In the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines, there are 20 wines scoring 19/20 points, two scoring 19.5/20 points and two scoring 20/20 points. How did I arrive at these scores?
As you all know, I use the University of California, Davis 20 Point wine scoring system. This was developed by the Enology department's faculty in the 1940's and '50's in order to arrive at a consistent system for qualitatively evaluating wines. The system was the standard until the advent of Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator 100 Point systems. The Davis system comprises of the following points assigned to wines:
Clarity - 2 points
Color - 2 points
Bouquet - 4 points
Total Acidity - 1 point
Sweetness - 1 point
Body/Texture - 2 points
Flavor/Taste - 2 points
Acescensy (Bitterness) - 1 point
Astringency - 1 point
Overall Quality - 4 points
Half points may be assigned.
The two most important attributes are Bouquet (4 points) and Overall Quality (4 points), defined as follows:
Distinct varietal characteristics, balanced bouquet - 4 points
Simply fruity characteristics, some bouquet - 3 points
Little varietal character, simple bouquet - 2 points
Underdeveloped nose, closed, non-apparent - 1 point
Defective nose, off odors - 0 points
Wines of "noble" quality with distinct and distinguishing character - 4 points
Wines that are "charming" with some special character - 3 points
Wines that are typical of the varietal/type and age - 2 points
Wines with no exceptional characteristics, but not flawed - 1 point
Wines with no exceptional characteristics, and possess flaws - 0 points
It is the these qualities that distinguish exceptional or great wines from good or very good ones. (The remaining points are for balance and without flaws, and all wines I review get one or two points in these categories). They have distinctive aromatics and special or distinguishing character. These are the ones that score 19, 19.5 or 20 points. Here are some examples from the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
2014 Co Dinn Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain, Roskamp Vineyard, Block Two ($50) - Classic varietal aromas - 3.5 points for Bouquet. 3.5 points for Overall Quality - 19/20 points.
2014 Walla Walla Vintners "GSM" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($42) - Richly aromatic, complex nose. 3.5 points for Bouquet. 3.5 points for Overall Quality. 19/20 points.
2015 Rotie Cellars Southern Red Blend, Washington State ($48) - Seductive aromas. 3.5 points for Bouquet. Lavish, sensuous, complex flavors. 3.5 points for Overall Quality. 19.5/20 points.
2012 G. Cuneo Cellars "Seccopassa" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($75) - Intense nose of dried fruits and aromatics. 3.5 points for Bouquet. "As good as any of the best Italian Amarones." 4 points for Overall Quality. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($94) - Classic, intoxicating nose. 4 points for Bouquet. "Admirably put together." 4 points for Overall Quality. 20/20 points.
2015 Rotie Cellars Northern Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($48) - Intoxicating, highly aromatic nose. 4 points for Bouquet. An array of complex flavors and aromas. 4 points for Overall Quality. 20/20 points.
Does this mean a 20 points wine is equivalent to a 100 points wine, or a 19 points wine a 95 point one? The answer is no. Do not multiply the 20 point system score by five to get an equivalent 100 points score. The 100 point systems (The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator) are more subjective and less qualitative than the 20 point system than the 20 point system. A U.C. Davis 20 point wine is a balanced, distinguished "noble" wine worthy of admiration, without having to bow down before an almighty 99 or 100 points Bordeaux.
What all this brings us to is that the 19, 19.5 and 20 points scoring wines in the Review of Washington Wines offer greater value for the money than the highly coveted wines from elsewhere.