The Wine Spectator Top 100 – what it really means (and how to sell it)

You could hear the collective cheer coming from the west coast when Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” was recently announced. Not only did a Merlot take back the title, but Duckhorn Wine Company and all of their distributors had huge reason to celebrate. Congrats to all!

The Wine Spectator Top 100 pulls weight, and having a California Merlot take back the title (the previous big Merlot winner was Pride Mountain Merlot years and years ago) is a way to counter the continuing curse of Sideways.

But compare wine number one versus wine number three and you see something strange.

Both 2014 vintages. The Chateau Coutet Barsac is rated higher. The Barsac is also almost a third of the cost. The Barsac also had 4000 cases produced as opposed to only 3170 cases of the Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot.

Statistically, why didn’t the Chateau Coutet take the prize? It makes no sense.

Except … it does.

This shows the Wine Spectator Top 100 is not a statistical exercise. It really has little to do with the numbers and the example above proves it. Just like wine, it’s all subjective and it’s all about what they want to put forward in terms of energy.

How do you use this information?

If you sell Duckhorn: “Obviously Merlot is coming back strong and Duckhorn, sticking to their guns during the post-Sideways fallout, has emerged as the leader in the category. Every Merlot section in shops and on wine lists should obviously have Duckhorn.” Boom.

If you don’t sell Duckhorn: “When comparing wine one and wine three, it shows that lists like this are awesomely subjective — like everything in life — and there are factors other than statistics and ratings and rankings at hand here. But look at the variety in the top ten! Washington Syrah, Gigondas, Brunello, BARSAC of all things! What a great top ten and congrats to Duckhorn for taking the trophy. Now let me show you my Barsac (or Washington Syrah, or Gigondas).”

Always play up the positives. Don’t go down the unprovable rabbit hole of “they must buy a ton of advertising.” That is the stuff of weak sales people, of uncreatives, and jaded old-timers.

Use the Wine Spectator Top 100 to engage your own agenda in a positive way.