when should a winery wave the white flag?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When you have been reviewing and scoring wines as long as I have, no matter how fair and helpful you may try to be, some toes are going to get stepped on. Someone’s hard work will go unrecognized, perhaps criticized. Someone’s struggling business will get an extra kick in the rear. It’s just part of the process, and every reviewer with professional creds knows it.

But I have noticed something rather odd. Something that has occurred on more than a handful of occasions over the years. In many, perhaps most instances, where I get an angry email from a winery owner, it is those wineries on whom I have lavished the most praise that get their panties in a bunch most easily.

Perhaps one of their wines didn’t score as well as previously. Perhaps a rival winery, purchasing grapes from the same vineyard, got more praise. Perhaps they just don’t like being scored at all (although they are happy to sell wines using those unwanted scores!). For whatever reason, the handful of wineries that have unilaterally stated they do not ever again want my reviews to darken their cellar door, are mostly wineries that I held in very high regard.

On the other hand...

There are wineries that submit releases to me, year in and year out, and never get a positive review. It’s not fun to keep hammering on them, often for the same issues, but here come the wines, and so it goes. Should they keep sending them? Or would it make more sense for them to either 1) pay attention to what is being said and work to address the problem; or 2) stop sending wines to reviewers who clearly don’t like them?

Just today an email arrived from a winery promising that major changes to their winemaking program had been instituted, and the newest releases were going to show dramatic improvement. Good for them! These folks needed to improve, in my opinion. The reviews of their wines have been lukewarm for years. And I suspect, not just from me. So apparently, the message got through.

If you are finding that I – or any reviewer for that matter – consistently low rates and critiques your wines, I strongly urge you to either stop sending them until you feel that they have significantly improved, or find a reviewer whose palate is more compatible with your own. You will be doing both of us a favor.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But I have noticed something rather odd. Something that has occurred on more than a handful of occasions over the years. In many, perhaps most instances, where I get an angry email from a winery owner, it is those wineries on whom I have lavished the most praise that get their panties in a bunch most easily." - Really? You find this surprising? You have given them a high rating, they are now successfully selling a bunch of wine using it. I would venture to guess it is posted all over their tasting room and in their "acclaim" section on their website. Better yet, you have given them several very high scores in a row. Their mailing list is now closed and everything they sell is $50.00+/bottle. They have nowhere to go but down and you are now nothing but a threat. One bad review from you on a rough vintage year and they only sell $300.00/mailing list person instead of $600.00. Makes perfect sense to me. I dont agree with it but I can see why you are getting some of this garbage from people. The Paul giveth, the Paul potentially taketh away...

SF

PaulG said...

The Paul getteth your point!

Anonymous said...

Paul:

I'm curious; has your tasting judgment changed over time? By that I mean are wines that you judge exceptional today ones you might not have appreciated as much 5 or 10 years ago because you valued a wine's quality differently then? I ask because I wonder if some winemakers get left behind because the wine critic's tastes (and thus public tastes)evolve.

Courtney

PaulG said...

Au contraire, Courtney. I am far more critical today than in the past. But the wines are, on average, getting better and better. Competition is far tougher. So the high scores are if anything more difficult to achieve and more meaningful than, say, 15 or 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Paul, your last reply begs this comment ... Maybe some of us keep submitting wines that you don't like just so we can soften the curve for our friends who make wines you do like!

PaulG said...

I'm not trying to dodge anything here. I simply believe that the higher scores are the result of better wines. My judgement over time has become more critical, not less. The competition at the quality level is tougher than it's ever been. The industry is maturing. All good!

Howard Stevens said...

You know what they say....even bad publicity is publicity.....

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