Consumer Distorts Wine

When was the last time you read a critics review of a movie, book, play, restaurant, television show or anything else for that matter that didn’t have an author’s name associated with the review? Better question is why would you read, let alone take seriously, an anonymous critique of a creative effort?

This is the problem with Consumer Reports wine reviews. They don’t list their "expert" critics.

In the latest issue Consumer Reports takes on wine, as they annually. It’s a pretty bod departure from their normal focus on Televisions, CD Players, autos and Dishwashers. The most obvious difference between reviewing wine and reviewing a dishwasher is that one can be objectively tested for it’s quality and features. The other really can’t be tested objectively. Yet, Consumer Reports lives and dies on its reputation for objective evaluations of products, yet wine reviews are anything but objective.. Is their review of wine any different than a Consumer Reports review of contemporary art? Would they ever review contemporary art? No and No.

I have to assume that the "two experts" Consumer Reports employed to pick the highest quality wines in their report have more experience than most in evaluating wines. But we don’t know for sure. They don’t name these "experts". They might as easily be the son and daughter of the editor who needed a job.

What needs to be understood is that wine reviewing is an aesthetic exercise more than anything else. It is the act of saying what appeals to you and why. A good reviewer should be able to put the object of their review in some solid historical, cultural and contemporary perspective. Yet the final judgment is personal. We learn a good deal as much about the reviewer when reading a review of a wine or film as we do the film or the wine.

I might not have brought up this subject or laid into Consumer Reports had their ratings not been so horrifically inappropriate. In creating a chart for identifying and communicating the different aromas found in the Pinot Noirs under consideration they list the following possible aromas associated with Pinot Noir:

1. Pencil Shavings
2. Vanillan
3. Smoke/Cedar
4. Leather/tobacco

Where’s the fruit? I mean, the wine is made from fruit. Where’s the cherry, the berry, the strawberry?

Maybe I’m just in a cantankerous mood. Maybe I have respect for wine reviewers and wine publications that take seriously their responsibilities. Maybe Consumer Reports has no business reviewing wine.

Posted In: Rating Wine


10 Responses

  1. Lenn - November 8, 2005

    I think your last comment is the correct one…they just have no business reviewing wine.
    To not list cherry/cranberry or SOME berry in that list is just ludicrous.

  2. Steve-o - November 8, 2005

    After the first wave of incredulity (that Consumer Reports would review wine) wore off, I had three random thoughts: (1) who turns to CR to get their wine reviews, really? (2) I hardly expect CR to be reviewing first-growth Bordeaux or Screaming Eagle. If they want to review Turning Leaf with strange, lousy criteria, let ’em. (3) if they do try to be “objective” about their wine reviews, what would CR focus on? A price to potential-for-drunkedness ratio?

  3. Mark - November 8, 2005

    I concur with the first comment from Lenn: Your last sentence says it all. I have great respect for CR’s reviews of electronics, washing machines and Volvos. Stay the heck out of the wine reviewing business, PLEASE.

  4. johng - November 8, 2005

    We’re finally springing for the plasma this xmas. (don’t tell the kids, please) I wonder if I can get Tanzer to tell me which one to get.

  5. Erin - November 13, 2005

    See then people like me come along, not looking for anything complicated or technical sounding, just wanting to know how a pinot noir could be described, and are totally misled.
    To be completely honest though, even I wouldn’t be getting wine reviews from consumer reports.

  6. huge - November 14, 2005

    I saw the article and thought the same things about the descriptors. Plus, they had “vanillan” checked for a couple of wines that I’m certain don’t get oak and don’t have any vanilla character to them!
    I remember previous issues of CR with similarly bizarre descriptors. I think they double-up with their cough syrup tasters…

  7. Zmajrdo - June 3, 2007 x

  8. Zmajrdo - June 3, 2007 x

  9. Zmajrdo - June 3, 2007 x

  10. steven davies - August 6, 2007

    If I don’t know the name of the expert how can I be sure this review is not a put up job.I as a consumer I will never believe until I am not sure as you said they are not the son and daughter of the editor who needed a job.

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