This year, Wine Enthusiast’s tasting panel reviewed more than 16,000 wines. We’ve previously published our lists of Top 100 Best Buys (wines for $15 or less, November) and Top 100 Cellar Selections (cellar-worthy and highly rated collectibles, December), now here comes the big kahuna.
The Enthusiast 100 are not the wines we drink on a daily basis, nor do they represent a single annual splurge. Instead, they are the solid middle ground: weekend wines, restaurant purchases, special occasion wines. In short, wines we wish we could drink more often.
To arrive at this list, we look at a myriad of factors, including rating, price, drinkability and uniqueness. Then we factor in availability, diversity and a healthy portion of subjectivity. Within the constraints of what we’ve tasted during the past 12 months, we try to include wines made in different regions, from various grape varieties and in many different styles.
The end result? A list of 100 wines we’d be happy to drink any night of the week.
Perhaps it is this wine’s elevated proportion of Carignan (15%) that gives it such a lovely and distinctive perfume, incorporating hints of ground pepper, cinnamon or clove, and ripe cherries. It’s medium in body, verging on creamy in texture because of the supple tannins, and features plenty of spice on the long finish. Drink now–2015.— J.C. (2/1/2011)
With this wine, Dolce cements its status as California’s most consistently great dessert wine. This year’s blend is 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and the grapes were infected with the botrytis, resulting in the fantastic sweetness. Devastating in apricot, orange, pear, honey, vanilla and créme brûlée flavors, in an unctuous, viscous texture, with…— S.H. (6/1/2011)
This full-bodied, richly textured Shiraz is ready to drink, with slightly lifted aromas of plums and baking spices and a velvety mouthfeel. Long and supple on the finish, it should continue to drink well through at least 2018.— J.C. (11/1/2011)
Intense and rich wine, with touches of smoky wood, the tannins ripe, the acidity a refreshing balancing factor. With its cherry character, there is fruit already, but wait a year and this will be impressive.— R.V. (10/1/2011)
On the money right from the start, where deep aromas of black fruits, minerality and fresh herbs mingle nicely. The palate is creamy and smooth, with rich, almost syrupy berry, cream, coffee and toffee flavors. Oaked up but not “oaky,” with caramel and chocolate on the smooth finish. Drink now through 2015.— M.S. (7/1/2011)
Chez Jaume, the family took the difficult decision not to produce its luxury Cuvée Origines in 2008. That old-vine juice ended up in this bottling, which no doubt accounts for its splendidly lush yet balanced midpalate and intense notes of cracked pepper, cassis and espresso. A great success for the vintage.— J.C. (8/1/2011)
A terrific wine that proves you don’t have to spend a fortune for a top-flight Napa Valley Cabernet. It’s a deeply flavored, brooding young wine, filled with exciting blackberry, cassis and mineral flavors. Big in tannins, yet with a very refined, classy mouthfeel, it should begin to hit its stride after 2014.— S.H. (5/1/2011)