I run the U3A wine group in North London (Belsize Park), and while researching wines-most of which I buy from the WS for breadth and convenience- rely on the members reviews for their comments. Most are refreshingly straightforward, and the odd pompous one adds to the value of the tasting!
Our U3A wine group had a tasting this week of TWS wines. Since forming the group all members are now members of TWS.
Talking about members reviews, all said they used them when selecting which wines to buy. Some said the reviews were very important in making their ‘buy’ choices.
But none left a review themself.
I’ve been poor at leaving reviews, something I am now trying to rectify.
Later edited to correct a typo.
A litigious bunch? Perhaps that’s why they are wary of leaving reviews themselves…
Are you confusing U3A with USA …??
Ho Ho, very sharp!
Of course, it should have been used. Right letters, wrong order.
The Society Burgundy is the wine that divides opinion the most!
I just took a look at the Members Section of the on line WS Wine Reviews Section.
There are some quite scathing opinions there, love them or not, these are the opinions of WS members who have forked out their “hard earned” to purchase a bottle and it has not delivered for whatever the reason.
By contrast, I cannot ever remember reading a Press Review that was not complimentary verging on the Gushing!!
I read them all, and the one thing that strikes me is that it statistically is not possible that ALL Press bottles could have been THAT good. And that thought process skews the credibility of these comments. TWS does have a fantastic range of fabulous wines at many price points, I think that most of us would agree there. But the Press comments are universal in their praise with nary a controversial comment to be seen, and because of that I tend to tune/factor out these assessments rather having more faith in my fellow members.
But they will not always be correct, they are not professionals I hear you say and you are right. They may just not like a wine and that affects their judgement rather that the industry insider who is more able to put personal preferences to one side and be more analytical.
But, not one critical voice, that is improbable!!
So I will continue to give more weight to the Members Comments and look upon the Press Comments with the jaundiced and sceptical view that they did not pay for the bottle and one does not bite the hand that feeds one!!
I would say though that if TWS does receive an indifferent comment from the 4th estate, then publish and be damned!!lol! You could always send out more bottles to members/ industry for further clarification.
It would be good to see John Livingstone-Learmonth, the well known and trusted authority on the Wines of the Rhone Valley get more bottles to taste, now there is a man who is unafraid to make an assessment; glowing or otherwise!!
Bonfire Night is past, but just maybe this subject might cause a conflagration!!
I think there are a number of pros who take the position that if they try a wine they personally do not care for, they will not review it, as they wish to avoid negativity. I can understand that, though it does rather make their output look as though they give the thumbs up to everything.
I said similar only a day or so ago Taffy, but opinion is still divided on what constitutes a right to an opinion or one of merit, I have just read a bit more of the current edition of Decanter and it seems with every review the critics scores get higher, the 100 points is becoming silly as it doesn’t start till 50 anyway.
Yet again I quote Michael Broadbent who used his five star system and would when needed give one star the equivalent of 20 points, and rightly so in the cases he did, no one today dares to do this and we are to assume from that almost all wines are good or above, I have slated wines on here but few do, that doesn’t make me a “fearless” taster/drinker but I do speak I like to think honestly, and all that is beside the bad bottle subjectivety and palate issues, a little more honesty in tastings/drinking everywhere would be good for general consumption.
Or maybe not engage the wrath of their paymasters !
Some might say so - I couldn’t possibly comment.
Very good, I was about to add the the press reviews on the WS site can sometimes be quite funny, when you only get one glowing review from someone you have never heard of writing for the Tunbridge Wells Echo or the Isle of Sark Tribune, or in some cases a dozen or more of the same ilk and nothing else, you do wonder if it has any more validity than a members review, probably almost certainly not.
I noticed that too!
Local wine reviews for local people…
Interesting comments re press reviews. The reality is that most wine columnists these days don’t have as much space as they used to, and so if they only review 3 wines, they’ll want to direct people to wines worth drinking. The Telegraph’s Victoria Moore, when writing for The Guardian several years ago, did publish a whole piece on wines she wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. It was entertaining, but you couldn’t do it every week. Perhaps once a quarter would be cathartic.
Due to the cost of copyright payments, we’ve had to rein back on our reproducing quotes from the Isle of Rhum Gazette and the like - we now stick with nationals, key regionals / syndicates and periodicals, as well as the specialists online. So the likes of Degustation of Tunbridge Wells (James Viner is a very nice chap, by the way, and an enthusiastic fan of The Society) will sadly be rarer in future.
I think I remember reading that. It was most refreshing, although the wines certainly weren’t…
The chap who reviews supermarket offerings on the Jancis Robinson site does have a specific section ‘wines to avoid’ as well as wines that he recommends, nor does he go in for point score inflation as far as I can see. Some of the wines to avoid are merely overpriced for what they are, rather than downright poor.
As others have commented, the skew probably reflects not writing about the downright bad ones at all rather than giving a negative review.
Wine reviews (as with restaurant reviews) are not about selling wine - they are about selling newspapers.
Although why, for example, Jay Rayner, is allowed to be scathing about a restaurant but the various Guardian/Observer wine critics must always praise wine is peculiar. Perhaps a factor is that restaurant critics pay for their meal, wine critics don’t pay for the wine.
I think it gets the click-click-clicks. Many more people read his effusively (and often hilariously) damning restaurant assassinations than his this-was-quite-nice type reviews. He’s probably a rare source of revenue for the online edition.
For The Society, wine reviews sell wine. Jancis (FT & jr.com), Victoria (Telegraph) and Jane (Times) shift the most for us, with Fiona (Guardian), Will (Sunday Times), David (Observer), Matthew (Mail), Olly (Mail on Sunday) and Jamie (Sunday Express) also with influence.
There’s a certain level of schadenfreude about restaurants getting slagged off, especially if they are out of a reader’s financial reach. People are looking for affordable wines, however, and the writers give them a route to follow.
We recruit members on the back of their seeing repeated wine reviews mentioning us as stockist.