16 Feb Wine Critics to Trust: Four Easy Tips for Great Advice
There are a lot of wines out there. More are released everyday.
To navigate this veritable world of wines, we need help to weed out the ordinary (unless you like ordinary!) and make sure your every wine purchase is perfectly suited to your taste.
Therein lies the rub.
A good wine critic is hard to find.
There are a lot of critics with a style that doesn’t mesh with yours.
So how do you find a critic you can rely upon?
Be sure that you find wine critics to trust with these four easy tips for great advice:
1. Cast Your Net Wide
You know what you like in wine. Be it reliability year on year, fruit sweetness, rarity, made by a small family business, or made in a certain region.
You also know what you like to read. what grabs your attention, and where. It may be that print serves you best, newspaper, perhaps a book or a shiny magazine. It might be online or a Kindle.
Take a look at who is out there writing what. Look somewhere you don’t usually. Even if it is just to reassure yourself you are in the right place.
The world moves quickly and the number of wine reviewers and critics has exploded. Chances are, there’s a niche writer for you somewhere you like to frequent. Note those down.
2. Run the Ruler Over Them
Having checked out the lay of the land and compiling your shortlist, the next step is to check who is up to size.
What makes a good critic?
Fundamentally, the guide’s knowledge and skill are insufficient if they cannot convey anything to those they are guiding.
As such, there are three critical factors:
a). Deep knowledge
This doesn’t have to be academic.
Life experience, the number of wines tried, a great palate and even better nose are all very important too.
Indeed, in the recent past there has been discourse in the media about how inadequately the WSET prepares a person to write about wine for an audience.
Don’t throw away your diploma though, it has many other useful qualities (not least exposure to a broad range of wines you may not have the opportunity to taste in day to day life).
b) Strong writing
Do you prefer reams of information from the winery in your wine reviews?
A quick summary perhaps, then into the sensory assessment.
What about discussing value?
Strong writing for you may include, one, some, none or all of these things. It is important to isolate what you like to see so that you can further whittle down your collection of trusted wine critics or reviewers.
c) An Understanding of their Audience Based in Respect
There are some hilariously bad wine reviews out there.
The way some wine reviewers or critics write gives such an impression of being out of touch with the average wine drinker.
A connection with their audience is critical to enable you to trust a critic or reviewer.
The writer may be wine educated, or from the wine school of life, but if they cannot convey their point to you successfully and in a way you appreciate without feeling spoken down to or above, then they are not the critic for you.
3. Assess Independence
A very important one.
Do you place your trust in a writer who is bankrolled by a retailer, a big wine conglomerate, a magazine, newspaper or website?
It is unfair to expect a wine critic or reviewer to produce content for free, but independence is still important so that there is no bias in the reviews.
If big box retailer wine is what you like and is what is accessible to you, by all means place your trust in the magazines of reviews they produce, or their web critic reviews. But know that you also accept the bias that comes with being bankrolled by that same retailer.
Peer review websites can be less biased, but not always. You never know when someone’s uncle / brother / pet cat had a stake in a winery or a bad cellar door experience clouding a view.
4. Similar Sense of Value
Even discussing value can be rare amongst wine critics / reviewers.
There’s no point reading reviews from a critic that only recognises good value when a wine is $60+ if your everyday price range is more like $25.
Likewise, reading reviews of $15 big box retailer wines can miss the mark if you are interested in smaller production wines that offer more complexity for your dollar.
Seek out a good match for you where your sense of value in wine is in alignment.
Look for clues in past reviews – and see where their value vs points vs quality lies.
Deliberate exclusion: Points
We haven’t touched on points allocation here. Points are fraught. There are so many variables in the scales used by wine critics and reviewers. Judges in wine shows have yet another system of points that totally excludes value, the winemaking, or winery that produced the wine.
Decide for yourself how important points are, and who you trust to be critical on the points scale when a wine is substandard.
Generally a good rule of thumb is to steer clear if no wines are ever scored under 90/100 as this may indicate bias to score wines high even if they are lacklustre – perhaps due to other factors like bias.
We hope this article has helped you identify who you trust as a wine critic or reviewer.
We love to hear from you – why not comment below with which wine critics or reviewers you trust and why?