Who Says This Wine’s Not Good?

Who’s to say?

That’s the question that Ryan over at CalWineriesBlog  asks about whether a wine is good or bad or average. It’s a good question. His answer is is YOU. That is, if you are drinking the wine all that really matters is what you think of it.

But this is really beside the point. The real question is who’s opinion will you take in helping decide if you buy a wine?

While I subscribe to the idea that in the end all that matters is what your own palate determines, that still doesn’t answer the question of who do you rely on before the bottle is bought. Ryan thinks the emergence of blog-generated wine reviews is a good thing, a democratizing force that moves more folks away from relying on critics, who I think he considers to be wine snobs:

"Fortunately, over the past couple of years, things have been changing.
The development of the wine blogosphere, although still in its infancy,
has enabled a more democratic take on wine and the wine industry.
Instead of reading a wine publication, many people are searching blog
posts for wine reviews. These reviews are a better representation of
public opinion because they are not corrupted by the forces influencing
major wine magazines."

Ryan is correct. Many folks are reading wine blogs and other user generated wine comment venues for advice. I agree, too, that these kinds of reviews are better representations of the "public opinion" on wine. But let’s not write of critics as either corrupted or useless.

I think Ryan is referring to the fact that many well know sources of wine criticism comes from wine magazines that take advertising. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe that these critics are influenced by advertisers when they review a wine. But I’d also note that these critics are often among the most experienced wine tasters on the planet.

I don’t think it can be denied that the more wine you taste, the better wine taster you are. The experience alone of sampling many different wines from different appellations, from different vineyards and from different winemakers provides one with a important perspective which is vital to good, honest criticism. I’m more interested in the opinion of a movie reviewer who has sat through thousands of films and understands the history and benchmarks of slapstick, film noir, anime, westerns, horror, thrillers and activist cinema than I am someone who might only have a passing acquaintance with these genres. For me the same goes for wine.

That isn’t to say that one must be a professional critic to have this kind of experience. But it’s more likely you do. From the consumers’ perspective, you need only test the critics opinion with your own to determine if there is an agreement. If not, move on to another source…perhaps a blogger, a wine lover who posts reviews, a Kermit Lynch, a friend or another critic.

I’m not sure bashing professional wine critics is a good idea. However, I do know that Ryan at CalWineriesBlog has delivered an interesting set of ideas to consider

6 Responses

  1. tom merle - March 9, 2007

    Some time ago I concluded that there is gap between the palates of those who are professionally involved in the world of wine, whether as writers, producers or resellers, and the hordes who buy their wine to enhance the pleasure of their meals.
    The differences were clearly noticeable at the recent Pinot Noir Shoot-out sponsored by Affairs of the Vine. The professional picks did not overlap with the amateurs, with exception.
    This is not to say that consumer tastes don’t vary considerably, some being more “refined” than others, much as they are when it comes to enjoying the other arts.
    In the tastings I hold I do like to get ratings and rankings; and those participating also like to see how their taste compares to others. Certainly, the wineries appreciate the feedback from a non experts tasting panel.
    Sometimes I do it blind, sometimes not. This Monday, to generate a response for the ~Wine Blogging Wednesday~ network, we are judging what have come to be called “Premium Wine Cask” wines, aka, box wines or bag in box wines. We are billing the evening as a “Citizens Choice wine competition” instead of the more commonly used People’s Choice taste off, in part because we are holding the program at Citizen Space, a perfect locale to solicit consumer opinion. Those in the Bay Area are invited to come on down @ 6:30 pm to 2nd and Harrison in SF to join the festivities–more info at http://www.wine.meetup.com/321. Look for the results at http://www.citizenwine.us .
    Power to the People!

  2. Roger - March 9, 2007

    I took a wine appreciation course (through the Wine Spirit Education Trust) and it really changed me perspective – it helped me understand what the pros look for in a wine and I’ve managed thus to find quite a few nice wines that I might not otherwise have tried.

  3. Kevin Finn - March 9, 2007

    User-generated reviews are the future. Everyone can read a wine label, but we all want to know what REAL people think about the wine inside.

  4. Randy - March 10, 2007

    I’ll admit that I don’t read Wine Enthusiast or Wine Spectator, since I just don’t relate to what they’re writing. And being that I live in Sonoma Valley, I taste and buy locally 99% of the time. I very, __very__ rarely buy wine without having tasted it (though I do trust my wife’s palate, FWIW).
    But there’s really just one person’s opinion of wine I really trust, and that dude is wearing my shoes.

  5. Brian Milelr - March 10, 2007

    The difficulty is, imho, is that wine critics whjo taste so many wines may develop jaded palettes and look for only the wow wines. An over-extracted, too fruit forward wines gets a higher score because the pro critic can actually notice this wine. What do you do if you really don’t prefer this style? I guess just find a good wine shop . Blogs help, because the blog owners are not necessarily the jaded palettes-and there is more diveristy.

  6. TWC - March 13, 2007

    Amen Brother, and I offer this….
    “If a wine doesn’t appeal to your palate, it’s not your wine.”—Charlie Wagner (founder of Caymus Vinyards)

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