Should we rethink how we review wine?
Wine reviews really need to change, now! The question is, do we continue reviewing wines by the bottle, or do we change the way we review wines altogether and rebuild it from the ground up? The way we talk about wine really needs to change, and have the focus shift to mirror the way that we drink wine now. Millennials love drink and discover wine from around the world, and they are the biggest wine consuming demographic of all! They drink different from past generations, drinking more, experimenting more, and falling in love with stories. Yet for some reason we focus on the details and characteristics that 90% of people just do not understand. So why do we persist? And how do we rebuild reviews to match way we drink wine?
Reviewing wine by the bottle is the norm, should it be though?
Every wine review focuses on a single bottle. We dig immediately into things like grape and vintage, then dive deeper into flavor, and most reviews come out with a point based rating system. It gives you the lowdown on the wind, and the reviewer's opinion of said wine. Somebody basically did all the heavy lifting for you, but ultimately its their opinion. And does it really help?
- Detailed review of the wine, tells you everything you need to know about it
- Introduces you to a wine, giving you a sense of what is inside before you even take that first sip
- Usually gives you something to act on, a recommendation or score, that will allow to pick it up or put it down
- Is somebody's own opinion, with all the bias that comes with it, and different reviewers can have very stark, contrasting opinions
- Is focused on selling the wine, putting information in front of the consumer, not actually on whether the consumer will like the wine or not
- If you are reading the review of a wine online, or in print, then pursuing the wines you may be interested in becomes a challenge, you are not guaranteed to find the wine that sparks your interest
- A number of studies have shown it to be, well, BS! Studies have shown that writers and critics are unable to agree amongst each other, and even unable to agree with their own reviews
- I hate to break it to everybody, but the majority of wine drinkers just cannot identify the tasting notes that reviews talk about
Too many wine reviews have ultimately ended in disappointment. Either my palette, or that of my friends is different enough that the wine we were sold just did not make the grade for us, or I could never find the wine I read about. The worst possible sin these reviews could commit though is a review done as a favor, rated highly to give the wine a boost in sales. This happens in the wine industry, especially given that the difference between an 89 point and a 90 pint rating could literally make or break a wine, and therefor a winery.
The point is, there are so many reviews out there detailing the wines that they actually become useless. If you are struck by a wine review it can be a challenge to actually get your hands on that bottle. The wine that I have access to is very different to what you have access to, and we all have access to thousands of bottles from thousands of winemakers from around the world. Its a cluster fuck! At a point, wine reviews actually become useless. What would help, is learning how to distinguish and navigate the wine aisles and wine lists at restaurants without having to read up on every damn bottle there. I mean, its what we do already anyway...we just need to learn how to do it better.
So are things in the wine world changing?
Attitudes and technology are changing things in the wine world, but we have not arrived at that junction where the wine consumer is king just yet. We have long trusted experts and sommeliers as the stewards of the wine experience, but our attention is shifting away from their expertise. Wine apps have taken over as we quickly look up what wine might best pair with our pad thai at home as easily as we can look for an alternative pairing to go with a duck confit at the hottest new place in town. Sommeliers be damned, we just have no need for them anymore. Not in the traditional sense anyway, we see their expertise shifting and becoming more personal.
One wine blog that is worth noting is by sommelier Heather Gordon who writes at Blanc de Blonde. Her reviews are straight up dope! Managing to get straight to the heart of the story, simple, and yet allowing you to dive deeper. When she likes a wine, she will tell you! When she does not like a wine SHE WILL TELL YOU! Then dive into the detail. I could go on, but I will just let her explain...
Have you ever heard someone, like a sales person or a writer, talk about a wine in a way that is completely underwhelming? Like, "This wine would be good to bring to a party". Ok, that begs the question, what the fuck does that even mean?!Is it shit? What kind of party? So are they saying it sucks? I just want a damn partaay in my mouth! And not some tea party, either, but a damn rager, OK?
Heather Gordon, www.blancdeblonde.com
The point is, all that review bullshit has just gotten vague and uninteresting. People want to share what is hot, what is cool, and are not afraid to take you to task. Listen, if a wine is good, then go ahead and say that it is fucking good. Share it, tell your story, tell the story of the wine and how you got there, make wine interesting again! What we want to hear is "This wine would fucking slay at a party, its going to knock people dead" and not "this would be a good wine for a party." Just tell me if this wine rocks or not.
So where do we go now?
With a massive world of wine to explore, and so many different regions, varieties, and winemaking trends just exploding onto the scene, it really could not be a better time to get into wine. It is a great time to explore wine, and fall in love with all sorts of different wines we never knew existed a few years ago. It is a great time to experiment and push boundaries, being able to play with classics as much as you want to indulge in the extraordinary. There is a lot to learn, and at Vynl we believe that the best we can do is to give you the tools you need to start your wine journey, and continue along that path as your wine palette grows.
If we put everything together, we come to a realization that you, the wine drinker needs to be at the forefront of everything. We can show you wine, we can show you regions, we can show you varietals, and we can teach you how to drink, taste, and decide on what wine to buy. But we cant encourage you, we cant guide you, we cant help you grow if we do not take this journey together.