Wine Talk

Snooth User: Philip James

Jancis Robinson tells critics to not be parasites

Posted by Philip James, Apr 22, 2008.

http://www.decanter.com/news/253184.html

A very interesting article on Decanter

Replies

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Reply by Mark Angelillo, Apr 22, 2008.

It's not hard to believe there would be some corruption of critics in any industry. The idea that winemakers are pandering to the critics palate is not as easy to believe. I feel like it would be easier to simply buy their praise... Not that I assert that this is happening.

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Reply by John Andrews, Apr 22, 2008.

I would tend to believe that there is a bit of truth to both statements:

- Yes, winemakers will 'tune' their wines to palates
- Yes, there is corruption in the industry

From a strict business sense, any manufacturer (which is essentially what wine making is) listens to their customers and to their critics. They make adjustments to satisfy those comments. Some will take this to the extreme and some may just tinker.

The truth is that wine making is an industry as well as passion. To survive you have to make money. To make money you need some level of acceptance. And for some, acceptance comes from a good/great rating from a wine critic.

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Reply by Philip James, Apr 26, 2008.

http://www.decanter.com/news/253458.html

Sort of follows on from this. A bunch of wine critics were handed $2000 cartier watches at some wine event. Very nobly, most gave them back, but it really plays to whether reviews can be bought

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Reply by larrychandler, Apr 26, 2008.

There are stories about many of the British wine writers and critics driving to Bordeaux to taste the new vintage. They would arrive, leave the trunk of their cars open and when they would leave, the Chateau had placed some wine in it. The stories may be apocryphal but enough people claim to have witnessed it that perhaps it's true.

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Reply by Philip James, Apr 28, 2008.

Wow, must have been 'interesting' back in the wild west days of wine reviewing

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Reply by larrychandler, Apr 28, 2008.

A $2,000 Cartier watch in return for a favorable writeup? Hmm. Every man has his price. I think $2,000 would just about cover mine. Where do I sign up? (Ok, just kidding. This was a joke. My price is no less than $3,000.)

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Reply by Stephen, Apr 29, 2008.

I think catering to a critic's preferences is easier for wineries than attempting to buy their praise, especially when they are looking for ratings from the top critics. But I think people should be more aware of the "parasitic" relationship that a lot of reviewers (if not all) have on the industry...it reminded me of an article I read, which trusty google found for me. This is excerpted from the Times (New York, not London) from 2006.

Consumer Reports, which began rating wines in 1997 (without a numerical system) never sells products it reviews and thus has no financial incentive to promote a product. In contrast, Wine Enthusiast operates an online wine store. Tim Moriarty, the magazine’s managing editor, said that he and other editorial employees “hardly ever have dealings with the sales part of the organization.”

The sales arm employs its own wine critic, Josh Farrell, a professional sommelier. On the Wine Enthusiast Web site last week, no wine that he reviewed scored less than a 90. That, Mr. Farrell says in a note on the site, is because “of our commitment to finding only the best.”

Consumer Reports accepts no advertising — again, to ensure that it steers clear of conflicts of interest. For that same reason, Mr. Parker runs no ads in The Wine Advocate.

The glossy magazines, of course, can make no similar claim; the economic health of publications like the Spectator and the Enthusiast are wholly dependent on the ad space they sell to many of the same wineries whose bottles they review. And Mr. Parker himself does not meet one of the gold standards established by Consumer Reports, whose testers refuse freebies. Like other tasters, Mr. Parker primarily tests sample bottles sent to him at no cost.

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Reply by larrychandler, Apr 29, 2008.

And many wine shops review the wines they have for sale. Many of the 90+ wines rated on the Beverages & More chain's website are reviewed by their main wine buyer. And he even admitted that he gives 90 points or more to wines he doesn't even like because those scores are in keeping with what his customers expect for those wines.

The only wine merchant who sometimes disparages his own wines is Gary Vaynerchuk of NJ's Wine Library. And he even did this before he started Wine Library TV. He used to take full page ads in the NY Times pointing out several of the wines he had for sale, rating them close to zero and telling customers not to buy it.

The only foolproof method to buying wines you like is to taste them yourself first if you can.

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Reply by Philip James, Apr 30, 2008.

Very true. Hopefully snooth can be 2nd to try before you buy. At least if you are reading 10 or 20 reviews you can build up a consensus. That and its hard to top personal recommendations from someone you trust.

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Reply by larrychandler, Apr 30, 2008.

Do you do polls on Snooth? Perhaps you can ask people what influences them in buying wine. Friends, Wine Advocate, Snooth, Shelf talkers, etc. etc. And also ask what happens if they are disappointed in that recommendation. Do they no longer pay attention to that source or do they give them more chances?

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Reply by Sung, Apr 30, 2008.

Well, at least for me, it's word of mouth through friends about what wines they like. The other big influence for a novice like me would be the recommendations I get from restaurants. If I like it, I try to remember at least the big name on the label and go hunting around for that in stores.
If I'm disappointed by either source, I tend to never ask either again, but that is a rare occurance.

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Reply by larrychandler, Apr 30, 2008.

What I've done in restaurants with a wine I like, I take a picture of the label with my cellphone camera and can find it more easily in stores.

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Reply by Sung, Apr 30, 2008.

keke, if i don't get too tipsy next time, i'll take the cellphone pic! :-)

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Reply by Stephen, Apr 30, 2008.

Actually, Vaynerchuk has even blasted wines on winelibrarytv...I don't watch it much, but there was one where he was doing wines under $9 or something...tasted 5 wines 3 or 4 he said were crap...gave them ratings in the 60s...so not 0 but still...

The way I see it is you give a reviewer a chance, if you have the opportunity to try wines they review, see how they stack up. If you get a good sample size and there is a strong link between your likes and the reviewer's then you can go with them.

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Reply by Sung, Apr 30, 2008.

I have a hard time taking the word of Gary Vaynerchuk, who stuck his dirty sock in his mouth on Conan. I think he was trying to describe what mushroomy, earthy tasted like....bleh.

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Reply by Philip James, Apr 30, 2008.

Larry - we dont have software to run actual polls on the site, but you could start a new thread "straw poll" style and find out what influences people to buy / or how many chances they'll give a critic before they move on. Just click on the "post new thread" button (actually, i cant remember its exact name, but its on the top right of the talk section main page)


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