Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Wine Ratings Business…Is a Business?

It’s been reported over recent days that Jay Miller from the Wine Advocate charges wineries a fee in order for him to visit the winery and review their wines. (Key shock and disbelief). A group in Spain has published a list of preparation needs for Miller’s visit to a select number of wineries. Preparation ‘needs’ include a 200 – 300 euro fee per wine tasted and a 1,000 euro fee for each visit to a single winery.

While many in the wine world may act like this is a shock and failure to the wine rating system, it should not be that surprising. After all the wine ratings business, has become well a big business. And who’s to blame? Me, you, the wineries…but mainly me and you. As retailers and consumers, we’ve become reliant on letting someone else tell us what’s good and bad in a wine. There are wines that are sold everyday (thousands of them) based on a rating from someone like Miller or Wine Spectator alone. It’s not uncommon that a purchaser may not even know who the producer is of wine, where its from, or even what’s in it! Unfortunately, some wineries and retailers have taken notice of that trend and have maybe even adjusted the flavor or structure of their wine in search of a better score. And so has increased the power of the wine critic.

But for those of us who search out wineries for ourselves, form our own opinions (and maybe even yes use the ratings and critic reviews as a resource to help develop those opinions), the news of Miller’s fees and ultimately him stepping down from The Wine Advocate doesn’t come us a shock. Wine is a business of passion, but it is still a business. Fees will be paid, advertisements will be placed, and lots of us (myself included) will go on selling wine and (shock and disgust!) may even make a profit.

*Sidenote: In terms of The Wine Advocate, they pride themselves on being one of the most ethic journalistic sources in the business, and this is something that we have found very true on behalf on their staff. A link to their entire ethics policy can be found here.*

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What’s With All These Top 100s?

It’s that time of year…and no I do not mean the holiday season. It’s the time of year where we are bombarded with Top 100 lists of wines and beers from 2011. First there was Wine Spectator, then Wine Enthusiast, then a million wine bloggers….what’s next will Letterman come up with a top wine list?

In all honesty, I do read most of the Top 10/100 (pick a number) lists that come out every December. I’m interested to know what other industry members and journalists enjoyed over the last year, however I think the reason for producing these lists has become a bit misunderstood in the public the last few years.

What these lists are (on a very basic level) is a guide to what individual journalists and magazines felt was a well produced and appropriately priced wine. What they are not is buying guides. Wine is a product that is ever evolving and changing, and fortunately  (or unfortunately however you look at it) a Cabernet made from the To Kalon vineyard in 2007 may taste completely different in 2008. But that’s what makes this product so unique. These lists, produced at the end of a year often represent a summation of what was available for the previous eleven months. Most wines on the list (by the time its released) have been sold and moved on to the next vintage.

So what do I do with these top lists? I read them, looking for new wineries or up and coming regions that I may not have thought of. I try to pick out trends in the market and predict what regions are going to produce good quality wines in the next year. For example, if I notice that a lot of Spanish wines made the 2011 list I may search out those wines or regions in the next vintage.

What do you use the Top 100 Wine lists for? Is there one that you particularly prefer over another?