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 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.

4 thoughts on “Winemaker criticises paid wine reviews”

  1. rohit desai says:

    Hello Dear,
    Really awesome article. Thanks for sharing that type of good content.
    Keep it up with good content.

  2. Mike Parker says:

    My role in the wine industry is as a “keen consumer”. My financial interest is significant, although I make zero income (I only have outgoings… ).
    Personally, I don’t care whether wine writers get paid or not to review wines. What I care about is the time-saving advice they potentially offer. It is not possible to taste even a fraction of new wines released, yet as a keen consumer, I want to know what the best wines to buy are. That is where wine writers come in, because once a consumer has found a wine writer who seems to have similar tastes to their own, they can use their reviews as a buying guide. I follow Raymond Chan’s reviews for that very reason, as I find our wine tastes quite similar. If Mr Chan’s reviews were erratic and/or appeared to display some non-oenological bias I wouldn’t follow him anymore, but they don’t.
    So where is the problem here? The more successful wine writers are quoted in promotional articles by wine producers, or have stickers used as buying guides in supermarkets, but any bias which awarded less than tasty wines good points because of the producer, would be short-lived as consumers would soon learn to ignore those awards.
    Mike Parker

  3. Neil Willman says:

    Great story and I fully agree. I assume the fees for wine judging at the Sydney Royal and many other shows covers the costs of administration and does not go into the pocket of the judges, (well that’s how it is for cheese and dairy). How do we find out which reviews are paid for???

  4. Pingback: Do you write wine reviews? » Cellarit Wine Blog
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