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Snooth User: Ralph Kawuzi

What's your legitimacy?

Posted by Ralph Kawuzi, Feb 26, 2013.

Who are these wine raters on your site?

What are their credentials?

I mean, anyone and his mother can start "rating wine".  What gives you legitimacy compared to Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine and Spirits, Zagat, etc?

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Reply by vino in love, Feb 26, 2013.

To my understanding Snooth is very different compared WS, WA and WE. Snooth is a community of wine enthusiasts. The ratings from WA and WE are from "professional" sommeliers whereas the rating on Snooth are community-based and yes you are right anyone can rate a wine.

Honestly, I don't care about WS, WA and WE ratings. All they do is cause higher prices.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 26, 2013.

Right, Vino in Love, the forums are not professionals, just people sharing what they know.  That said, a number of people on here do have glittering credentials.  GregT is ITB (In the Business) part time as an importer; he knows more about the history of wine than 90% of the people who write for the magazines and has an outstanding nose, at least for BS.  EricGuido is a chef who is highly in demand by folks who can afford to eat anywhere, but want to entertain at home:  He cooks meals in professional grade kitchens in homes around NYC, and provides wines to go with them.  If you are lucky enough to go out to a meal with him, you'll be suitably impressed at the road he took to get here, and the depth of knowledge he has about food, wine, and the senses.  MReff, when he hangs out, is a longtime food and wine professional.  Mike Madaio had a successful wine blog and a long track record in Pennsylvania.  Other forum writers have masters of wine, or sommelier credentials or work in the business as well.  Oh, the Ed in Chief, Gregory Dal Piaz, was the Wine Director at Astor Place Wine and Spirits.  If you haven't been there, go, and you will realize that is a monumental task. I'm leaving a lot of folks out, but that's just a few.

Other folks have years working with winemakers in other aspects and have won the respect of those guys, even if they aren't professionals.  There's hardly anyone in the business that I have met in Sonoma County who doesn't know Outthere (by his true name) and his access to, say, Mike Smith or the folks at Lagier Meredith tells you the respect they have for his palate.  (I've mentioned him to places whose stuff he doesn't even have in his cellar, and they are respectful, so it isn't because he's their biggest customer--far from it.) 

Me, I'm just a big drinker and have been since my family moved to Northern California in 1967.

Reply by JonDerry, Feb 26, 2013.

Well said, Fox. I wasn't really sure what to say to this but there it is in a nutshell.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 26, 2013.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the most valuable asset that people here, esp. JD, have:  An insatiable curiosity about wine harnessed to an open mind.

Reply by GregT, Feb 26, 2013.

Fox - nicely said except the part about me.

But this is the question I have for the OP - what do you mean by this:

"What gives you legitimacy compared to Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine and Spirits, Zagat, etc?"

First of all, Zagat is pretty much EXACTLY like Snooth - the ratings are from a collection of random people who offer their opinions on whatever moves them. I'm not aware of any credentials or "legitimacy" associated with them.

The others are magazines who employ writers with varying amounts of experience and knowledge.  I just got done with a tasting where the publisher of Wine and Spirits was tasting the same wines I was. I know many people who have been on his panel reviewing wines - in fact we drink together often. Are they more legit when reviewing for W & S than when they're sitting next to me? Would that make them more legit than I and their opinions more legit than mine?

Ditto with the people who review for WS and WE. I know a few and dine with some from time to time. That's not to disparage any of their palates in any way, but why is my judgment less legitimate than theirs, particularly if I'm tasting wine from a region that I might know better than they?

What confers legitimacy anyway? 

What do you want from a wine rater? Do you want someone familiar with the region, with the wine, or who has a "good" palate, depending on how you define that? Would you be OK with someone who grew up in a region, who makes wine there, whose father and grandfather made wine there, or would you prefer someone who took some classes and had a credential from some organization?

Or do you trust the palate of someone who has no particular skill, no particular knowledge, and no particular biases, but just likes wine? In fact, maybe that person is the best guide for others.

On this site there are a few people who have earned the designation MW.  If that's legit, there you are. OTOH I don't feel less qualified than they are to offer an opinion on a wine that I know and might know much better than they do.

You have to decide what it means to be legitimate and then decide whether you think various people are. As for me, if someone offers an opinion on a wine, it's just that - an opinion. Doesn't mean it's gospel truth. And because ALL wine raters are simply offering an opinion, I don't know how you decide that a score or rating from one person is better or more legit than that of another.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 26, 2013.

One other thing that some of us here like about the opinions discussed are that we have actually had a drink or ten with the posters.  Unlike GregT, I don't think I have ever had a glass with anyone employed by WS or WA.  I think the closest I have  come is that Tina Caputo of Wines and Vines, the industry publication, came to our wedding.  (So did her former boss, the then-PR manager for Roederer's American properties and importing business, Maison, Marques and Domaines.)

Reply by JonDerry, Feb 26, 2013.

Just guessing here but I believe the OP is alluding to a "too big to fail" sort of phenomenon for wine ratings. WS, WA, WE, since they're known entities they must have perfect qualifications (or good enough) while anything less is suspect. In this case, the qualifications don't matter, hence what seems like what will be a complete dismissal of whatever legit qualifications that Snooth actually has.

What really matters is that he can tell his friend/s, "hey WS gave this 95 points" and then they can ooh and ah over it.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 27, 2013.

Ralph, what makes any wine critic's impression of a wine "legitimate?"  They only have the respect people give them because of their voice in a broad reaching forum.  Sure they have well trained palates, sharp sense and such, but so do many consumers who are the everyday purchasers of wines.  Critics only taste what's submitted to them and like all humans, each have their own biases and subjective tastes. 

One thing I do appreciate about the critics is I have come to learn their taste in many cases and can judge how I might like a wine based on their scores and reviews.  For me, anything Robert Parker likes over a 93 I may not like since those tend to be powerhouse, hot, high alcohol kicks in the teeth.  But everyone has his/her own taste.

I appreciate that this site can appeal to anyone as the "glass count" is purely on a liking or disliking, vs. a "score".  The so-called pros aren't the only ones with opinions, nor voices. :)

Reply by zufrieden, Feb 28, 2013.

The reason I keep coming back to this site is the measured approach to things hedonic one sees in the pages of these conversational forums (strange: this means markets in Latin,,,).

The enterprise of wine tasting and appreciation is necessarily amateur, though even the amateur is of lesser or greater experience - an empirical fixture in any aesthetic sense.  But this is altogether good, encouraging as it does, a conviality of both intellectual and affective dimensions.

I would never denegrate the MW or the the sommelier (certified, bien sûr), but that kind of passion for wine is certainly not normal; it recalls the calling of the literary critic - a loving consumer of things loved.  One does not need to create a product to love it, nor does one need credentials to love since most of us love - at least once upon a lifetime.

The MW and the educated palate assist me often, but then I have an educated palate as well. It was a rough education, I grant you, but then most of us do not begin life expecting to judge, purchase or otherwise promote wine.

Personally, I find most wine tasting more than a bit tedious (though not wine drinking - a distinction made by more than one person contributing to this thread).

So, my dear Ralph, use the WS WA and other magazines as indicators of the direction coommercially motivated tasters are moving.  This is information, if not information free of bias.  Choose a reviewer - if you must - who seems to conform to your own palate and the scores will likely reflect your own hedonic impulses...

I would stack my own intuitions against anybody. Once you wade through the wines scored by the media-appointed experts, you should stick to your intuitions as well.  The passage of time will make this clear to you.

Happy drinking.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 1, 2013.

I was all agog at the use of "fora"--how "milleniums" galls--and the ironic/not ironic "bien sur" that really defies translation if you aren't a French speaker from early in life. And then finally someone understands that an "amateur" is, like a "philosophe," one who loves something for its own sake.  But that misses the larger point:

Zuf, that was perfect.

Reply by GregT, Mar 1, 2013.

Way over the head of proles like me but:

"but then most of us do not begin life expecting to judge, purchase or otherwise promote wine."

that was kind of fun.

I wonder if that changes in years to come? Most people didn't begin life wanting to be a cook / chef at one point, but these days that's an option being offered in elementary schools. I wonder if wine will become like that?

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 1, 2013.

Yeah, this was very much in Zuf's wheel house.

After some doldrums, there are signs of life again around here. Still a few regulars MIA though.

Reply by Tom Wandeloski, Mar 1, 2013.

I found Snooth only about a year ago and despite being inspired by wine and gourmet food during my first of many overseas tours with the US military in Europe during the mid 80's, I find Snooth to be a refreshing place to exchange ideas, knowledge, tasting experiences, etc. I like the sharing model that Snooth provides between wine "newbies" all the way up to credential and professionals in the industry. For me, its a forum to share my knowledge and experiences with wine and food acquired over the past three decades during my extensive travels with the wine community as well as expand my tastes of wines shared/recommend by new members and mentors alike.  :-)

Reply by amour, Mar 1, 2013.

Thanks for supporting SNOOTH, TOM!

I honestly did not think that we needed to get into credentials!!

I hold the LLB Hons. degree from London, England, among other degrees.

I started out as a wine lover before my palate was even highly developed...under 21 years of age.

My father was at the time sailing his boat as a hobby to the French Island of Martinique and returning with wines from France given to him by wealthy friends as gifts; I was collecting the labels and writing them down...I was far too young to taste!!!

Eventually I started tasting and trying to write down what I tasted.....then I went to university a few years after, I was only 17 years of age...I came upon my friend, now Lady Eugenie Nuttall, and presently the girlfriend of Lord Brabourne, whom she knew then.  We embarked on a Champagne craze.  We are still carrying on I said before, in various previous posts. I recently introduced them to Cakebread Cellars and her ex (Sir Nicolas Nuttall), introduced me to Morey St Denis, which I still so adore!

By the way, I am going to post a photo of me having my first great champagne at 18 years of age!!!!!

 I won a full academic scholarship to university, my parents had put aside money for me, so I got that also, an maternal aunt and a paternal uncle also funded me because they loved me so very much, and saw me always studying really hard!  All of my money went into wine, books, music...LP's at the time.....HA!!!   Then at 18, I met the love of my life, a well established wealthy cardiologist who not only wined me and dined me respectfully, but married me when I turned 23 years of age!!!  All that time I tasted and owned the most awesome wines, particularly French Wines.  I also indulged in French Gastronomy as well as Gourmet sessions ad infinitum.....Then we came into ownership of a private Island Resort with a modest many great chefs visited us and cooked for us and paired with wines....( we recently hosted Anthony Bourdain) husband then started a lovely wine shop called Grapevine, as an extension of his wine hobby!!!....starting to sound decadent...well do not worry ....He is supporting several charities, actually, we both do....Throughout all that time, I attended numerous events, tastings, mingled with Broadbent, Hugh Johnson, and this and that.  Then a relative of mine married into a Family close to the Rothchild Family and so invitations showered!!!

In London, by then divorced, my boyfriend owned a fantastic cellar and we both cellared at Berry Brothers & Rudd, and drank and ate the best of the best, mainly French Food and Wine.....Then I was travelling a lot again...north Africa, the far East.....everywhere in America, and visiting wineries, of course.  I still do not think that I am any good at a real wine tasting note...but I do try to spell out what I think I honestly taste....truth too tell...sometimes words escape with Sauternes...all I really want to write down is ..HEAVEN IN A GLASS!!!!...over and over again....Not to mention that my ex-husband and my daughter both know some of the greatest collectors of Fine Wine and Rare Wine...I hope to cash in on some new spectacular tastings all over the world, through them!!!

I forgot to add, that as a Law Student in England, I met so many wine lovers and at my Inn, tasted some really good wine, later many lawyers were collectors and were inviting me to taste because they loved my passion for wine!  Presently, I have many friends who are wine enthusiasts and collectors and what rapport we my friend Erroll Layne, a lawyer no less!!! who gave me so many Burgundies of class, the best of Bordeaux  including St.Estephe, and the offerings of the queen of Burgundy, Madame Leroy.....He introduced me to keeping wine in the La Cave chambers.....many years ago.  And former Judge Sir Maurice Drake (London) with whom I had great Port and great Merlot...he got me into Merlot actually....gosh...I need to write a book...!  I also traded in wine books for many years...supplied the Getty family through Mags, the famous booksellers...

Today, I am still tasting and loving it all!  My palate is definitely finely tuned and I really do have a fantastic memory for everything.  I read recently that your wine tasting abilities/skills are directly related to what you started out with...I feel that it is so in my case...I started with great stuff and perhaps this is why I am sometimes so frustrated with some so-called wines in real wine bottles!!!  I could go on and on about D'Yquem and so many Burgundies!!! .........Meanwhile, I am hoping to drink a great Argentine Malbec tonight!

We are all from different levels and backgrounds...


...sharing our collective wisdom...........Only Snooth provides this type of FREEDOM of INTERACTION which is always age/income/class/ethnic barriers at all, on lovely Snooth!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 1, 2013.

Amour, when I was a kid, there was no such thing as too young to taste, only too young to drink! 

Certainly by the time I was 10 I was developing some memory for wine, and when I was less than 15, I had my first "epiphany" wine. Pretty much just California, but a good bottle of Napa Cab, Petite Sirah, occasionally Zin, and chenins and sauv blancs for whites were standard fare on Sunday, in very small doses.  I was equivocal on wine before I was 14 or so, but really liked beer--my mother would tell you she cannot remember an age at which I did not like beer.  We had it with burgers and pizza on Friday or Saturday night, in tiny mugs.  My parents felt that introducing very small amounts of drink into our lives early would take away the "forbidden fruit" attraction of it as teens.  I would routinely go to parties where my friends got smashed when I was in HS, and drink moderately--usually three beers over a similar number of hours.  I was much more interested in the forbidden fruits hidden by female clothing and saw excess consumption as an impediment in that respect.  Well, my excess consumption.  Truthfully, I wasn't all that interested in girls who drank too much, either--neither a challenge nor particularly enjoyable, IMO, to make out with someone who is out of control.

Sommelier training in grade school?  Not as long as drinking age is 21.  Heck you can't even properly major in oenology as an undergrad in that case.  But developing your palate is really just learning to observe, as well as having sensitive apparatus.  And that can start with cooking, gardening, hiking, or living. 

Reply by Michael C Butler, Mar 1, 2013.

There are many ways to use Snooth. You can view professional critic scores (if we have them) which are aggregated on the wine's page, and soon, in the search results. You can read articles by our writers including our editor-in-chief Gregory Dal Piaz with a lifetime of wine knowledge under his belt.  You can follow your favorite (or most hated) wine mentors and enthusiasts and then see what they are tasting & rating.

Reply by amour, Mar 1, 2013.

I must say that I have benefitted from Snooth; perhaps many of us have.

After a while, you come to trust the Snooth Posters whom you interact with and you actually listen to them.

I read WA, WS, Wine & Spirits, and read on the internet and so on....but when DMCKER, Greg, GregT speak ...I listen!!!!

Reply by Michael Bennett, Mar 2, 2013.

As a newcomer to this site, I have been intrigued by this conversation. All but the opening post are completely in agreement with the attitude I have had to wine in the 35 years I have been involved in it. The "experts"  are merely another assessment of an olfactory and sensory experience. Their skill is in comparing and identifying faults in a wine and in this capacity thier judgement can be very useful. Beyond that opinion we must assess for ourselves. Give a bottle of Chateau Lafite to someone who does not like red wine and it is a 'bad wine! Beauty is in the mouth of the beholder, only faults can be identified by all educated noses. Of course, those noses will have their favourites, like the rest of us, but they need to be objective , which is always a hard call.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2013.

Well said Mochael.

Reply by fibo86, Mar 4, 2013.

I have noticed RALPH KAWUZI that you have only popped this post up for the sake of it. You have posted no more about your view. I'm wondering if someone may have posted something you didn't like about a wine you prefer?

This is a wine community for like minded people and the fact that you have posted this on the day you signed up again makes me wonder why?


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