Wine critics vs. wine consumers

by Eve Resnick on April 17, 2008

in General

There is a great post in The Pour, Eric Asimov’s blog in the New York Times: “You can please all the people, or you can make great wine”. It is the usual controversy on the critics’ role in the wine business: should consumers follow blindly their reviews or should they appreciate a wine only on their own criteria and/or personal tastes? Critics are supposed to know their wines but they are also human beings with their own prejudices and tastes. Is there a way to help the consumers?

Some people might write a book, such as the Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein reviewed by Newsweek and commented upon by Eric Asimov in his post:

“According to the Newsweek article, the book shows that 100 wines under $15 consistently outperformed more expensive bottles. In particular, the article cited two comparisons: a $9.99 bottle of Domaine Ste. Michelle brut, a sparkling wine from Washington, outscored a bottle of Dom Pérignon, while Two-Buck Chuck cabernet sauvignon was preferred over a $55 Napa Valley cabernet, Artemis from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.”

This proves only that people have very different tastes in wines, some with discriminating palates and others with simpler tastes.

Consumers now have a new resource, a free wiki wine rating site to find the best wines in a specific location, wineape.com, I already mentioned in this blog. The idea came up when three people, Jeff Dracup, Colleen Wagner and Kevin Jackson, who enjoy trying new wines, found out that most wines had no rating. “We felt the 100-point wine rating system, used by Wine Spectator and others, fell short in many respects. First, the ratings come from a select group of people who may or may not have the same taste in wine as the average consumer. Second, and more importantly, there are just too many wines being released each year for all wines to be rated by such a small group of wine tasters”, said Jeff Dracup in his press release (September 6, 2007, published on pr.com). With that statement, Dracup shares the opinion of Kevin Kells, development director of consumer packaged goods at Google to wine industry executives during the 16th Annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium held in Napa Valley on September 18, 2007, when the latter said: “We don’t believe that five guys sitting in a room should be able to know the right answers compared to the hundreds of people who are out there. We want to hear people’s comments”. He has even gone a little further: “Who is this “critic” to tell me what I should or shouldn’t like? On the other hand if a group of independent consumers say they liked a wine – it is more likely I’m also going to enjoy that wine. I feel more confident buying a wine recommended by many other wine consumers than just a few critics.”

Web 2.0 is about user-generated content, and a wiki such as wineApe.com might bring an other answer to the controversy over critics and consumers: the voice of the people. Isn’t it called democracy?

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