Top Wines, Best Buys and Spirits of 2006

Our editors' selection of the year's 250 must-have bottlings.



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 Top 100 Wines

 

Here, we present our selection of the best 100 wines we sampled out of the 8,000 total that we reviewed over the course of 2006.

What you will find here are not necessarily the highest-scoring wines. Their numeric scores were just one factor in assembling this list. We also consider price, availability, newsworthiness and the X-factors: excitement, buzz. And we strive for balance—by which we mean, a balance of geography, grape variety, wines (red and white still wines as well as sparklers, fortifieds and dessert wines) and of producers; there is only one bottling from a given brand, though certain powerhouses scored well throughout the year.

If you do decide to print out the pages and use this as a shopping list, we just want to caution you: These wines were reviewed throughout the year; some, of the precise vintage indicated, may no longer be available. Prices, too, may have changed. But as a guide, a starting point, this is the wine equivalent of the Yellow Brick Road. Follow.

TOP 100 WINES OF 2006

 

 


 

 

 

 100 Top Best Buys
There may be a great deal of subjectivity in judging wine quality, but when it comes to selecting a wine for a "Best Buy" designation, objective standards reign: If a wine is given a certain numerical score (on the high side of the 100-point scale), and its suggested retail price is at a certain level (somewhere south of $15), it is singled out as a "Best Buy." Out of the nearly 10,000 wines we tasted this year, less than 10% (907) achieved this distinction.

What you will find on the following pages is the best of these Best Buys, a veritable bargain bonanza but without the cheesy aspects that term implies. Although media scrutiny of the worldwide wine glut has subsided, the glut itself has not gone away. There is a surplus of good to excellent wine on the market, and prices are doing what are expected of them: staying low.

It is an excellent time to experiment with varieties, regions and producers that are unfamiliar. And the wines on the following pages are a great start. Enjoy.
 
 
 

 
 50 Top Spirits of 2006
 
Creating an annual summary of the year's foremost spirits is no easy task. This proved to be yet another year of remarkable quality in all spirits categories. I could have, with ease, selected twenty more choice spirits from the Classic and Superb items that were evaluated in 2006. To maintain a sense of tidiness and focus, I chiseled the original roster down to a trim and more manageable total of fifty. Personal feelings and category affinities were set aside to present you with a stellar collection that offers both breadth and depth.

Public interest in spirits continues to soar. According to David Ozgo, the chief economist of Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), revenue growth for the distilled spirits category as a whole in 2005 advanced by a whopping 7.5% to $16.3 billion. The largest gains were in the premium and super-premium sectors. Ozgo predicted growth by another 7% ($17.4 billion) in 2006.

American consumers, especially in the young (22-35) and middle aged (35-55) demographics, are driving the spirits upsurge. Similar to the unprecedented gains made in America by wine in the 1980s and then by beer in the 1990s through broad consumer interest in craft brewing, spirits are unquestionably the headlining libations of this decade and the next.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Spirits Boom of the early Third Millennium.
 
—F. Paul Pacult
 
 
 

 
 

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