If you're buying 2000 Barolo, you can practically find an outstanding wine with your eyes closed. Italy's jewel box of a wine region produced its greatest vintage ever in 2000 -- a year I rate a perfect 100 points -- and there are dozens upon dozens of terrific reds now coming to the market.  In April I blind-tasted 175 Barolos and other Piedmont wines from the 2000 vintage in my Tuscan office, and more than 150 of them, nearly 90 percent, rated outstanding, 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Five were perfect 100-pointers. The sign of a perfect vintage is when just about every producer makes an outstanding wine, and 2000 easily achieves this standard. It's hard to imagine that such a result will ever be replicated. Not even the legendary 2000 Bordeaux were so consistently excellent.

Some may say these extraordinary tasting results are inflated owing to my love of Italy and its noble indigenous grapes such as Nebbiolo. Or that since I've already given the 1997 vintage a rating of 99 points, there was nowhere else to go but 100 for 2000. But taste the wines for yourself. Understand the excitement. Revel in the unique quality of these fabulous young wines. "I have never seen a vintage like 2000," raves Bruno Giacosa, the elder statesman of the region who has personally worked more than 60 harvests in his life and is a living legend in his wine region. His tiny-production Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto was one of my 100-pointers; it shows an incredible richness and structure, yet is polished and refined. It reminds me of tasting the great 1990 Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes from Comte Georges de Vogüé, which also received a perfect score from Wine Spectator. "The wines are extraordinary," Giacosa says. "They have richness and power yet they have wonderful balance and beauty. I have never [before] made a wine like this."

Roberto Voerzio, who made two 100-point wines in 2000, is just as enthusiastic about the vintage. "2000 will be a difficult year to repeat," he says. "If I had a remote control to order the weather, I couldn't have asked for better climate conditions than those we had. It rained when it should have; was hot at the right time; it was a more balanced growing season than the 1997. The 1997s and the 2000s are the best wines I've ever made. It's hard to say which I prefer now, but I would say that the 2000s win the day because of the extra finesse they display."

Angelo Gaja too produced a perfect wine from Piedmont's 2000 vintage, the single-vineyard Costa Russi ($340), a blend of 95 percent Nebbiolo and 5 percent Barbera. Formerly a Barbaresco, Gaja now bottles it under the Langhe DOC. Gaja's top single-vineyard reds are released to market at the same time as many of the Barolos of a respective vintage. And, as usual, his Langhe reds Sorì San Lorenzo (97, $340), Sorì Tildìn (96, $340), Conteisa (97, $150) and Sperss (95, $225) are among the top wines of the vintage. The Sperss and Conteisa wines come from vineyards within the Barolo DOC.

Many producers have made the greatest wines of their careers in 2000. It is a vintage that arrived just as many young winemakers had mastered the vineyard and cellar techniques they'd honed in the outstanding 1999, 1998, 1997 and 1996 vintages. The 1997 vintage was an extremely hot and dry year, like 2000. "These are the best wines we have ever made," asserts Enzo Revello. His single-vineyard Barolos Rocche dell'Annunziata (97, $90) and Vigna Gattera (95, $60) were among the best wines of my tasting. "In the last few years, we have really worked hard to make the best possible wines. We have greatly reduced our yields in the vineyards and we have used less new wood in maturing the wines. We want to emphasize the fruit in the wines." For the most part, Revello and other top producers in the region attribute the unprecedented quality of their wines to success in their vineyards in 2000. This continues a trend from other recent vintages. The best producers are not slaves to high technology in winemaking. They are simply striving to grow the best grapes and then to transform them into wine with minimum intervention.

"2000 is like 1997, but I think it will be even better, because there was less quantity in the vineyard the lower yields came naturally," says Elio Grasso, one of the region's most respected Barolo producers. "Years like 2000 and 1997 allow us to really reflect the character of Nebbiolo in a modern way."

In the past decade, there's been much debate over modern versus traditional styles of Barolos, but the discussion should be more about the quality of the wines' tannins. Recent top vintages of Barolo, such as 2001, 2000, 1998 and 1997, have ripe and generous tannins, the result of wine producers' determination to pick their grapes at the optimum time. Some have argued that 2000 will be an early-maturing vintage because of its generous, up-front character and ripe, velvety texture. But they have misunderstood these wines. The 2000 Barolos have loads of tannins but they are richer and riper than the tannins of any previous vintage save 1997.   "Some people think that a great Barolo has to be hard, tannic and aggressive, but it's just not the case," argues Voerzio. He has been pouring his 2000s in recent months at events across Europe, and found everyone who tasted them extremely impressed with the quality of 2000.

Indeed, the style of the 2000 Barolos should change the minds of many wine connoisseurs about Nebbiolo, and it will attract many new consumers to this unique grape. Nebbiolo has always gotten a bad rap for being too tannic, almost bitter on the palate. But recent advances in the region's nearly 3,000 acres of vineyards have transformed the wines into cleaner, softer reds. The most important change has been harvesting grapes with riper tannins and slightly higher sugar levels. Some critics say that this has made the wines too modern, almost too attractive, but the bonus is that the wines are more accessible when young yet are well-structured for aging. Most of the 2000 Barolos will be very drinkable by about 2008 but will improve for many years beyond that. "It's the sign of a great wine," says Revello. "The 2000 Barolos are approachable when young but they will improve with age for many, many years to come."   I suggest drinking the 1999 and 1998 vintages in Barolo (also Barbaresco) for the moment, and leaving the 2000s, 1997s and 1996s to mature in bottle. Otherwise, top-quality 1995s, 1993s, 1990s, 1989s and 1988s are also excellent bottles to drink now.

The big problem will be finding these wines. As always, the best Barolos (as well as Barbarescos) are very limited in production. For example, the total production of the five wines that I scored 100 points is about 3,000 cases, and only about 300 cases will be available in the United States this year. This rarity makes many Barolos extremely expensive. For instance, my 100-point wines range in price from $169 to $500 a bottle. Barolos' high prices and limited availability pose hurdles for many wine consumers. However, a number of relatively good-value 2000 Barolos do exist; I tasted 60 wines priced at $60 or less.

Since 1996, Piedmont has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outstanding vintages. This hasn't been all good news for the producers, however. After people bought the classic vintages of 1996 and 1997, it was hard to pony up for 1998 and 1999. "Up to the 1999 vintage, we could easily sell our wines, but then a crisis arrived at our doors," notes Mauro Veglio, Barolo producer in the tiny village of Annunziata. "The tendency of U.S. importers [has been] to skip 1999 and move on to 2000." In fact, that's what I recommend. If you can find some 2000 Barolo, don't hesitate. If you have deep pockets, buy older vintages of Barolo as well, but perfect vintages don't come around very often. This is one that you won't want to miss.

European bureau chief James Suckling is Wine Spectator's lead taster on the wines of Italy. Jo Cooke contributed to this report