When determining the answer to what is the best red wine, it’s important to consider the judging criteria and situation in which the wine will be consumed.
- the best red wine from a certain country?
- the best red wine under a certain price?
- the best red wine to accompany a specific meal?
Or is it simply the best because it brought the most joy?
Each factor will deliver a different set of results. Here we are looking at the highest-scoring wines tasted in the past year.
Scroll down for Decanter’s best red wines
A perfect wine
When asked what makes a perfect wine? The late Steven Spurrier said one that receives ‘top marks’ – i.e 100 out of 100. ‘Not just a wine that receives rapturous praise, but one which is so good it cannot possibly be better,’ he continued.
But different wine experts will assess wine in their own way using their unique experience and frame of reference. Wines are judged against their previous vintages – in vertical tastings, against their neighbours – in regional tastings or against their grape cousins around the world in varietal tastings.
Wines that make the grade do so when the expert has no doubt as to the wine’s pedigree and their judgement of it.
But how do you get the best red wine?
For Simon Field MW, he says; ‘If a wine is to enter the pantheon reserved for ”the best” it is taken as read that there is structural integrity, courtesy the interplay between acids, fruit and, for a red, tannins; this innate balance is evidenced at any and every age of the wine; one may say that it almost transcends time in the manifestation of an overwhelming harmony.
This, in a sense, and at the risk of appearing iconoclastic, overrides even the most persuasive voice of ‘terroir’ and is achieved by means of an holistic approach, with nature and nurture perfectly entwined.
Often, one may surmise, such perfection is achieved almost by accident, and often too, it is wholly dependent on vintage. The very greatest examples, however, primus inter pares if you like, seem to go one step further and to excel every single year, apparently careless of the vintage conditions, yet , at the same time capturing the latent diversity thereby bestowed. The paradox of perfection; rare indeed!
For Charles Curtis MW, he says ‘there are many characteristics that set good and great wines apart from the average, but the ‘best’ wine gives off an intangible frisson of excitement and fires the imagination in a way that transcends important physical elements such as the density and concentration of extract, powerful tannic grip, and the exquisite balance between sugar, acidity, and alcohol: it is a wine that makes you dream.’
Jane Anson says the best wine is ‘where wine pushes from being technically brilliant to giving an emotional reaction – where everything but nothing stands out. ‘More technically, it’s about the feeling of intensity or energy continuing even after the wine has left your mouth.’
Quite often when Decanter asks experts for their ‘wines of the year’ those that gave the most joy or are representative of a certain feeling and time will feature, even if they don’t technically achieve the pinnacle on the point scale. For instance see the top picks from Jane Anson, Matt Walls, Michaela Morris and Matthew Luczy in 2020.
Sharing bottles with friends, or opening a milestone vintage often transcends a wine’s perfection however when it comes to investing in wine or making provision for ageing capabilities the score is of the upmost importance.
Decanter also runs a ‘wines of the year‘ tasting in which judges submit three recommendations for ‘best wines’ based on a criteria of; classic, off-beat and value. We also collate all the highest-scoring wines from our panel tastings which, again, can suggest the best when tasted against their counterparts but not necessarily ever achieving 100 points.
Price is also considered in relation to score when identifying a wine as the best and many tasting compilations looking at the top-scoring wines under £50 (weekend drinking) and £20 (weekday drinking) are among the most popular pieces of content with consumers looking to get the balance between quality and cost just right.
Value can be especially important with en primeur campaigns – such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône and Napa Valley with collectors looking to secure good value, ageworthy wines at the best prices.
Wines that achieve the perfect score can be, perhaps paradoxically, both young and old with judges looking for excellence at that time as well as potential to stay the course. Therefore it is also paramount to read the tasting note and take heed of drink dates. For instance the wines listed below range from the 2019 vintage to the 1990 vintage.
Burgundy, Bordeaux etc
There are many ‘best wine’ competitions that take place around the world, including the Decanter World Wine Awards of which a Platinum award represents the very best a wine can achieve, and many claims are made about best wines from all corners of the globe, however when looking at the Decanter database only seven regions can claim a ‘best wine’ – five for best red wines and five for best white wines.
The following list represents the regions with 100-point wines tasted in the last year.
- Bordeaux (red and white (sweet))
- Burgundy (red and white)
- Tuscany (red)
- Rhône (red and white)
- Washington (red)
- Champagne (white)
- Rheinhessen (white)