Friday, August 7, 2020

Why That Wine Review Doesn't Make Sense To You

We've all had the experience at one point or another: you read a review that sounded great, but when you go through the trouble to find and buy it, the wine doesn't match what you read.  Maybe you even got that recommendation here.

Sure, there's ample evidence to support the notion of just how subjective the enjoyment of wine is - different strokes and all that - but a recent exchange with a publicist brought into focus another, more realistic likelihood:

The wine you're drinking isn't the same one that was reviewed.

No, this isn't a conspiracy theory about producers and marketers deliberately tricking the public by shipping the good stuff to critics (though nothing would surprise me.)  It's much more practical than that.

So, back to this PR rep. A review for a wine I panned not too long ago caught her eye.  It could be that she represents the winery or region, or just that she knows a thing or two about this particular wine.  Either way, she suggested that my experience was so different from that of the critic who had given the wine a 93 point rating.  What?  How?  Why? 
  • The wine is older now than it was when originally released and scored. 
  • The vinification method used means that it's meant to be drunk young, and isn't particularly well-suited to stresses of the supply chain.
  • The points-showering critic in all likelihood evaluated the wine while in-country.
All good points and most likely true.  If so, one could hardly say that the wine I gave a swift kick in the ass to is the same the other critic lauded.  Similarly, over a decade ago I wrote about a wine that I had had at home and then again just a couple of months later at the winery.  That was one of those times I was enjoying the advantage of proximity - and it made such a difference in the wine, I had to call it out:
"The difference between wine at the winery and the same exact wine off a grocery store shelf 2,500 miles away - based on this tasting - is night and day."
But who among us has the privilege of tasting a wine at the supremely optimal place and moment for peak experience?  Very, very few of us, which perhaps sheds light on why some wine reviews may not make sense to us.  It also raises the question of relevancy for wine reviews published by sources who do enjoy that privilege, given how at odds their experience is with that of consumers when and where they open the same bottle.

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