Set The Bar
Lifestyle in Style

Wine: The Big Score 95 or Plus

In today’s wine world rating by wine writers are ubiquitous. The problem is that they may create a herd mentality where the wine writer becomes a border collie for shepherding the consumer. The wine writer may be less than what one might have the opinion being ethical by taking a fee for reviewing the wine (pay to play) or even a bribe. The wine writer may give inflated ratings. The wine writer may know nothing about wine but thinks of himself/herself as a centre of influence.

Now having written about wines and travelled to wine making regions I know who I trust and who I avoid if not chuckle about with their wildly inflated ratings. The wine writer I seem to be almost in total synchronicity with is Roger Voss of the Wine Enthusiast. He covers both Portugal and Bordeaux.

However you see the negatives, ratings by a trusted source give a fairly predictable forecast about the quality of a wine. It makes the consumer’s life a bit easier. However to solely drink wines rated by the “superstar” writer or high scorer deprives the consumer the opportunity to venture out and try unrated or lowly rated wines. How on earth are you going to learn about good wine if you don’t try bad wine!

So let’s try four 95 or plus scored wines.

The first is Juniper Crossing 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot from the Margaret River in Australia. It was rated a 95 by Campbell Mattison of winecompanion.com.au

It has a dark ruby colour.

Big, bold and forceful on the nose. Black cherry, cassis, blueberry and dark chocolate.

On the palate moderate tannins and a finish to match. Its actually rather juicy as opposed to lush and plush. Sour cherry, rhubarb and blueberry. But not much complexity on the finish. Man I hate to put a damper on a 95 er.

Stuffed field red peppers will suit this wine.

(Juniper Crossing 2016 Margaret River, Juniper Margaret River, Cowarump, Western Australia, $21.95, LCBO# 684019, 14%, 750 mL, Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

On to another 95er, namely a Cannonball Merlot 2016 California. It was rated a 95 at the San Francisco Wine Competition meaning most likely it was reviewed by a panel of judges.

It is black plum in colour.

On the nose it’s a true lush and plush Cali Merlot! Lots of blackberry, blueberry and a hint of mocha.

On the palate smooth as a baby’s bottom. Lots of black fruit whirling around and it all ends with a peppery bite and a long shy finish.

It is a text-book Cali Merlot indeed. It is confident and powerful. It reliable and flawless but I hate to say this is a bit boring. Mo mistake this is a good wine but there is not much excitement or uniqueness warranting a 95.

The wine calls for a lamb burger with organic sweet potato baked fries dusted with salt, pepper and turmeric. For vegheads stuffed field red peppers, zucchini and tomatoes.

(Cannonball Merlot 2016 California, Cannonball Wines, Healdsburg, California, $22.95, LCBO # 342824, 750 mL, 13.8%, Set The Bar Rating 92/100).

At some point inflated ratings get a bit out of hand and you begin to think what is driving them beyond the writer’s palate? I am seeing some incredibly high ratings from Luca Maroni of late. 97-99! What is going on here? Although it scored a 98 Maroni did not include a tasting note lucamaroni.com

Here is the 98 rated Maroni wine from Italy being a Duca di Saragnano Sir Passo 2017.

Black cherry in colour.

On the nose heaps of black cherry and subtle notes of vanilla and coffee.

On the palate an elegant richness and by that I mean not a fruit bomb but a restrained wine with class. The fruit is there but well hidden and laid back. Loads of black cherry, some apricot and gentle vanilla. It definitely has power but unlike many Aussie wines is not clumsy and loud mouthed. Perhaps worthy of a duke? 

Entirely well suited for breast of duck or beef in a peppercorn sauce.

An excellent wine ready for 2019 but a 98? No way. If there is anything the LCBO loves is a high critic rating. Shoppers sometimes buy on ratings alone and if they do a 98 is like perfume attracting a mosquito!

(Duca Di Saragnano Sir Passo 2017, IGT Toscano Rosso, $16.95, LCBO # 010121, 14%, 750 mL, Duca di Saragnano, Cetona, Italy, Set The Bar rating 93/100).

After being saturated by such “excellence” why not finish with a 96 er being an H J. Fabre Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from Mendoza in Argentina. It has been awarded its lofty score by Decanter World Wine Awards.

On the nose blueberry, boysenberry and perhaps a bit more cork than warranted.

On the palate it is blueberry bathing beauty. It is smooth and lacking in any way some gutsy tannins. Lots of black cherry too. A short finish. Again, this seems to be a wine lacking complexity or brilliance to propel into a 96 rating!

So sorry to say this is a bland and uninspiring wine and just may be contaminated by a mild case of brettanomyces

 (H J. Fabre Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Bodegas Fabre, Mendoza, Argentina, LCBO# 646844, $18.95, 14.5%, 750 mL., Set The Bar Rating 86/100).

Careful of the wine score. Your palate is more important than the wine critic in the end.

At the end of the day I take my job seriously. I am not paid to review a wine. I only hope you can trust my judgement. I must balance the passion and dedication of the winemakers with what actually ends up in the bottle which in some cases falls short of dedication and passion. In the end my dear reader you are the ultimate judge of the wine and I respect that.

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