The value of wine critics

Margaret or David?


Let’s look at it this way; are you a Margaret or David person? Of course, I’m referring to the long-time movie reviewers Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton who graced our TV screens for a number of decades sharing their views on all things cinematic.  The two often butted heads when critiquing films, so the value they brought to the viewer was measured by understanding the reviewer’s predilections to various movie genres. In this way, the viewer could then align themselves with either Margaret or David and make a considered choice as to whether they may like a particular movie.

The same approach should be taken when digesting wine reviews. Just because someone doesn’t like apples, doesn’t mean apples are bad. Having said that, a rotting apple is indisputably bad, so a wine critic should be able to objectively identify wine faults and alert consumers to potentially faulty vino. A more clinical approach to wine assessment is offered by the wine show system, which I wrote about some time ago, this offers consumers a more objective appraisal, but unlike a critic lacks the potential to educate and entertain.

As years unfurl, seemingly wine scores are consistently on the rise. Without doubt, our nation’s producers have significantly improved quality through better practices and with experience. A cynic may question the plethora of 95 plus point scores on show, with wineries more likely to utilise a high score in their quest to sell more wine – walk into any major retailer and look at the shelf-talkers; the score not only promoting the wine but also the reviewer. But are these scores justified and is it time for a recalibration of the scoring system?

True value


Perhaps the true value of a wine review is not the score itself, but in the content, giving the critic the opportunity to educate the reader on all matters vinous, including the country and region of origin, viticulture, winemaking, style, vintage conditions, and wine history to name but a few.

Disclosing whether the wine was tasted blind is important to ensure impartiality preventing prejudice/favouritism, resulting from the influence of friendships and brand loyalty.

Wineries, in many instances, have become beholden to wine critics as the broader market seeks to delineate between quality and value for money.

At the end of the day, it is the consumer that makes the ultimate decision about what they buy, but what drives them to that purchase is a reflection of a wider discussion. My take-home message is to familiarise yourself with a reviewer’s taste preferences and then align yourself with those who share your preferences. You may need to identify a number of critics to capture various varieties and styles – Margaret’s preference for Pinot Noir may closely align with yours, whilst David’s take on Chardonnay could be well-matched to yours. You will also need to put the score into context with the reviewer. At the end of the day, there is only one review that truly matters, and that is yours.

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Winemaker Simon Black and our award-winning winemaking team develop wines for three labels from vineyards across the Mornington Peninsula. Their focus is to create wines of exemplary quality and character, utilising winemaking techniques that complement the unique qualities derived from our vineyards, in a style that reflects each vineyard site. Visit us in Red Hill, and go beyond the Cellar Door with our experiences.

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