Wine Talk

Snooth User: edink

Reviews as Shelf Talkers vs. Tasting Notes

Posted by edink, Dec 13, 2008.

I'm noticing that some of the wine reviews appear to be written by commercial entities which include links to their online presence rather than an individual Snooth user profile. I find this troubling. I don't consider wine blurbs that are found on sites that sell wine to be trustworthy. In fact, many commercial sites use copy that was written by the winery or their marketing company. What I hope to find in a site like this one are individuals who don't stand to make a sale or profit off of their wine recommendations. Reviews that sound like wine store store shelf talkers are not what I'm looking for here. Could you at least consider labeling such reviews as "commercial" or separate them out so they aren't mingled in with actual user tasting notes?

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Reply by Philip James, Dec 14, 2008.

Edink - they are marked differently, although you are right, you cant separate them out. The user reviews have the avatar image next to them, any external review (wine store, critic, wine award etc) just has the source and a link back to their website.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 15, 2008.

I agree that having these notes labeled as such is a good idea. Sometimes all we have is an importer/distributor/producer tasting notes and while some of these folks are more prone to hyperbole than others they can still be valuable to the consumer.

I can't really agree that wine blurbs found on commercial sites are all not trustworthy though. I know of many retailers who taste the wines and then post their impressions; from my old position at Astor Wines, where I wrote many of these blurbs, to Winelibrary, Chambers St Wines, The Rare Wine Company, Buyers for many retail operations do pretty much what you and i do. They taste wine and then buy the wines that they like or know people might like. I find their impressions as important as anyone elses, sometimes more since they generally taste more than virtually anyone else in business except for the professional critics.

There are many talented people with integrity out there who buy wines because they are impressed by them and then try and convey their enthusiasm through the use of shelf talkers or their own notes. I am glad to have that information and, while I value some more than other, being able to use it as i wish, having that added to the pool of available information is a net positive in my book.

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Reply by edink, Dec 15, 2008.

Gregory, I don't doubt that some retailers, including yourself, post real tasting notes. I do know of one retailer in my home town of Atlanta that write their own but most of the stores use pre-printed cards -- often not even bothering to match the vintage on the card to what's on the shelf. Jeebuz, I miss living in the Bay Area where I had a lot better choices to shop.

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Reply by Philip James, Dec 15, 2008.

Edink - there's definitely a big difference between the best and worst stores. We try to present the fullest picture of the wine as possible to the user, so think that more information is better than less. The stores reviews are marked differently (no avatar image) and clearly attributed.

There's also the voting function which allows users to tell us which reviews they find the most important by clicking on the ones they liked the most. All of this factors into how the overall snoothrank is calculated

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 15, 2008.

edink,

posting reviews of the wrong vintage, either intentionally or because a retailer is either too dumb or too lazy to be bothered drives me CRAZY. I once brought things like that to their attention but to no avail so if I see that happening today I discretely remove the offending review and file it in the correct bin. Recycling.

Where are you now. leaving the Bay area can certainly impact one's wine buying options in a decidedly negative way!

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Reply by edink, Dec 15, 2008.

Atlanta aint exactly a wine drinker's haven but it's been home for the last 21 years. I have had to make annual pilgrimages to the West Coast in order to buy wine that just hasn't been available here and ship it back. Fortunately, things are getting a little better.

Back on topic.... Philip, OK, you've convinced me that you've chosen a reasonable approach to including store reviews in with the user reviews. I'd prefer the store reviews be marked with a giant neon yellow CAUTION icon but my inclinations aren't always reasonable.

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Reply by Philip James, Dec 15, 2008.

Edink - that made me laugh, and you're not the only one who wants that. I've been talking with Lenn Thompson, amongst others, who, collectively, don't like that the winemakers notes (designed to allow the winery to input the technical specs - which I'm a big fan of) are occasionally used for PR / marketing text.

My response to that was to say that the wineries have to be allowed to use the text in their own way - you, I and many others would prefer to read about Brix levels at harvest and to find out the tonnage per acre, but if they want to use it to talk about the majesty of the vineyards setting then thats their call.

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Reply by Philip James, Dec 15, 2008.

- I mean the reference to the flashing yellow CAUTION sign, made me laugh

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Reply by fibo86, Dec 15, 2008.

Edink, hi how are you doing?, I've read your talkies vs tasting notes and was wondering if you talk to the staff in the store/s you go to?

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Reply by edink, Dec 18, 2008.

Depends on the store. The ones that are worst in this regard I don't usually talk to the staff because they aren't readily available (Dekalb Farmer's Market, for example). The smaller wine shops that specialize do a better job and, yes, I talk to staff at those stores (and hence don't pay much attention to the shelf talkers).


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