Until last week, no Chilean wine had ever scored 100 points. That changed with the 2014 vintage of Viñedo Chadwick, which has just been awarded top marks by James Suckling in his recent Chilean report.
Winemaker Eduardo Chadwick was in London for a press dinner yesterday, and brought the wine with him to be tasted and discussed. He was unequivocal about the significance of having a 100-point wine - not just for his brand, but for Chile. Suckling's report rates 600 wines, and only one gets the perfect score. He says 'perhaps a sign of Chile truly coming of age is the 100-point rating in this report.'
This raises some intriguing thoughts. Firstly, I have no objection to scoring wines - as I wrote here, there is no better alternative and besides, consumers find them useful. However, I was surprised by how much importance was ascribed to the arrival of this 100-point wine - both by the winemaker and its scorer.
Qualitatively, the difference between 100 points and 98 points is negligible. As Jamie Goode points out, a score is not the property of the wine, but of an interaction between the wine and the taster. That means that the 100 points awarded here are not an objective reflection of verifiable, measurable quality, but also include an emotional influence. That's not a bad thing - wine should be about emotions to a certain extent. But would Suckling (or me, or anyone) give the same top score to the same wine in a blind lineup? Highly unlikely.
Incidentally, the wine itself is excellent - plush, pure, sophisticated and polished but without any artifice or over-extraction or spoofiness - another Jamie Goode phrase.
However, there's a danger that by over-hyping the significance of this wine's score, other producers will attempt to copy the style. That's a well-trodden path in California, for example, and it can be detrimental for several reasons. Firstly, it lends too much power to a single critic's palate. Secondly, it distorts the value of wine, resulting in price inflation that leaves the wine accessible only to the super-rich. Thirdly, it results in vinous homogeneity.
Chilean wine seems to be on the cusp of breaking away from its boring image and getting recognition for some really exciting wines emerging from all manner of varieties and origins. (I wrote about this recently.) Perhaps a 100-point wine is important to generate some headlines and increase attention on the country, but it would be a shame if such a success altered the course of diversity and innovation that is currently being followed.