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Sep 25, 2009 12:45 AM

Competitions, Wine guides, Critics, Magazines....who should we listen to?

Competitions, Wine guides, Wine Critics, Wine Magazines.........they are all “references” but they can all (in some form or other) stand accused of biased judgement and advice. Nonetheless, many of us (all?) refer to them as something of a Map to guide ourselves in our purchasing decisions.

In a perfect world, we should only make buying decision based upon our own taste buds. However, for most people, there simply isn't the opportunity to individually learn, taste and select.

So, we use some of the above "tools" to help us filter through the endless global choices down to a more manageable quantity.

My questions to the board are:

• Which of the above represent greater or lesser reference?
• How should we use them in a critical and effective manner?
• What other means are there for a “Consumer” to find his way though the maze to quality, value, new and exciting wines?

P.S. Even this cherished board is, inevitably, full of opinionated!?! Who can I turn to??

PPS: Who do we believe ....or like all things in life, should be we simply take a critical and analytical view of everything others tell us?

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  1. Use critiques as a relative point of reference, not as an absolute point of reference.

    Meaning that if after reading X and tasting the same wines, you find that X rates and likes wine in such way that does not fit your own taste, you can use that information to know that if X like a wine in some way, you might not like it (too strong, too light, ... ) and from there you can make your own system of rating based on that information.

    And it works the other way around, you will find Y that constenly give out reviews and informations about wines that you also like; and you can bias your own reference point against Y.

    I think that at some point, we need to take chances and need to have our own point of reference and accept that if X recommands a wine that you don't like (or does not feel it rewards a high rating) it's ok and life go on...

    Also remember that X at some point get into a "mold" and are stuck into it and cannot get out easily.

    1. #1 - freinds whith whom you've shared many wines and whose palates you know and who know your palate.

      #2 - reviewers whose palates you trust and whose reviews you are familiar with. For me, this is (in descending order) David Schildkniched, Antonio Galloni (tie), Stephen Tanzer (tie), the publication "Gambero Rosso" (tie)

      #3 - reviews of people your friends know and put some trust in, these could be publications or other people. For me, Decanter and Allen Medows fall into this caegory.

      2 Replies
      1. re: whiner

        You both make valid points about looking to outlets who reflect (or inspire) your own inclinations.

        Are we then to assume that all these professionals (who make a living from) writing about wine are quite impartial and may not be “influenced”?

        Are we then discrediting any and all Competitions? What do you think of Decanter’s recent World Wine Awards? Would those “medals” influence your buying decisions?

        1. re: whiner

          I think a relationship with a locally run wine store is great for getting some help and I keep up wtth the folks over at

        2. A trusted and educated wine merchant can play a key role.

          I'm sure a number of us have someone or somewhere we buy from where we would buy a bottle on their advice. I have one quite local to me, who not only uses my filter (what I'm looking for, price, what I liked in the past), but who also uses their own which likely more refined than my own. A good merchant is a very valuable tool for those of us learning about wine, though they sometimes have their own bias.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nanette

            When we visit New York, our daughter's friend and merchant at Bedford Wine shop has always given us superb advice for price and quality. At home(work) I usually shop online for under $20/90pt and buy a couple of bottles to see which ones I like best before buying a case or split case. I enjoy reading the Wine Spectator, but most of their tastes are in the more expensive offerings. But hay, there is something for everyones taste and budget. The challange is in the search.

          2. Find the best wine stores and explore yourself.

            1. Marc,

              My answer to your 3 questions plus your 2 PS:

              Do as the Italians do.
              You try it, you like it or you don't.
              Otherwise, gamble at your own risk.