’s foremost wine critic, so to store anything else with such distinguished company would be sacrilege and disrespectful. No logic could dissuade him, it mattered not that a “99” was almost as good, or that Parker could change his score and appraisal in subsequent tastings. I asked him what he would do if he had a Parker “100” in his cellar that Parker downgraded to “98” a couple of years later because the wine was not aging as expected and was showing signs of weakness. He said he would have no choice but to have it removed from his cellar. What a nut this guy was, but I tell this story merely to illustrate how extreme some people became in their cult like following of Robert’s appraisal system.

So I was wondering recently just how many wines Parker rated over the years at 100 points, and what it might cost to buy one or more of those wines now. Then I stumbled across a list of those wines on www.winesearcher.com and had some fun reviewing that list, looking at current prices and availability. Much to my astonishment “Parker’s 100s” comprised a list of more than 540 wines (for the detailed list see:   https://www.wine-searcher.com/robertparker.lml ). This list is not current as it would appear to be up to date until about 2014, and another 20 or so wines have been added since that time.

Looking at the Wine Searcher list, you will note that 35% of those 540 wines are California wines, followed by 26% Cotes Du Rhone, and 19% Bordeaux. When you combine all the French wine regions (Rhone, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sauterne, Champagne, Alsace, and others) Parker’s list is now 50% French, and 35% California. So it comes as a big surprise that Cote du Rhone generates more perfect wines according to Parker (135 in total) than Bordeaux (100).

Looking for the top producers of Parker’s perfect wines the clear winners are, in order:

 

From the Rhone:

Chapoutier                                33

Guigal                                          33

Clos St. Jean                               9

Jean Louis Chave                     8

From California:

Schrader Cellars                   15

Sine Qua Non                        14

Hundred Acre                       12

Colgin                                        12

Marcassin                                 9

Abreu                                         8

From Bordeaux:

Petrus                                        9

La Mission Haut Brion       8

From Australia:

Greenock Creek                   8

There are several surprises from this list of producers above. To me the first surprise is the total dominance of producers Chapoutier and Guigal in the Cotes du Rhone region, producing perfect wines at an astonishing rate relative to their competition in all regions. Either Robert Parker has a special thing for these two, or they are just firing on all cylinders and producing great wine. In California I am surprised that there are not more well known producers like Dominus, Opus 1, and Phelps at the top of the list, and I am also surprised to see that Schrader, the top California producer, has no more than 8% of the California total (15 of 135), meaning that California is not dominated by only one or two producers as Cotes du Rhone is. In Bordeaux it is no surprise that Petrus leads the pack, but La Mission Haut Brion in second position ahead of all the first growths is a big surprise and one worth noting. In Australia Greenock Creek with 8 perfect wines is a surprise, and so is the fact that Penfold’s Grange Hermitage does not lead the pack.

There is no shortage of trophy wines on this list of 540 or more wines. By this I mean wines that will cost you the price of a car, or an all inclusive vacation for two in the Caribbean. And you can rest assured that carrying a perfect 100 point rating from Robert Parker has no doubt added 30% or more to the price of that wine. So if a trophy wine is a must, and price is no object, then by all means go shopping through this list (follow this link for current pricing: https://www.wine-searcher.com/critics-27-robert+parker+the+wine+advocate/476 ). Note this is not the complete list and not fully up to date, but close enough to get you going.

You can forget about the older wines, you just will not find them, but feel free to pick up the 2015 Chateau Petrus at $5,685 (CDN),

the 2015 Chateau Margaux at $2,060 (CDN),

or the 2015 Chateau Haut Brion at the bargain price of $875 (CDN)

when they hit retail shelves later this year. If not “trophy” enough for you, then migrate up the snob scale to a 1986 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru at $10,625 (CDN)

or a 2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru at $33,375 (CDN).

If you prefer an expensive California trophy wine, then look no further than Screaming Eagle where you can get the 2012 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon for $4,625 (CDN), the 2010 for $5,630 (CDN), the 2007 for $5,600 (CDN), or the 1997 for $7,900 (CDN).

Serious collectors should really consider putting away a couple of trophy wines from Cotes du Rhone producers M. Chapoutier and E. Guigal. Between them they have 33 Parker 100 perfect wines each, and no serious collection will be complete without representation from these two fine producers. From Chapoutier you should consider getting your hands on one or more bottles of the Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, Hermitage. Parker lists several vintages at 100 points, including the 2012 vintage, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2005, and the 2003. These will cost you anywhere from $350 – $550 CDN ($270 – $425 US), and they are readily available.

With E. Guigal you need to pick up his single vineyard Cote Rotie wines, he has three different wines: the La Landonne,

the La Mouline,

and the La Turque,

and between these three Cote Rotie wines they account for 28 of Parker’s 33 perfect 100 scores attributed to Guigal wines. These bottles average at about $650 CDN ($500 US) per bottle in recent vintages (2012, 2010, 2009, 2005) and they are readily available. A true collector will buy one of each of these three wines from the same vintage, which will cost you about $2,000 CDN or about $1,550 US. You can expect over the ensuing 25 years that these will at least triple in value (the 1985 threesome now is worth roughly $6,000). But don’t just buy them as trophy wines, make sure to drink a few to relish the experience of tasting perfection in a bottle.

Many of the Parker 100 fall into the price range of $300 – $1,000 (CDN), or $230 – $775 (US), so if you are comfortable with that price range your choice is extensive. You will not get first growth Bordeaux for under $1,000, but you can get many Bordeaux perfect wines for half that price, such as the following:

  • Chateau Angelus                                           2005             $700
  • Chateau Canon                                              2015             $340
  • Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou                   2009             $490
  • Chateau Haut-Bailly                                   2009              $320
  • Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases                     1986             $600
  • Chateau Pape Clement                               2010             $330
  • Chateau Pontet-Canet                                2009             $360
  • Chateau Pontet-Canet                                2010             $340
  • Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte                     2009              $370
  • Chateau Troplong Mondot                       2005              $360

There is a lot to like in these wines above, from rising stars like Chateau Angelus, Chateau Pontet-Canet, and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, to classic second growth superstars like Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases. I especially like the 1986 Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases because it now has 32 years of age and is fully open and at its peak, and 1986 is the only year which Parker rated the Chateau at 100 points, definitely one to secure for immediate special occasions.

 

However, what interested me the most when I was reviewing this list was finding the bargains. There are a total of 67 wines under $400 CDN or $300 US. There are also 9 wines priced at $200 CDN ($150 US) or less. So let’s take a look at these 9 bargains and let’s see if they are readily available or not:

  • 2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Malleolus de Sanchomartin” Ribero del Duero, Spain                      $190  CDN
  • 2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Malleolus de Valderramino” Ribero del Duero, Spain                       $160 CDN
  • 2011 Alvear Pedro Ximonez de Anada, Montilla-Mariles, Spain                                                              $185 CDN
  • 2007 Donelan Richards Family Vineyard Syrah, Sonoma Valley                                                             $187 CDN
  • 2002 Thackrey + Co. Orion Rossi Vineyard “Cal. Native Red Wine” Syrah, St. Helena                $180 CDN
  • 2009 Morlet Family Vieyards Coup de Coeur Chardonnay, Sonoma County                                   $130 CDN
  • 2012 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyards Petite Syrah, Napa Valley                                               $112 CDN
  • 2003 Kalleski Greenock Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia                                                                         $112 CDN
  • 2003 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia                                                                                     $ 82 CDN

In terms of availability, none of these is considered a recent vintage so they are not readily available. Having said that they can be found if you are determined. The Sanchomartin can be found at two UK locations, one in Europe, and three US locations (1 NY, 1 CA, 1TX). The Valderramino can be found at two UK locations, one in Europe, and three US locations (all NY). The Alvear is only a ½ bottle, and is a sherry type dessert wine and not for everyone, but can be found in one UK location, one Europe location, and one US location (OR).

As for the American wines, the Donelan can only be found in two US locations (both CA), the Thackrey can be found at four US locations only (1 NJ, 1 DC, 2 CA), the Morlet only at one US location (NJ), and the Turley wine at one UK location and only one US location (CA).

 

 

 

The Australian wines are not much better, the Kalleski can only be found at one location, in the US (MA), and the Mitolo at two UK locations and one US location (MA).

For details on where these wines can be purchased, go to the www.winesearcher.com website and search these wines for the specific locations and prices.

If this sounds like too much effort, you are probably right, and I would then suggest you focus your efforts on a more recent vintage from a large up and coming Bordeaux producer like the 2009 Chateau Pontet-Canet. The Wine Searcher site lists no less than 41 locations where this wine can be currently purchased, including 15 in Asia (mostly Hong Kong), 11 in Europe, 6 in the UK, and 9 in the US.

Robert M. Parker was and still is an icon and the best wine critic of our generation, and has personally rated about 550 wines as perfect. Any wine that he rated at a perfect 100 points was virtually guaranteed to increase in value by 30% or more, and often immediately. The statistics indicate that even though he may have had a personal passion for rich, fruit bomb type California reds, only 35% of his 100 point wines come from California, while 50% come from France. Any serious wine collector should have at least a few of these Parker 100s in their cellar.

How many of these wines do you own? Like most of us, the answer is most likely “not enough”, so do some window shopping through the www.winesearcher.com website and keep your eyes open for opportunities to add a few of these to your collection.

Cheers,

Reg.

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 45, tasting 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages and 1991 Graham’s Vintage Port, April 21, 2017.

In February this year we had the good fortune to taste the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages, and last month at my son’s birthday dinner we opened a bottle of 1991 Graham’s Vintage Port, from the year he was born. Both were great wines, and worth looking at in more detail.

I bought the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages in 1992 or 1993 at an LCBO Vintages outlet in Ontario at $43.45 per bottle. This was the last of 3 bottles I had bought. The 1988 vintage at the time was not viewed by critics as outstanding, but it was respectable. It was much better than 1987, which was a complete washout. It was not as tannic or meaty as 1986, but it was more traditional than the softer and fruitier 1985 vintage. And of course it got completely forgotten when the wonderful 1989 and 1990 vintages were harvested. The key adjectives I would attribute to 1988 Bordeaux would be “traditional” and “classic”. I did not buy a lot of wine from 1988, but those that I did buy were meant to mirror or compliment those characteristics, and Chateau Lynch Bages fits well.

The 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages in February 2017 was fully mature and in perfect harmony and balance, showing no signs of advanced age or going downhill. Still a strong rich ruby black in color, long tears ran down the glass after swirling the wine in your glass. On the nose there was wonderful cedar, smoke, black cherry, raspberry and currant aromas. On the palate the wine was in perfect balance, soft, fleshy, round and plump. The classic cedar and cigar box flavors took over, then emerged the fruit, with black berries and currants, figs, and raisins. After the fruit came hints of leather, wet damp earth in a forest, ending with  nice spicy cassis on the finish.

reg's wine blog - photo 45.4

This was not an overwhelming wine, this was not a blockbuster. This was a mature, rounded, balanced wine, in perfect harmony. The wine improved in the glass, even after having been decanted for over an hour. No sign of being over aged or in decline, but pleasantly parked on a plateau basking in the late afternoon sun. At 29 years of age, I would easily expect this wine to last another 10 years effortlessly, and at least 5 of those years in the current condition. My rating was 93 points, well deserved.

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I was really disappointed when I went to check tasting notes on this wine on www.winesearcher.com while researching what the critics have said about this wine recently. Wine Searcher has 5 critic scores ranging from 93 points to 80 (4 of the 5 over 90 points), the 80 point revue was from La Revue du Vin de France done in June 2000, nothing from Robert Parker (in spite of the fact that he has reviewed this wine 3 times, the latest in June 2000 where he gave it 92 points) and nothing from the Wine Spectator. I don’t know about you, but when I go to check critic reviews I want to see what the best critics are saying, and it is pretty clear to me that when 4 critics appraise the wine at 90 + points and one gives it 80 points, La Revue du Vin de France has clearly goofed, especially when Robert Parker tasted the wine at the same time in June 2000 and gave it 92 points. So what do you think www.winesearcher.com is doing with their sketchy and poor selection of critic reviews? In my opinion they are doing a pretty poor job.

In Parker’s June 2000 review of this wine, where he rated it at 92 points, he expected this wine to keep going strong for another 10-12 years. Well it has been almost 17 years since that date, and this wine is still pristine, and showing all the signs of going another 5-10 years. My reason for going on and on about this is to simply point out that you, as a wine collector and consumer, need to be careful to pay proper attention to the information you get from information websites like www.winesearcher.com or you can be easily misled. Mixed reviews leave doubt, which generally results in one moving on to something else, and in this case you would be really missing out on a classic mature claret in great shape now and for years to come. Too bad that was my last bottle!

The 1991 Graham’s was tasted in late March 2017 on the occasion of my son’s 26th birthday. Eight of us polished off this beauty in record time, so it must have been very good. The 1991 was the first declared vintage port by Graham’s since their 1985, and it was considered to be a small but high quality vintage. This wine has been reviewed in 1993 by Clive Coates for The Vine (magazine) where he rated it 97 points, in 1994 by James Suckling for The Wine Spectator (magazine) where he rated it 93 points, and by Robert Parker for The Wine Advocate (magazine) in 1995 where he rated it 94 points. Parker noted in his comments that the 1991 Graham’s was without a doubt the best port of the vintage. He described the wine as “…explosive nose of black fruits, licorice, spring flowers, and tar. Thick and full bodied, with a satiny texture and a blockbuster, alcoholic finish, this is a top-notch vintage port.”

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When we tasted this port 3 weeks ago, we observed a dark ruby color in the glass, no longer purple/black as it was in its youth. Great glycerin legs in the glass. On the nose this wine was nicely perfumed with aromas of sweet dark berries, grapes, and tar. On the palate any coarse tannins that may have once been present (as noted the last time I tasted this wine 8 years ago) have  faded away, leaving rich fruit flavors of berries, and plums, as well as licorice, tar, tobacco and chocolate. Sweet without being overpowering on the mid palate, giving rise to a long satin smooth chocolate finish. There is still a little sharpness in the alcohol on the finish, but you can tell that this is diminishing as the wine ages. A very pleasant wine that is now only middle aged, and will continue to improve over the next 10 years before it reaches full maturity. This wine will easily last another 20 years, and will only reach its peak in roughly 10 years by 2027. A very fine port that I rated at 94 points. Drink now and hold for further development.

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Unfortunately, once again when I was researching ratings and critic scores for this wine on www.winesearcher.com I ran into bad information. WineSearcher rated the wine at 89 points on the strength of 3 ratings of 80 points from Jancis Robinson (date not mentioned), 92 points from Cellar Tracker, and 93 points from The Wine Spectator. No mention of the Clive Coates rating of 97 points, or the Parker rating of 94 points.

So what is the big deal about ratings and wine scores you might ask? Poor data collating by WineSearcher (not properly compiling critic reviews and scores) causes them to rate the 1991 Graham’s as the second worst Graham’s Vintage Port of the 18 Graham’s Vintage Ports declared since 1990, at 89 points. This is just plain wrong, simply because they included the Jancis Robinson rating and excluded two other much stronger ratings. Bad data leads to an inaccurate rating and a bad rap for a really good wine. The moral of the story, and the message behind this blog is twofold:

  • Old wines properly kept live much longer than the critics expect them to. A wine critic when he/she forecasts a wine’s lifespan will always err on the younger side, they never want to overestimate a wine’s lifespan, and they never want to assume the consumer has state of the art storage conditions. So properly kept, you should expect your wines to last longer than the lifespan predicted by the critics.
  • Do not blindly believe what an information collating site like www.winesearcher.com reports on a wine’s statistics. Do your own homework, use them as just one of several information sources. Their stats are often selective, incomplete, and lead to the wrong conclusions. If you trusted their information to be accurate and complete, your logical conclusion would be to avoid the 1991 Graham’s, and what a mistake that would be. Similarly, you might think the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages was too old to be bought safely today, and again how wrong you would be.

30 years ago you had no access to online information about critic tasting reports and scores, about latest auction prices, or what wine the Chinese were now buying. Liv-ex and www.winesearcher.com did not exist, and if you wanted tasting reports and scores you subscribed to The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate publications. You also relied more heavily on your own tasting experience, and that was very important because it taught you more about what you yourself like, not what a particular wine critic likes.

So do yourself a favor, do not rely too heavily on what an information and search website like www.winesearcher.com says about a wine, because inaccurate or incomplete information will often lead you to the wrong conclusion. My suggestion is that you use it as only one source of information, and that you do your own analysis of the facts it presents to you. I will write another blog soon to give additional pointers on how to research wines on an information collating website. But above all else, always remember that there is no substitute for trying these wines yourself. So drink wines young, old, and in between. Learn to recognize the difference between young and tannic verses fully mature, soft and rounded, and decide for yourself which you prefer. This is all part of your wine learning and appreciation experience.

Learning what you like can be so much fun!

Reg.