Wine Talk

Snooth User: Stephen Harvey

Wine Spectator Top 10

Posted by Stephen Harvey, Dec 5, 2010.

Hi All

I noticed that WS put out its Top 100 list and I had a quick look at what was on the list.

There was two Australian Wines

08 Two Hands Bella Gardens Shiraz - Barossa Valley

08 Schild Estate Shiraz - Barossa Valley

I figured I should try both of these wines and see if they deserved such lofty accolades

08 Two Hands Bella Gardens Shiraz - Barossa Valley

I had this a week ago with a couple of friends on a friday night and it is a big wine 16% alcohol.  I must admit the alcohol level threw me as I did not think it was as alcoholic as that, it was certainly rich in fruit with plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit, the french oak imparts a much "fruit" sweeter style than the usual American Oak you see with Barossa Shiraz.  The wine had very good flavour balance and the tannins whilst still needing some time to settle were not at all daunting.  It is a $40-50 retail wine and you certainly expect some bang for your buck.

The wine delivers for its price point imho, but I am not sure it would grab me as the the no 2 wine for the year.  Certainly worth trying a bottle and we rated it a 92-94 point wine with good aging potential.  We had some very good Sirloin Steaks, straight off the barbeque with diced potatoes cooked in Olive Oil, garlic salt and mixed Italian Herbs and some assorted greens

08 Schild Estate Shiraz - Barossa Valley

This is Schilds entry level shiraz and at 14.5% alcohol is a very nice easy to dring example of Barossa Shiraz.  This one I actually drank alone whilst reading and responding on Snooth one evening and with its blackberry fruit and a hint of chocolate/licorice with the usual vanilla overtones from American Oak it was a really enjoyable drink.

Top 10 Wine, well that I am certainit is not, but I wine I would recommend the community to try definitely.  It should be available for under USD20 and is an excellent example of what Barossa can do.  It would be interesting to see what those who tried that Yalumba Patchwork might think of it in Ccomparison.

My rating - 91/92 and definitely a wine to drink with food or without, best suited to lamb/beef, would work with a winter casserole in the northern hemisphere.

I would also be keen to hear of any other Snoothers views on the other wines in the WS Top 10


Reply by outthere, Dec 5, 2010.

As for the top 5. Hard to get if at all.

  1. The Saxum sells out at release.
  2. The Revana is gone everywhere I have looked
  3. Peter Michael Ma Belle is sold out
  4. Revana Very limited availability
  5. Altamura Cab: see Revana

All are good rather expensive wines which isn't always WS's MO. There seems to be a lot of squabbling about who is not in the top 5 or 10. Hell the Saxum JB isn't even their best wine. Go figure.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 5, 2010.

I hate ratings!!!  Typically, they are such a racket, and boy does the winery have to bend over to get that top rating.  Jeez. 

I spend more time looking at the blogs of people I respect... some wine shop owners.  And Snooth forums, of course:-)

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Dec 5, 2010.


I do agree with you but ratings like WS etc are a useful source of reminding you what is around.

eg the Schild Estate had fallen of my radar screen, but reading the rating reminded me to try it again, fortunately the wine is very accessible here and I got it for about $16 and was pleasantly surprised.

The Two Hands guys are relatively new in the market place so it was again just a reminder of something to look out for.

Plus I can be guilty of sticking to old favs and not trying new wines so it does force me to look at something different.

Reply by GregT, Dec 5, 2010.

They LOVE the Schild.  Unfortunately, the guy who reviews Australia is unreliable.  I don't think I own any of the wines on this year's list, at least not the vintages mentioned.  I'm not knocking the magazine, in some respects it's a great read and a few of the people are pretty good writers and reviewers, but I don't really care too much about the yearly ranking other than for curiosity.   

As far as how wines make the list - it's hard to figure out what the parameters are.  One year it's mostly French, this year it's mostly US, next year probably France again.  Their reviews are usually dominated by France and the US, other than a few years ago when they had a number of Ports in there. 

But then they don't always take the best wine. For example, one year they put Guigal's 1999 CdP as the WOTY.


Nobody ever understood that.

A friend wrote a piece about it that may be interesting reading. At least it's amusing reading.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 5, 2010.

I agree and disagree, SH.  totally agree with the try something new idea.  Ratings can be interesting, and I suppose, helpful at times.  But the big guys who rate.. I just don't trust them.  I have known winemakers, personally, who have related the nightmare of dealing with these people.  And if you don't submit to what they require (several cases of wine- sometimes difficult for smaller wineries that MAY be making the best wines), not only are you no longer under consideration, but you may be blacklisted.  I just don't like that kind of operation.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 5, 2010.

Read some books on the NASTIES of the wine industry... will go looking for titles.  It's pretty bad at times, on both ends.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Dec 5, 2010.


I do agree absolutely that the ratings world can and is full of graft and corruption, like I say I only use them as a guide and another source of whats happening.

Sadly I get to deal with many of the Nasties as part of my day job and the industry has its share of dark side of human endeavour.


Loved the article and it just goes to show that the whole ratings debate is tragically difficult to rationalise.

I think we can all find multiple examples of strange awards for "WOTY/WOTD/WOTC" 

I believe that as long as we understand the pitfalls of wine ratings and the drivers of the respective and respected wine mags/books/writers etc we can form our own opinion and it is interesting to see who thinks what is good and form your own opinion.

The strength of Snooth is that there so many people to share opinions with which can only enhance our own knowledge.

Reply by GregT, Dec 5, 2010.

Steve - it's IMPOSSIBLE to rationalize.  And again, people criticize and seem to find scheming in the WS rating, but having met and even tasted with met most of their reviewers, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.  The model of the magazine, which generates the revenues, is a mix of lifestyle, lightweight and serious pieces, but the guys are generally honorable people doing their best. 

The most puzzling publication, at least to me, is WA.  It has both the most knowlegable and passionate reviewers as well as the most indifferent and uninterested.  I can't figure it out any more.  It's also got an inconsistent policy - Parker made his reputation on his willingness to criticize the status quo, which was partly his rationale for blind tasting but after his own reviewers criticized the entire concept of blind tasting, he's essentially repudiated it himself. Parker himself is deeply knowlegable about certain areas, as are some of his reviewers, while others know little about their beats.  And it's acceptable to taste with the importers/distributors/producers/agents, who may or may not buy lunch, dinner, trips, whatever.  It's a strange publication anymore.

I agree that it's best to trust yourself.  Various people can offer opinions and comments - either on various wine fora or blogs, Vinography, Dr. Vino, and Michael's for example.  One day you'll show up in NYC and we can taste something!

And maybe get dmucker and Napagirl over here!


Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Dec 6, 2010.

The Spectator is a life style magazine that features wine.  It is no longer a reputable wine magazine.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 6, 2010.

I have yet to see the complete list. I'm hearing lots of grumbling so I look forward to being able to add tot he chorus if need be.

Reply by rickst29, Dec 6, 2010.

I'll remind other readers- the Top-100 list is NOT a list of "the best wines this year". (And that's obvious- many of the selections earned only 90 points for "quality".) The title of the list is "the year's most exciting wines".

"exciting" != "best". If you're looking for their ideas of "best", read the reviews and scores. I agree with GregT, a couple of posts above: Wine Advocate seems to have a much higher ratio of mis-rated, mis-described wines.

BTW, I feel that the most inexplicable "ratings" of all are those from the California State Fair. I know that they claim to give bonus points for low price, but I bought a "Double Gold" 98-point Cab a few weeks ago, and found it to be VASTLY worse than tanker-truck wine (e.g., Gallo Sonoma, Columbia Crest 2-vines, etc.). It was in the truly undrinkable range, more like 47-lb rooster, or BV Coastal -- but it cost 3x as much. And this is not a single incident: every time I've tried a State Fair "Double Gold", at any price, I've poured it down the drain... and I'm not a wealthy person, I can't afford to do that! I rinse my throat with orange juice, thinking stuff like "HUH? WTF!" and "NEVER AGAIN TRUST THOISE CLOWNS".

And after this last time, I truly won't. NEVER AGAIN.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 7, 2010.

NG: Whatever you think of WS 100 ratings, you should try the Schild Barossa Shiraz because you can often find it at our favorite discounter for so little money that it's laughable.  It's good, great at the price.

WineMine does a little tasting and promotes what he's got that made the WS100 list, but makes no effort to stock what they will ultimately give awards to... although David promised a couple years ago that Chappelet Sig cab would make the top 100 or he would give you $5 a bottle back... it came in at #6.  So he could kowtow if he wanted to, as he plainly gets what they are doing.  I generally only look at it to see how the wines I already bought--virtually never on their ratings during the year--did. 

This is the great thing about Snooth and, to a lesser degree, other wine social sites.  You make a few "friends," and you learn what they like, and you discover that, in CaliCabs, you like what GDD or NG like, same in Zins. (Of course, if you like Zin and don't like Mauritson, I kind of wonder whether you actually like Zin.) If I am standing in line at BevMo, I might flip thru WS like I would a tabloid in the supermarket, but none of the wine merchants I patronize frequently even seem to have a copy.  That's how I like it. Instead, they have their own notes on the wines, and they are in the store to talk to.

GregT, any chance I could crash that party? Esp if you have some more of that 1948 Rioja.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 7, 2010.

rickst29: Those fair ratings are ridiculous.  There are so many medals, and the judges are all over the map.  If the best you can do is a medal at a fair, spare me.  Please don't hold it against the wineries of California.

Reply by NoLaDan, Dec 9, 2010.

GregT:  Thanks for the Slate article.  It was very entertaining even for one who is just a beginner.

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