Why I never award 100 points

A few readers have queried whether I have ever given a wine a perfect score – 100/100 points. 

The answer is no: I never give 100 points, on principle. 

No matter how perfect we think a wine is while we’re enjoying it, there’s always one better somewhere. In my experience, and Murphy’s Law plays its dastardly role here, as soon as you declare you cannot imagine a better wine than the one in your glass, someone will bring out an even better wine, and you’ll have to eat your own words.

Perhaps these queries have been prompted by my scoring the 1971 Penfolds Grange 99 points recently (tasting). It’s pretty close to as good as wine gets. A search of my database reveals that there are only 19 wines I’ve scored 99 since I began the database a few years ago (tastings).

No doubt some will accuse me of being too tough. Or perhaps unromantic, in not believing in perfection. Perfection is an ideal: it exists in the mind, not in reality. If we were to be confronted by perfection, in the form of a sublime work of art, a passage of music played exquisitely, or a flawlessly formed flower, it would be presumptuous to claim that it was ‘perfect’, and nothing could improve on it.

When I look at the mess some wine critics got themselves into with recent vintages of Penfolds Grange, I have to smile. Some rated the 2008 vintage (tasting) 100/100, but when the 2010 vintage (tasting) came along, most of us reckoned it was even better. So what could they score it? 101? 102?

Dare I suggest that 99 from me is probably the equivalent of 100 from someone else.

I’m very pleased to be able to report that a home-grown Aussie wine, a great bottle of 1971 Grange, received 99 from me, and that’s about as good as it gets.

*Postscript: I’m aware that American critic Robert Parker has rated a lot of wines 100 in recent times and has been taken to task. His critics point out that he has rated many more wines 100 in recent years than over the past however-many years. His reply was that the quality of wine generally has soared in recent years. At least I agree with him on that.

One thought on “Why I never award 100 points”

  1. steveed84 says:

    Not really sure how never giving a rating of 100 really solves that problem. If you gave the 2008 Grange 99 and the 2010 Grange was better, wouldn’t you still have to give the 2010 99 anyway since you never give 100 (in case something even better came along)?

    You even say that “99 from me is probably the equivalent of 100 from someone else”. It’s not really solving the issue, just changing the scale. It’s basically just a different version of the “these go to 11” logic in the Spinal Tap movie.

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