Clowning Around With Wine Reviews

For the longest time I tried to wrap my head around a simple idea: reading wine reviews that don’t include the price. I’d never thought about this until today when I came across two blogs that review wines, and do it well, but don’t include the price.

There were descriptions of the wine including aromas, body, flavor. There were histories of the wineries included. There were ratings. And there were some pretty insightful ideas bandied about in these reviews that were inspired by the wine. But no prices.

Why did this offend me? I read reviews of books, movies, and music but never really care if the price to obtain these things is included in the review. But with wine, I need the price. It took a while but I figured it out.

Movies, books and music are never out of my price range. And unless it’s a rare book or a rare old piece of vinyl, most people can afford them. So the only thing I need to consider when I’m reading these opinions of other products is whether they sound tempting to me.

But wine…well, wine might indeed be out of our price range. It’s also important to note that the purpose of consuming wine is to eliminate it from existence. This is not the case with books and music. While we will have consumed them, they will still exist while the bottle we dropped $40 on is forever gone. This changes the equation, doesn’t it.

There is also the very unique aspect of wine that while there are literally thousands to choose from, you can find any number of wines that will actually taste quite similar to thousands of others. Yet, they’ll be priced quite differently.

This all leads us to the simple conclusion that no review of a wine can be even half way useful unless the price of the wine is included. The point here is driven home by noting that the same can be said of restaurant reviews.

Now, it is entirely possible that there are some connoisseurs of the wine review format for whom the price doesn’t matter. They simple revel in the beauty of a well written description of squished grapes. I’ll even admit to getting the occasional kick out of reading the review of a wine that is given 69 points. They can be terribly funny. But so can a clown…for a very short time.

So, here’s a tip to those who would write reviews of wine: without the price you’ve produced nothing we can use except a good laugh.

13 Responses

  1. Randy - April 18, 2007

    You know, I hadn’t considered the fact that price is a factor in a wine review. Now here’s where it gets interesting:
    What price would they provide? What you pay at the winery to get it direct? What sort of discount you might get for being a club member? How about at the local BevMo or other wine retailer? Wine Library?
    I think it might be wiser to adopt a price range notation, *just like restaurant reviews*, to indicate how many bills you should expect to drop in a certain neighborhood:
    no bills = not wine, don’t buy it
    $ = Under $10
    $$ = $10-25
    $$$ = $25-50
    and so on, so that when you read this fantastic wine and see ‘$$’ next to it, you can frame a mental picture of what it’s going to run you, whereas the same wine review with ‘$$$$$$$’ would be a ‘pass’ with several ‘Z’s, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say.

  2. Fredric Koeppel - April 18, 2007

    Wine reviews without prices drive me crazy. And so do wineries who send out press releases with no prices. It’s as if wine is supposed to somehow be “above” the taint of mere money, that wine is such a purely cultural and sensual object that the mention of filthy lucre would damage its reputation as a representative of the “wine lifestyle.” This is pure crap of course. How coy can you get? Wine costs money to make and money to buy, and reviewers who don’t include prices are doing their readers a grave disservice. And I don’t go along with the dollar signs notation. When I write reviews, I check on wine prices throuhgout the country and include them in a range, even to the point of saying something like “About $16 to $20, though I have seen prices on the Internet as low as $14 and as high as $24. So shop carefully.”

  3. Garry Clark - April 18, 2007

    Thats a tricky issue, I sometimes include the price, but sometimes dont. Its not a conscious thing, sometimes I just dont think it matters. Besides which Im writing from a restaurants point of view, so do I include my (marked up) price, or retail? I think there are times when the price would be important – particularly if the wine is of appeal to you, but then there are times when im just interested to know what it was like. Perhaps its an iconic wine that I might never get a chance to see or taste. The price isnt relevent then, its probably way out of my price point and any reference to the price would confirm than and somehow spoil the magic. Apart from which, the magic of the internet means that people across the world are reading your review. Me pricing my wines in £ sterling is meaningless to someone in New Zealand, Canada, America, Hong Kong etc etc. So I think im going to have to disagree with you on this one.

  4. Matt Rogers - April 18, 2007

    I think price has a huge influence on the wine and should be included with reviews. I know my expectations of a $40-$50 wine are much higher than wines in the $10-$20 range. While some faults can be tolerated in the lower price range more expensive wines should elicit a “wow”. “Two Buck Chuck” has the price in it’s nickname. Some feel it’s not a bad wine “for two bucks”. If it wasn’t two bucks I doubt many would be drinking it. The price does influence our expectations and thus our tasting experience which is what it is about, I think.

  5. Joe - April 19, 2007

    Funny you should mention that – when I started out rating wines I occasionaly forgot to put the price, but I have been meticulous about that as of late, even adding the place of purchase(and a helpful currency calculator…). Cheers!

  6. Jules van Cruysen - April 19, 2007

    I understand what you mean but would like to offer another perspective. Most of the reviews I write are of New Zealand wines and my readership is about 30/70 New Zealand/rest of world. I have absolutely no idea how much most of the wines cost in each market (which sometimes cost more in Pounds than they do in NZ$ [one Pound buys about 3 NZ$) and are usually at least double the price in US dollars than what the are in NZ dollars. And that’s when I can actually find the prices for the wine. Other than two or three reviews I have written on some serious top end wine (all recognizable names) almost all of the wine I review are within reach of the wine loving consumer – that is up to about New Zealand $70 (about $50 US) retail price; which, I would admit, is quite a lot to spend on a bottle of wine but is not excessive for a special occasion wine. My theory is that if a consumer reads one of my reviews (anywhere in the world) and think they will like the sound of one of the wines that I review the will search it out either in a local store or on the net and then make the decision about whether the wine is worth paying what they are being expected to pay.

  7. Ron Peters - April 20, 2007

    I go back and forth. I’m Canadian. I have people who read my notes from France, the Netherlands, the middle east, etc. What good does it do them to know Canadian retail prices? Something along the lines of $, $$, $$$ – without even suggesting a range, might be the most worthwhile. I think everyone would understand what this means.

  8. Joe - April 20, 2007

    Hi Ron – As a fellow Canuck, I think it is ok to mention how much you paid and where you purchased. I frequently buy out of province/U.S., and it will be fun to see what you paid where you bought it – the rest of us can scan the web for better (or worse) pricing.

  9. Jack - April 21, 2007

    Tom – Hey, I disagree with your two statements:
    1) Wine Reviews should have Prices. Well, no. Do a Wine-Searcher look-up for any wine and you’ll see a range of prices, sometimes a wide range. So, whatever price a wine-reviewer puts in is wrong. Perhaps more important, is whether you can even get the wine. What if you live in an anti-wine shipping state, oh, such as PA?
    2. Wine doesn’t offer the same pleasure as, oh, a Jazz concert (and therefore, you won’t spend that kind of money on a bottle of wine). Well, not to you. But to others, it does, and that’s what they’ll spend, oh, $500 for a killer bottle of G. Conterno Barolo. Yes, everyone has priorities, etc., but it makes no sense that wine can’t be at the top, compared, to say Jazz.

  10. Peter F May - April 22, 2007

    This is a difficult one. Sometimes I mention the price and othertimes I don’t.
    The web is international, and as others have said, prices not only vary in different markets, but the audience may have no idea of the value of the currency mentioned. Also repeating a point made above, is it the price that is charged in the winery, in the supermarket, corner store, or restaurant. Does it include taxes? In the US sales tax is added at the the checkout and I guess you quote prices ex-tax, but in UK and elsewhere prices include tax (and there’s a lot of that).
    So I think you are taking a parochial view and while that may be OK for you and your US readers, quoting a price doesn’t mean as much as you think. After all, thedarn wine may not even be available in the readers market? Anyone interested can use and check local prices if the wine review tempts them.

  11. Ron - April 24, 2007

    Sometimes I do and sometimes i do not! We will work on that, good constructive Info.

  12. Dr. Debs - April 24, 2007

    Some people don’t care whether a wine is easy to get, what is looks like, what the label looks like, whether it has a screwcap, or what it costs. They can skip those parts of the review if they want. But as a writer–and one who things price does matter–I try to include as much information as I can on the wines I review. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? I go to and buy books I can’t get in the US and I can figure out pounds to dollars pretty easily. Then there’s the fascination factor of seeing what a wine retails for in France versus its price in California, and vice versa. It’s all information, and that’s a good thing else why are we all blogging?

  13. Fredric Koeppel - April 25, 2007

    I agree with you Doc. Blog and website readers need all the information available right there, not on different websites. Not including prices so that readers then have to go to wine-searcher just interposes another step in what should be an easy process.

Leave a Reply