Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2021
Imagine having a shipment of 10 of the world’s most exciting wines of 2021 delivered to your doorstep right here in Aspen. Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you … but only if you enter Wine Spectator’s Top 100 sweepstakes.
For a chance to win the Wine Spectator’s Top 10 wines, go to top100.winespectator.com and you’ll find the above videos along with an “Enter our Sweepstakes” button. All it takes is an email address and a ZIP code and you are in. You can also get multiple entries — as many as you like — if you share the program with friends on social media sites
That’s right, someone who has logged on and entered via the Wine Spectator website by Dec. 22 will win and receive the 10 wines deemed by the magazine to be the best releases of 2021 (details in the “Enter” box). The complete list of the 2021 Top 100, including Nos. 1-10, can be found in the Dec. 31 issue of the magazine on sale now in wine shops and on newsstands.
These wines include the No. 1 ranked 2018 Dominus Estate Napa Valley made by legendary Bordeaux producer Christian Moueix from grapes sourced in the Napanook Vineyard, which was originally planted in 1838 by George Yount, the namesake of what is now the booming wine town of Yountville. I have not tasted this wine (and now it will be in such demand that I likely never will) but its bona fides make it a perfect choice for the top spot on the list. And at $269, as priced by the Spectator, it is the second-most expensive bottle on the Top 100 behind a 2008 vintage Brut Champagne (naturally) from the house of Krug, which ranked no. 99. Those bubbles can be had for just over $300 a bottle.
Speaking of cost, the price for the Top 10 bottles (if you could find them, which you can’t) is a rather modest $1,444, or less than $150 a bottle. But keep them cellared properly at the appropriate temperatures and their value should soar as the years go by. Of course, the real value is in the wine itself. If I were to win the bounty (and yes, I register each year but have yet to get a sniff of the golden ticket) the joy would be in the opportunity to experience these exquisite bottlings for myself. There are other bottles on the list that I have shared with you, editorially speaking, and would welcome imbibing them once again.
One of those wines was one of the least expensive on the Top 100 list, the 2018 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico. In November we ran a story about a virtual tasting with Roberto Stucchi Prinetti. Roberto not only makes the wines of Badia a Coltibuono, but he is also a member of the family that has owned and operated the estate and winery since 1846. The wine we tasted was the 2019 vintage, but you get the picture. The Spectator notes that the Chianti “finds a nice youthful equilibrium in the end, where mouthwatering acidity roams,” a nice description of a wine that takes you to Tuscany for a mere $22.
We also have noted in the past that Carlton McCoy, an alumnus of the wine program at the Little Nell, decamped from Aspen for Napa a couple of years back (my, time flies in the wine world) to become a managing partner of Lawrence Wine Estates, whose flagship are the wines of Heitz Cellar. The 2016 release of Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Martha’s Vineyard — one of the most cherished American wines of all time — made the list at No. 3. Had it taken the top rung of the ladder, no one would have been surprised.
“It’s always a great honor to be recognized by the industry for the work that you do,” McCoy said about the ranking. “Our teams are young and focused and take their work very seriously, so I am thrilled to have this praise from Wine Spectator. What I have always admired about WS is that they still blind taste wines, which is extremely rare in today’s world.”
Interestingly, while this year’s No. 1 ranked Dominus wine received a 97-point rating by the publication (and 99 points from Robert Parker and a perfect 100 points from James Suckling, if that means anything to you), it was not even the highest-rated wine in the Top 10. Both the 2018 Château Pichon Longueville Lalande Pauillac and the 2016 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino garnered an extra point to finish with 98, the highest-rated wines in the esteemed 10.
By the way, I have always wondered why this offer isn’t for the top 12 wines of the year, a full case if you will. It just seems to make more sense in wine parlance. But I guess these guys know what they are doing.
When Wine Spectator, the bimonthly bible of wine in America, originally conceived The Top 100 list back in 1988, it was created to provide a service for readers to help them navigate their way through the wines of the world. Since then, the list has become a powerful force in the industry. Making the Top 100 can make an unknown brand both profitable and relevant.
While it may seem like a fun process to taste and rate the wines, it can be a long and laborious journey for those at the publication whose job it is to whittle the world’s wines down to the final 100. The tasting team starts with over 5,000 wines that have scored 90 points or higher in the past year. These wines represent successful wineries, regions and vintages from around the world.
The goal is to provide a list featuring wines that are not only tasty, but provide great value, that can reasonably be found in wine shops and that have great stories behind them. Or, as they say at the Spectator, wines that bring “quality, value, availability and excitement” to the table. The wines are tasted blind and rated on a variety of criteria. Once the best wines are identified, they then undergo a thorough review so that the final rankings can be determined.
While you may assume that only the most expensive wines make the cut, the reality is the list is actually pretty egalitarian. This year there were 15 wines in triple digits (seven of which were Napa Cabs) but there were also 25 named wines — a quarter of the list — that can be obtained for $25 or less. The least expensive wine, at just $13 a bottle, was a 2020 Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Classic from New Zealand. It came in at No. 41.
Beyond just an exercise in ranking wines, perusing the list can offer readers a fun way to explore and learn about wines. And the Wine Spectator website has a great collection of individual videos on the Top 10 bottles, as well as videos explaining the selection process and background features on the wines. They also include the Top 100 lists since their inception 33 years ago.
Maybe one of us will hit it big in the sweepstakes this year. Let’s make a pact, dear reader: I win, I share. You win, you do the same. I’ll look forward to toasting you with a glass of Dominus.
Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley – Three Palms Vineyard 2014
Normally this is where there is a picture of the bottle discussed. But I already drank it. Rather, the photo features the adjacent 2013 and 2015 vintages. But it was the 2014 Three Palms Merlot that was named the No. 1 Most Exciting Wine of 2017 by Wine Spectator. I happen to have a bottle and against my better judgment as a collector, but in keeping with my judgment as a wine lover, I felt compelled to open the winning wine.
It reflected its ranking. Made by Duckhorn’s brilliant winemaker Renée Ary from fruit sourced in a storied vineyard on the Napa floor the wine was powerful, rich and full of the dark fruit flavors that make merlot such a pleasurable grape. The tannins had not had time to mellow and they suggested a wine that will be best long into the 2030s. Balanced and pure with a hint of the rocky, volcanic soil that underpins the vineyard, it was pure joy.
There was a documentary film titled “20 Feet from Stardom” about background singers who flank rock ’n’ roll stars on the stage but are never quite the focal point. These two adjacent vintages, the 2013 and 2015 of the same wine from the same vineyard made by the same winemaker, reminded me of that film. These wines have the same pedigree as the starring 2014, but they fell into the background. As in music, in wine, timing is everything.
They will see their day.
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