I have to say many thanks for posting a link that has taken up rather more of my time over the last 24hrs than is probably healthy , though I think Bordeaux and Piedmont aficionados on here should take note of some of the concerns raised as Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni are huge influencers in those markets, and inevitably their actions could potentially affect prices across the board (I don’t think TWS is entirely immune to this).
And a few pages in Galloni’s response (sorry for length, but I thought people might be interested)…
Antonio GalloniAntonio Galloni Posts: 4,802, April 27
"From the very beginning, Vinous has been a customer-centric company. Our customers are at the core of everything we do.
In our seven years we have raised prices only once, and when we did, we gave subscribers the opportunity to pre-pay their renewal at the old price. We wanted to reward our loyal subscribers with a special offer. Along the way, we have continued to build out our editorial team in a significant way and invested every dollar back into the company. In 2020, despite all the logistical challenges during the pandemic that turned writers’ homes into warehouses, Vinous published over 28,000 reviews, more than in any other year.
All of the above works under one basic premise. And that is that subscriptions must be priced according to the utility various users derive. That is what is fair. When this does not happen, consumers (who use Vinous for personal use) are subsidizing the wine trade. which uses Vinous fo commercial purposes to drive a large part of their business through email campaigns, republication on websites, social media, etc. This strikes us as an absurd situation.
We offer a number of programs for our trade subscribers, as we have made plainly clear in our Terms of Service for years. These include digital access to our reviews via API and other data licensing options. Vinous Preview is a test program with a number of features, including 48-hour preview access to reviews. Preview is based on a similar program offered by another of the world’s leading wine publications. It is priced appropriately, as a data service, which naturally limits it to a small audience.
Among other things, this allows us to grow our team as we have continued to do and will continue to do. This year we expect to introduce at leas one new critic to the team. Our critics spend more time in the field than most, if not all, of their peers at other publications, year in year out. A an example, I am presently planning a trip to Santa Barbara, where I will spend at least ten days meeting with many dozens of producers individually, as I have done for a decade. It’s the same in all or virtually all of the world’s main regions, and even many of the smaller regions. We have an exceptional track record of writing about new, up and coming estates everywhere, and we bring readers coverage of niche regions that are economically unviable if taken alone. Look at the depth of our coverage, the insight in our articles and the producer commentaries tha accompany reviews, often completely missing now in other publications.
I can certainly understand that change is unsettling. The reality is that over the last 10-15 years, the wine business has become very sophisticated and tech-savvy. That is not of our doing, but it is the reality of our world. Publications must choose whether to be deep and comprehensive, or one-man shows that cover only the most commercially viable regions. We choose the former. We choose to bring our readers the widest and most comprehensive coverage of wines available anywhere. Yes, there is Napa and Bordeaux, but there is also Loire, Montepulciano, Alto Piemonte and the hottest young producers in California making their first vintages, not to mention many regions we would like to cover.
We asked them to please not do that again. A few days later, that firm did the exact same thing with my article, except they were even faster the second time around. Does a small number of trade entities having a preview of scores really affect the consumer negatively? It might if you no to jump in and buy a wine in the seconds after a score is released, and that wine scores unexpectedly well and is one of the tiny minority of wines that moves price meaningfully, and that the merchant you choose is a specificone that is prepared to adjust pricing immediately or before the scores are published rather than minutes later. On the flipside, in virtually all cases, readers benefit immensely from our unrivaled coverage of tens of thousands of wines that they may choose to buy.
We would much rather have both consumer and trade subscriptions and a strong economic foundation that allows our critics to do the work they want and need to do rather than have the need to incessantly hype vintages and give wines ridiculously high scores they will never live up
to, all for the means of blatant self-promotion, a strategy some other critics/publicationshave clearly chosen. That is true independence. A quick look at major reports of popular regions covered by multiple publications, for example 2018 Bordeaux or 2018 Napa Valley, will prove beyond any doubt that Vinous scores are among the most conservative. Why? Because our reviews, the core of what we do, always puts the consumer first. Not self-promotion, not the desire to be quoted in social media so we can re-broadcast, not the desire to ingratiate ourselves with producers. Rampant score inflation is far more deleterious to the consumer (Vinous subscribers and not) than anything Preview offers. Ask yourself when was the last time another major publication actually critiqued a well-known or established producer. We
have, and, when appropriate, we will. Nothing changes that or will ever change
Let’s look at some examples. The chart above shows the average scores for a number of critics for the 90 most frequently searched 201 Bordeaux on Liv-ex. We started by looking at 100 widely reviewed wines, and then focused on 90 covered by five critics. To that we added three more well-known critics. The number in parentheses indicates the number of wines reviewed within the subset of the initial 90 wines. The data clearly shows that the consensus for the 2018 vintage forms around four publications, with three outliers at the top and one at the bottom.
Only Vinous gives readers two completely separate, independent sets of reviews. That’s two travel/lodging/food bills (in non-pandemic years) and two editor bills. Neal and I never taste together or talk about the wines prior to publication. The data bears that out. Moreover, the clustering of three single-critic-based publications with narrow areas of coverage at the top suggests that these critics have a natural incentive to rate wine on the higher side, and that makes sense. Those critics depend heavily on the visibility of their scores for their businesses. What is in the best interests of the consumer? It is hardly a coincidence that three single-critic publications are clustered at the high end, while those writing for broader publications are all grouped together in the middle and lower end of the ratings. Any suggestion of Vinous trying to direct or influence the market ispatently absurd.
Let’s turn our attention to Napa Valley. The chart above compares the percentage of 98+ rated wines and 100-point wines for Napa Valley’s 201 vintage for four critics. Vinous has the lowest percentage of very high-rated wines (98+) and one of the lowest numbers of 100-point wines. Since our founding in 2013, we have grown to have subscribers in over 100 countries. In those years we have also come to
nderstand that we have readers of all types, from casual wine consumers, to students, to experienced collectors and in all parts of the win trade. We are extremely grateful for that support.
We strive to deliver the maximum value possible for all our readers, while recognizing their needs are different. Over the last year, we hav supported those audiences in many ways. We offered free subscriptions to all sommeliers and wine directors, globally, who lost their jobs becaus of COVID-19. Recognizing that education is a central part of our mission, we later extended that offer to students in the MS and MW programs who had passed at least one level of their respective programs. With the exception of the pandemic year of 2020, we have always provided a educational seminar for sommeliers at our Festa del Barolo.
For the casual wine lover, we publish more free content than ever before. Vinous and I personally have supported various charitable initiative designed to give back to those less fortunate. At the height of the pandemic, when people were at their most anxious, we launched a series o free webinars to help alleviate stress and give people something positive to look forward to. We took a public stance against systemic racism an started our BIPOC Mentorship program. In most years we offer a Young Wine Writer Fellowship, although in 2020 the challenges of the year simply did not leave enough time. I am pretty confident our engagement with the community of wine is second to none. In fact, our work in these areas may very well exceed that of all other publications combined.
For consumers, we added Delectable as a tool for keeping track of bottles, engaging with fellow wine lovers and also finding wines. We adde CellarWatch, which gives Vinous readers unprecedented access to valuation and market tools that are otherwise only available to Liv-ex’s tra subscribers. We will soon move to a new website, which, among other things, will give subscribers digital access to view our California vineyard maps, for free.
Ultimately, we are accountable to all our subscribers. I am always here, on this forum, to answer your questions. Most publications don’t give their subscribers access to their critics much less the final decision maker on a public forum. If you see wines with suddenly huge scores or anything that is not consistent with the past, let us know. But you won’t. Our team is 100% focused on bringing you the most comprehensive an in-depth writing on wine available anywhere in the world. As always, we pay for all our travel, hotels and meals, and accept no advertising Vinous Preview was launched as a test program. If we need to make adjustments, we will. Thank you for your invaluable feedback.
Ethics, integrity, independence. None of our core values have changed. Anyone can say what they want or write whatever they want on the internet or on social media. That does not make it true. What matters is what you do when no one is watching."