Don’t know about you, but I never book accommodation without checking reviews on Tripadvisor or buy a book without having a look at what people are saying about it on Goodreads. But I can’t say that I’m very good about checking consumer reviews on wine. And I’m starting to wonder why not?
I’m in the fortunate position of being able to attend quite a few wine related events where I meet lots of interesting wine lovers, many of whom possess a staggering amount of knowledge about wine. Perhaps, we have a general reluctance to broadcast our thoughts about a great wine we’ve discovered because we fear others might snap it up and (oh no!) encourage the producer to jack up the price!
But a recent article by Huon Hooke in The Real Review, Winemaker criticises paid wine reviews, has got me thinking about whether consumer reviews should play a greater role in our wine purchasing decisions? Hooke mentions that winemaker Michael Glover, previously Bannockburn’s famed winemaker, and now working at Mahana in the Nelson Region, has taken a stand against the practice of ‘paid for’ reviews. He wants greater transparency for wine consumers. As Hooke notes, the practice of paying for a good review is fortunately not as prevalent in Australia as it is in New Zealand, but it should worry us nonetheless.
As a subscriber to quite a wine review websites, I am very impressed by the integrity of Australia’s top wine critics. Hooke recently teamed up with wine critic Bob Campbell MW to create The Real Review Alliance, which they describe “an alliance to promote and differentiate our approach to wine reviews.” Tellingly, they are “taking a stand for even-handed, transparent, ethical and independent reviewing.”
The team at The Wine Front, led by Campbell Mattinson, Gary Walsh and Mike Bennie, are also strong and independent voices. They have a knack for encouraging prolific contributions from their subscribers, whose opinions are often equally as insightful as the reviews themselves, sometimes sparking lively debates about the merits of a particular wine!
Both of the above sites are subscription view only, but, hey, everyone has to make a living! By financially supporting independent opinions and taking the time to write our own reviews, we save heaps of time and money at the metaphorical bottle shop!
By Merrill Witt, Editor