In Pursuit of Perfection

100 points?! Is perfection possible?

Perfection. The word itself draws different and profound responses from all of us. People, objects, moments, achievements—all can meet our individual definition or expectation of perfection. My list (not exhaustive) runs as follows: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein Mother Theresa Nadia, Comaneci, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods; George Best, Muhammad Ali, Michael Phelps, the Sistine Chapel, the Pyramids, Ferrari and sharks.
Disagree? I certainly hope you do! Perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and very subjective.
Perfection in wine is similarly controversial and seldom agreed upon. The world’s finest wine critics, possessed of extraordinarily discerning palates, play a tremendously important role in guiding and shaping the wine consumers’ assessment of what we should crave in our glasses. The 100 points system has evolved to become a popular benchmark which we have come to readily identify with and increasingly accept in our quest for guidance of what is desirable in wine. Love it or hate it, it is a fact, and probably the most followed ratings are those of the quixotic Robert Parker Junior.
RPJ’s publication, The Wine Advocate describes wines in the 96-100 point category as follows:
“An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine in its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.”
A very elite group of wines have achieved the perfect 100 score from RPJ, including:
1990 Petrus (US$4,000); 2000 La Mission Haut Brion (US$1,100); 1986 Lafite Rothschild (US$1,500); 1982 Leoville Las Cases (US$680); 1982 Pichon Lalande (US$680); 1982 Mouton Rothschild (US$1,600); 2005 L’Eglise Clinet (US$950); 1990 Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse (US $850); 1997 Harlan Estate (US$1550); 2002 Harlan Estate (US$1150); 1997 Screaming Eagle (US$3800); 2002 Chris Ringland Shiraz (US$900)
Indeed, perfection comes at a hefty price.
The good news for those of us with less than Bill Gates’ bank balance is that there is a much larger list of wines that have achieved 98 and 99 which to my mind are so close to perfection that I would gleefully swallow them and my pretensions any day of the week. Better still,
there are many which offer a sublime wine experience at a fraction of the cost of their imperceptibly “better” 100 pointer counterparts.
To name but a few of my favourites:
2001/2/3/4 Torbreck RunRig (99pts US$250); 2001 D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz (98pts US$100); 2001/2 Penfolds Grange (98 pts US$400); 2004 Kay Brothers Block 6 Shiraz (98 pts USD $100); 2004 Greenock Creek Alice’s Shiraz (98 pts US$95); 2004KaeslerOldBastardShiraz(98ptsUS$180); 2005ChPavie(98ptsUS$325); 2001CiacciPiccolominiRiserva(98ptsUS$150); 2005ClosdePape(98ptsUS$95); 2005 Cos d’Estournel (98 pts US$280); 1997 Ch Montelina Cabernet (98 pts US$180); 2000 Kissler Pinot Noir Occidental cuvee Elisabeth (99 pts US$350).
Top Australian Shiraz from century old wines, a small number of beautifully crafted Californian cabernets and a handful of Chateau Neuf du Papes’ finest stand out as offering consistently outstanding relative value for the discerning wine consumer. Whilst an inch short of perfection as defined by the points system, these are stunning examples of outstanding wine making mastery.
Now before you all rush out to pillory your trusted local retailer of fine wines, let me add one more word of admittedly biased advice. Cast your net beyond the retail spectrum and explore the increasingly liquid and refreshingly transparent world of wine auctions. For the astute collector and consumer this has always been the primary field of exploration and discovery of fine wine gems. Better still, the internet has now made the market readily available to all who seek quality at great relative value.
Determine what you are seeking, what price you are willing to pay and study the competing offerings of the retailers and the reputable auctioneers.
Perfection may be more easily and inexpensively acquired than you imagined. It’s fun too. - Robert Rees

Robert is a founder of Wine Exchange Asia, serving customers in Singapore and Hong Kong. For more information please visit or write to

Click here to see the published article.