Beer Advocate for Wine?
Question for the wine-savvy masses: is there any sort of comprehensive user-generated site for wine reviews? I love and rely on Beeradvocate.com, and I've lately begun to want to expand my horizons on wine much as I have with craft beer. However, I keep getting frustrated by what seems an unnecessary fragmentation and commercialization of wine reviews. Given the choice between reading what Robert Parker thought about a particular bottle, and what three dozen amateur enthusiasts thought about the same bottle, I'll take the amateur enthusiasts every time. But I can't seem to find any good reference site, and I feel like the internet is failing me. Is the online wine world really such a barren wasteland? (If so, someone should advise the folks at Google Labs.)
There are DOZENS of boards like this, but with a wine-only focus. Robin Garr has the "Wine Lovers' Discussion Group"; Brad Harrington has "West Coast Wine," but it's not limited to that alone; Mark Squires has probably the most "advanced" (in terms of the average level of wine knowledge) bulletin board, and it was "bought" by Robert Parker, but the discussion group is completely independent. Also, several wine magazines have websites with their own discussionn groups.
I guess I've seen some of these, but been unimpressed. Wading through a discussion board or set of forums is far less helpful than an actual comprehensive site like BeerAdvocate, which (for those who've never looked around over there) is a single, comprehensive community in which you can search for a particular beer, click on it, and see every set of tasting notes for that given beer. It's a lot like the Amazon reviewer system - you can sort reviewers so that the first results will be users who have the most tasting notes in the system, allowing you not to be distracted by a novice with little tasting experience. The same page will let you click to see other beers from the same brewery, region, or style.
I haven't found anything remotely close for wines, and I find this terribly disappointing.
The problem with a pure database is that you have no idea if the individual involved actually knows anything about wine (or beer, for that matter), only that they post alot. They could still have the palate of an iguana . . .
The advantage to sites such as those I mentioned (and others, such as Roy Hersh's site that focuses on fortified wines) -- at least to me -- is the discussion portion of the site(s). It permits me to better understand the individual, to ascertain whetheror not they have actually have a palate, and know how to write a description of what they're tasting.
Personally, I find points without a tasting note useless, and I find tasting notes without any knowledge of the individual taster equally so.
But again -- that's just me -- YMMV.
But I would encourage you to check out the two sites suggested by oolah below.
That's exactly the problem with the sites I list below, zin1953. Just looking at the ratings or tasting notes is sort of useless unless you have some kind of understanding of the user base. This is particularly a problem on corkd where you have a lot of people with novice palates giving some very bad wines very good scores.
That said, I've found it helpful to locate a few individuals who have similar palates to my own and use their ratings. I have also been using corkd to track my own consumption and reviews. This is for me a good alternative to the notebook method of keeping track and has the additional benefit that you can access it from anywhere provided you have a web-enabled phone.
Cellartracker.com is one of the ugliest sites I've seen, with some terrible usability design, but it has great information from knowledgable wine drinkers including tasting notes, reviews, ratings and recommended drinking windows. Very comprehensive db of wines.
Corkd.com is a lot better looking and a lot more fun to use, but the wine knowledge is not so great (e.g., people are less discriminating: a lot of people rate two-buck chuck at 100pts). If you can find a few people to trust who have similar taste to you, it's a good database.
If only someone would combine the two...
Don't get me wrong - I entirely appreciate the value of finding people whose tastes align with my own, and using them as a source of recommendations. That kind of thing (be it beer, wine, restaurants, whatever) is one of the best uses of Chowhound - message boards are great for that. What they aren't as great for is when I want a sense of whether that wine I saw in store X is something I would enjoy drinking with dinner tomorrow, or for figuring out some other wines I might like if I enjoyed wine X. Armed with a little background knowledge, I can get this info out of BeerAdvocate for any beer in under 3 minutes (it helps that they have 100,000 users, and over 50% of the active population is articulate and thorough in characterizing what they drink, even if it isn't their favorite style). With wine, I'm at a loss, and it looks like the internet loses too.
Corkd and Cellartracker are a start, and I appreciate the suggestions, even if I'm disheartened in general!
No offense, but I think you can get that sort of information quite easily from Squires', Garr's or Harrington's boards. All you have to do is ask.
The EASIEST way "for figuring out some other wines I might like if I enjoyed wine X," is to use wine X as a springboard. For example, if Wine X is a 2010 Storrs Winery Santa Cruz Mountains Zinfandel . . .
Try other wines from Storrs (you obviously liked the way they made the wine); try other 2010 Zinfandels (it was obvously a good vintage for Zinfandel); try other Santa Cruz Mountains AVA wines (you obviously liked wine from the Santa Cruz Mtns.); etc., etc., etc.
The same is true for imports -- for instance, the 2012 Domaine de la Mordorée Côtes-du-Rhône rouge . . .
Try other wines from Domaine de la Mordorée (Tavel, Lirac red or white, Châteauneuf); try other 2012 wines from the Southern Rhône producers; since the dominant grapes in the wine are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre; try other wines made from one or a blend of all three of these grapes; and on and on and on . . .
This is basically the same advice I have given my students in wine classes for years. It works.
Of course the best way, IMHO, is to ask a your retailer -- he/she will have the opportunity to taste a lot more than you do, and he/she will be able to make recommendations that should fit the bill. At least one hopes they take the time to taste a lot, and take the time to understand your likes and dislikes; otherwise, go shop someplace else! (Also advice I've given my students for years.)