Winemaker criticises paid wine reviews
New Zealand winemaker Michael Glover has publicly criticised the practice of some wine writers to charge for reviews. He said he would never send his wine to such a wine writer for critiquing.
It seems that wine writers charging for tasting and reviewing wines is more prevalent in New Zealand than Australia. It may also happen here, but I’m not aware of it.
Glover, formerly winemaker at Bannockburn winery (tastings), Victoria, is now working back in his native country at the Nelson winery, Mahana Estates (tastings). He is an outstanding winemaker as well as a thoughtful and forthright person.
And I agree with him. Neither Bob Campbell nor I charge to taste wine, neither do we charge for reviewing it. If a wine producer wanted to read my reviews, he or she would have to subscribe to my app, unless the review happened to also be printed in a newspaper or magazine. Even then, they would probably have to pay for the magazine or newspaper. So, buying a subscription to my app is no different to subscribing to a periodical.
In both cases, the revenue from subscriptions and, if applicable, from advertising, goes into a pot, and the writers and other employees are paid from that pot. It’s exactly the same system with newspapers. There is no incentive for reviewing a certain producer’s wines, nor is there any incentive to boost ratings or review wines more favourably from some producers than others.
I have heard one or two writers say that if competitions, such as the Sydney Royal Wine Show, charge wineries to judge their entries, why shouldn’t wine writers? I disagree.
I also disagree with magazines that only publish reviews of wines where the winery has paid a sum of money, ostensibly for a picture of the bottle. The implication is that if the winery doesn’t pay, its wine won’t be reviewed. At The Real Review, we believe the reader needs to know exactly where the writer is coming from. No funny business; no blurring of lines.
I am sent a lot of wine to taste, and I make a point of tasting every bottle, and my notes appear on the huonhooke.com app, regardless of how much I liked or disliked the wine.
Below is a link to a Daily Wine News article about the stand taken by Michael Glover and Mahana Estates. I agree with him on most points, with one notable exception: the view that scoring wine is wrong. Rating a wine out of 100 is a service to the consumer. We don’t pretend that it is absolute. It’s a postscript to the written tasting note and simply tells the consumer how much we liked the wine, and how highly we perceived its quality.
Some wines are better than others, and a rating serves the purpose of discriminating the bad from the good and the good from the great.
It suits some wine producers to promote the view that all wines are somehow worthy. This is wrong-headed, but it’s a useful view if you’re making bad wine.