Wine Reviews: To Care or Not To Care

Let me be right up front about this from the beginning. I’ve never liked wine reviews. When I was learning about wine, I found them a bit silly, never really useful for deciding for myself about which wines to seek out, and when I did find one and its review, was never able to really associate any of the flavours in the review with the wine that was in my glass in front of me.

And then there were the point scores, which I will save for another article.

I have been asked often why I don’t provide point scores or focus on wine reviews on this site. Here is the reason.

Wine Country BC started out of conversations that my late friend Aaron and I had while working at a wine store. We had always lamented the fact that BC wine at the time (2009) never received proper appreciation from reviewers. We often tasted wines that blew us away and really got us excited about the industry. More often than not, we found wine reviews for those same wines (with tasting notes and scores) that were less enthusiastic about it than we were. Wines that, for us, stood out in large trade tastings were given ‘meh’ status based on what the reviewer was saying. This got Aaron and I really annoyed (ok, probably more me than Aaron – he was always a cool cat about things like that) and that is how this blog got started.

Because we were not thrilled with wine reviews from others, we consciously did not include wine reviews or point scores in our podcasts or on our posts. Yes, we tasted and evaluated wines for sure but hopefully we made it clear that we were trying to be objective about it. Listeners to the podcast in particular could easily tell if we were excited by a particular wine or not. You could hear it in our voices, which is why the podcast medium fascinated me. Usually, the wines that we chose to feature were wines that at least one of us had already tried and knew would be interesting to some degree.

I did experiment briefly with pseudo wine reviews with a post category called TINAWR (This Is Not A Wine Review) but was still putting more emphasis in podcasting at that time rather than in writing.  The two reviews that I did most mimicked the podcast format more than anything and do not seem to be all that helpful to anyone in retrospect.

Fast-forward a few years to today and wine reviews for me on this site have become pretty much impossible. The reason? I have lived in the Okanagan now for almost ten years. I have worked at more than a few wineries in cellars, vineyards, and wine shops. I personally know and am friends on Facebook with many wine makers, winery owners, and people in the industry. They are friends. Their kids are the in the same grades as my kids. I see them at the post office, grocery store, or Canadian Tire.

So how is it that I could possibly take a wine, judge it by appearance, clarity, aroma, taste, and finish and accurately assess it with any degree of objectivity? To me, it’s no longer Chateau Booboo’s Merlot, it is Wayne’s or Bill’s or Ed’s merlot. I can’t. Not now and maybe not ever for Okanagan wine, at least as a writer of a blog or podcast producer.

What I can offer is exactly what I’ve been stating the whole time in my tagline to this blog: “Beyond the guided tour…” This is what real life in wine country is like. Wine is made by people, some really amazing people and some less amazing, and it is a way of life. It is a hard-working, 24/7, arduous, and repetitive way of life. It is farming and that’s what farming is. Farming is also a community and I often feel like I am part of it. Reading my blog, listening to the podcasts (which I’m hoping to get back into shortly), will take you into places in the wine industry that are not necessarily part of of what would be included in a tasting note, wine review, or article written from someone that comes here a few times a year or just once on a fam tour.

You’ll get to meet those people who are incredibly passionate about what they do.  I was lucky enough to meet many of them writing for for years for BC Food & Wine Trails magazine and then had the priviledge to do it again alongside John Schreiner for The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide 6th Edition, which was just released last April.

They make wine and each year, they try to make the best wine that they can. In wine country, there are no good or bad vintages. Each vintage offers something a little different and that is part of what makes wine so interesting. There are variations in cherries and apples too but nobody really notices those.

Those are all things that are a part of what it is about living in wine country.

2 thoughts on “Wine Reviews: To Care or Not To Care

  1. I agree completely. I gave up on Wine Spectator precisely because of the reviews, which I rarely found helpful. Reviews of wines not widely available is snobbery at its worst. In my own experience I am likely to favour wines from wineries I have visited, because the experience Adds to my pleasure. And don’t get me started on ratings either. Robert Parker ruined a lot of the fun that comes from simply enjoying a nice wine at the appropriate time.

    1. Hi Lorne, Thanks for commenting!

      Wine Spectator has always been difficult for me too because so few of the wines reviewed are avaialble in our market in BC.

      Interesting idea about Parker scores ruining the fun of it, as you say. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before but it does take the fun out of it a little, particularly when I see a wine that I know is a solid wine getting a mediocre score.

      Are there any kinds of wine reviews that you would be interested in reading? If no point scores (or the Decanter 20 points or Anthony Gismondi’s 5 glasses), then anything? Or just the written comments? What would be interesting to you to read?

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