The wine is Chambers Rare Tokay NV, an Australian fortified dessert wine made in in the sherry style. Robert Parker has given it 100 points on his 100-point scale for years – I found references dating to 1999.
I don’t know that Parker waxes quite as poetic about this as he does his red Bordeauxs, but he is effusive: “Australian treasure,” “almost unbelievable in its richness and aromatic complexity,” and “he wines are so special they almost defy accurate description” among many, many accolades.
Which is the Wine Curmudgeon’s polite way of saying that point systems are irrelevant, and do more harm than good. I’m not denying that the Chambers (about $200 for a half bottle, if you can find it) is an exceptional wine. I’m also not criticizing Parker, who does what he does better than almost anyone else. It’s just not the way I would do it.
As good as the wine is, it’s not perfect, and it’s not even the best dessert wine I’ve ever had. That honor goes to Osborne Rare Sherry Pedro Ximenez Viejo NV, a wine I will remember on my death bed. (And I’m willing to bet that there are people who think this wine is too sweet, too rich and too caramel-ly.)
And I’m not alone in my assessment of the Chambers. I tasted it at a master wine dinner at Pappas Bros. steakhouse in Dallas, hosted by the inestimable Barbara Werley. She selected a number of outstanding wines, including a Spanish white I had never heard of, a vintage Hugel riesling from Alsace, and a coupe of French reds that were as surprising as they were excellent.
We enjoyed the Chambers, but most of us were surprised to find out it was a 100-point wine. The couple at the event who accepted scores as a normal part of the wine business were perhaps the most surprised. Again, this is not to denigrate the Chambers. It was a superlative wine, dark and rich with caramel and brown sugar and all sorts of herbs. I enjoyed it (though I doubt I’d pay $200 for it).
Rather, the Chambers demonstrates that wine scores are incredibly personal. Parker’s knowledge is vast, but his palate is singular. I can read his tasting notes and know it’s a good wine, but I can only decide if it’s perfect if I taste it. And the same thing holds true for everyone else in the world. It’s only a perfect one if you think it is, no matter what anyone else says.