Reading Between the Points

Years ago after a long evening of wine and wine chatter, a friend, who wasnt in the wine business, shared with me a theory about how to buy wine using points. To his thinking, from what he overheard, if there was so much hullabaloo about the latest 90+ point wine, clearly the best buys must be the 89 pointers. He reasoned they must be better priced, pack more bang for the buck, and be less likely to be “taken by someone else to the same dinner party”.

He theorized that there must be a whole bunch of these ‘sleepers’— he called them, good wines that didn’t show well the day of their dance recital what with so many other bottles all in line trying to kick a little higher than the bottle next to them. I could not help but to agree with his thinking and was intrigued by the idea of an alternative reading in wine criticism ie that which was not the writer’s intent. [Full disclosure: in my life before wine I wrote a master’s thesis on irony, so parallel communication of the unwritten does strike a chord with me.]

Fast forward to today…

Again after an evening of much wine and wine chatter I thought back to my friend, but two things are different. One: due to a more specialised wine trade crowd– and some might argue wine-point inflation, 90 points is no longer enough. Two: the chatter this time was on WhatsApp due to lockdown. Interestingly, this time the chatting revolved around wines that a certain critic insisted only achieved greatness at 95 points and up.

Applying my friend’s his logic today, the sleepers, and thus the “smart buy”, would be 94 pointers. With so much of chat dedicated to their greatnesses at 95 plus my friends theory would seem to be as true as ever. And thus, wouldn’t it be a terrific tasting indeed to line up the 94’s I got to thinking. Within these ranks there must be wines that just didn’t kick high enough, or as I shall explain: kick fast enough, when their turn came.

Garage has particpated in many tastings, and helped organise many more such tastings in the neighbourhood in Maule and or for MoVI and these are a few things I have gleaned. 

The number of wines tasted in a any session is very often inversely proportional to the time allowed each. And here I share something I have learned about the mere 94’s of the world: many, if not most, have a way of starting late. (Something I personally identify with as a late bloomer). I would go even further and say that some of the best ones are in point of fact these one’s that are slower out of the starting blocks. They can have something special, but only for those who take a little longer. These are the wines for enjoying at table. Afterall, who’s in a hurry in these times?

When my friend reads this he is going to raise the question: how much more do these wines cost than his 89 pt sleepers of yesteryear?  I would answer that these wines pack a whole lot more than that ‘first kick’. To be sure they have an initial impression, but they also have a few minutes in the glass personality, and then, if one is patient, a more evolved and complex more time required reward complexity for the patient and studiously hedonist / hedonistly studious— if only we take the time. (Pilar would say some have a best the next day on the counter grace too!)

Don’t these slouchy 94’s start to sound like the perfect wines for these times? And mightn’t this alternative reading, a kind of reading between the points be just the remedy for these last weeks of quarantine?  

What does near greatness cost?

These wines are going to set you back a little more–  more than a $20 but hopefuly less than two, but what did you expect? They will come packing a lot more. They have been crafted not fabricated more personally on a more human scale. I would ask my friend stuck in the past: why are we so stingy with wine? Its nourishment you know and not just for the body but also for the soul. And what did the organic beef set you back anyway?

It is important in these times to take stock of the importance and power of where we make our purchases: food, wine and much more. We must think about the importance of the small, of the independent, of the family run. Such independent, lets call them indie firms have knowledge and experience, and they can steer you to things delicious and flavourful outside your comfort zone. And, if you are online, in these times, why not try some 94’s or an alternative reading of your own, whilst we wait for all of this to turn the corner.

Be well / stay safe.


Here is a very partial list of establishments that are purveying some great things that I know of [and am envious of those of you who can take advantage of] in the mentioned fair cities far away.

Archive – Toronto (terrific well curated selection)

Red Lion and Sun – London (See short videos on Insta and you will soon get the idea)

Garagiste – USA (a stalwart source for many a year)

La Cava del Sommelier – Santiago, Chile (consulta pregunta aquí hay ideas and patience)

@catodochile wine pusher extraordinaire

Vinos Natural (great things not easy to find in Chile including Argentine wines)

If you know of links that should ney need be included here send them on!

And finally, if in Chile, and if you have not managed to pinch a link already here is a link to a case of your’s truly’s own mere 94’s.

Finalmente, si está en Chile, y si no ha logrado clickear un enlace ya, aquí hay un enlace a una caja de 6 x 94.