Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hype, Spin, and Lies?

When I have a chance, I like to check out the wine news. This time I came upon a press release from WineApe, Inc., claiming they have a free "Wiki" style site that "collects wine ratings from around the world." They purport to be anti-"snooty" wine expert, and pro-consumer. "We want to inform consumers about as many wines as possible [the Amazon of Wines?] - by statistically combining the input of the world's largest group of tasters - consumers. This way wine lovers have the information necessary to help them choose between [ among?] the thousands of wonderful wines. Who is this wine "critic" to tell me what I should or shouldn't like?"

I was pretty excited to read this, as I had proposed a Zagat's of wine quite some time ago, although they seem to be confusing consumer with wine lover. Clicking on the link to their website was an eye-opener. How many of you remember the movie/video "Sex, Lies and Videotape," precursor to You Tube and Flickr. First, the appearance of democratic wine revolution! "Rate the wine!" Then, "Search Wine Ratings" - a totally incomprehensible web page purporting to offer wine ratings, but actually set up to sell wine. How about an "1899 J & K Muscat for 13USD" or a 2003 Chardonnay from "Three Blind Moose Cellars" for $6.99? A Three Blind Moose sweatshirt? Is this a spoof? A trailer for the sequel to Sideways? Having been put through the statistics wringer in grad school, I don't see much evidence of statistics here.

What's with WineApe? Is that like Does it mean that instead of aping Robert Parker we should ape each other?From wine by the numbers to wine by the numbers? Lemmings? Those of you who read this blog, know my position on Parkerization and the globalization of wine. But is data from every Dick, Jane and Harry, going to be any better? Will it be a case of garbage in , garbage out? At least with Parker you know his taste and can calibrate your own to his. What would Socrates say? Would Harry Potter drink any of this stuff when he's old enough? It remains to be seen. This is a serious and difficult question about wine ratings. I mean , I'm not saying anybody is lying, I'm just wondering if I'm seeing hype and spin.


  • At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Certainly an industry driven by or optimized to a single taste is dangerous and threatens the wonderful diversity in the wine world. We see that today.

    That said, as you noted, who is that "average consumer" whose score will now provide that supposed new optimization point? Is vox pupuli vox qualitas? Hardly. Just look at Amazon ratings (books, music). Not only are they practically worthless to the discerning customer, but they are being maipulated by the industry (and Amazon through their paid "top reviewer" program).

    Is there a better alternative? Yes: expert rating comparison. Example:

  • At 9:00 AM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Thanks for your comment. The whole issue of wine by the numbers is a difficult one, first and foremost, because they give the appearance of objectivity to a subjective phenomenon whether it be a democratic Zagat-like, Wiki-melange of ratings from everyone with different tastes, or one wine guru, or a bunch of wine experts. I guess, each to his or her own - ratings from large numbers of people or large numbers from the few. Gene

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