James Halliday’s points system.
Many winemakers take great delight in getting their wines highly pointed by respected industry figure James Halliday. It’s a telling reward for their hard work and skill for them and their team. Likewise, the eyes light up of Sales and Marketing departments as their job just became a little easier. If you’re lucky enough to get a 95 or 96, Halliday rates your wine as Outstanding, anything above is Exceptional. If you get below 80 Mr Halliday says ‘not recommended’. Below are some thoughts from James on the points system and then we look at some of our Iconic Winemakers and their highly pointed wines.
A number of notable wine writers (most notable of all Hugh Johnson of the UK) refuse to allot points as a matter of principle, arguing an intelligent reader will be able to read between the lines, as it were, and have the same opportunity to assess the style/quality without recourse to the ‘dumbing down’ impact of points.
The problem is that, whether it be 100 points, 20 points, 5 stars or whatever, it is the first piece of information readers eyes are attracted to, the words thereafter read in the context of the points. As a somewhat futile exercise in trying to change that process, I do place the points in the Wine Companion after the tasting note.
It seems to me that what is important about scores is that the writer is consistent in his or her application of points, and that there is a meaningful spread of the top and bottom ranges.
Thus, for better or worse, the 20-point scale is effectively a 9-point scale, ranging between 10 and 19.
The 100-point scale is effectively a 20-point scale, ranging between 80 and a highly-improbable 100. It seems to me to be unimportant whether reviewers are ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ in allotting their points as long as they maintain a spread and are consistent. Thus Tim White is joined by Andrew Jefford of the UK in being a ‘hard’ taskmaster, deliberately restricting, it would seem, the top scale to 90 or less. What they miss is the reverse side of the coin: 80 points from either Jefford or White will be seen as a generous mark denoting a good wine. The same score from myself or other writers happily awarding points well into the 90s is the mark of a very ordinary, although not outright faulty, wine.
Again on a purely personal basis, 97 points is normally my highest score for a table wine, with less than 5 out of 9000 wines tasted in any 12-month period receiving 98 points. No table wine receives 99 or 100, the exceptions being Seppeltsfield’s 100 Year Old Para (supreme unto itself, and falling outside all of the normal indicia) and, with a rush of blood to my head on one occasion to ‘98 Krug.
Andrew Margan’s Limited Release 2015 White Label Semillon.
‘The Hunter should only make Semillon and Semillon should only come from the Hunter’ said an International judge at the Royal Sydney Wine Show some years ago. Whilst the Hunter produces many good other varieties we get the gist of what he was saying. It was the ultimate compliment to a well-made Hunter Semillon and certainly Margs has this covered.
Andrew Thomas’ 2016 Braemore Semillon.
Thommo’s a rare breed in that he only produces wines from Semillon and Shiraz but it’s a strategy that pays dividends and the ’16 Braemore Semillon was recognised by Halliday when he named it in his top 100 wines for 2016.
Nick Haselgrove’s Old Faithful 2012 Top of the Hill Shiraz.
When Nick bottled this he would have been looking forward to seeing how the combination of big ripe fruit from a benchmark vintage, obvious natural tannins and the characteristics of new oak would bring this wine to fruition. Well he’s happy and Halliday agrees.
Dean Hewitson’s 2014 Miss Harry Rhone Blend.
Another of Iconic Winemakers to make Halliday’s 2016 Top 100 so why don’t we just let James tell us his thoughts. “A blend of grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre, carignan and cinsault, this is flush with gloriously juicy red, blue and purple fruits, the components picked with unerring accuracy. Hewitson weaves some of the magic of the Rhône Valley’s iconic Chateau Rayas, the ultimate compliment."
Starting from this month all people who purchase wine from Iconic Winemakers have the chance to win 1 of 2 mixed 6 packs every month. We want you to share your thoughts of the wine you’ve just purchased and for your time and effort you’ll have the chance to win. Here’s how it works;
1.Order your wine through Iconic Winemakers.
2.After opening a bottle write in 25 words or less your own tasting note or a food match and why you chose this dish.
3.We’ll adjudicate the best or most creative each month and giveaway 2 mixed 6 packs to the recipients.
4.The wines you receive won’t be what you’ve ordered as we want you to try wine from other winemakers for future purchase.
5. When you receive your wine just go to www.iconicwinemakers.com.au , scroll your mouse over ‘Wines’ and click on ‘WIN FREE WINE’ and enter.