As we move into the heart of summer, it's worth taking note of what is being searched for on Snooth. As usual, the results include a mix of wines for the season, perennial favorites and those with recent reviews that make them worth the search. That, of course, is a loaded question, but it probably comes a surprise to no one that the 2009 Carlisle Sonoma Co. Syrah is one of the most searched wines on Snooth over the past 30 days.
A glowing review from the Wine Spectator (97 points!) and a very reasonable suggested retail price of $30 make this one of the best values in years. Except of course that the wine immediately shot up to more than $100 a bottle, and other critics have thought the wine to be god and deserving of a high score - but one closer to 90pts than 100.
I don't fault the Wine Spectator here; well, not fully. They taste blind and were honest and forthright enough to stick by their guns with a score that seems over the top to me. I love Carlisle wines, have enjoyed them for years, even got a friend a job there several years ago as a harvest intern, but I still don't think the score represents the wine that well. I've tried a bottle of the wine. At $30, it was easy and the wine showed very well indeed, but 97pts is rarified country (or should be) and this was just a spectacularly fun and rip-roaringly delicious Syrah. Now granted, there may not be too many of those out there but it begs a question.
What do scores really represent? We all know that they represent one person's experience with one bottle on one day. So in many ways, not too much at all. At least that's what we like to think. From a different perspective, however, scores mean reach. Retailers love scores, they help sell wine. Higher scores help sell more wine. So if a critic wants to get his or her scores on shelf talkers all they have to do is become modestly well-known and give the highest score for any given wine. The only defense the established wine media has to this is to - you got it - give higher scores still.
We're in the midst of wine reviewers' grade inflation and scores are becoming actually meaningless, as opposed to the more subjective meaningless because of the one bottle, one palate, one day paradigm. So what can we do? Well, we can take people by the hand and lead them to the oceans of delicious wine that fail to make the cut in one way or another, but ultimately we're gonna have to face the facts that people find wine intimidating and rely on experts to help guide them through the turbulent waters. The only real way to dilute the power of the few is to flood them with the voices of the many.
Yeah, it's cliched, but it's true. Here at Snooth we're going to try and help as much as we can and we've come up with two ways we can do that. The first is by republishing informative content that many of you write for your newsletters and sites. We're not going to let you shill wine outright, but if you have an informative, educational article written about a wine/region/winemaker/variety that you love, we would love to introduce your passion to our readers, with full dislcousre of course. We get content, you get traffic (a link back to your site is always included) and our readers get options.
Another way we're trying to give greater reach to more voices is with the introduction of Wine Press. It's a new self-publishing tool that will feed content onto Snooth, content that will be voted on by Snooth readers and pushed, up, or down, in the content stream that is dislayed to viewers based on the audience reaction. That's worthy of its own email, and in fact I'll do just that, so let me leave you with our top 10 searched for wines in July and note that 3 of the top 4 were probably not 97-pointers!
NV Barefoot Moscato
MV Madria Sangria
2009 Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah
NV Veuve Clicquot Brut
2007 Chercher Trouver Cabernet Sauvignon Blackwood Vineyard
2010 Ramona Singer Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie
NV Loose End Barossa Valley Roscato
2009 Barking Hedge Sauvignon Blanc
2009 La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
2007 Château Blaignan