A Deep Look Into The Glossy Wine Mags

We all (wine writers included) like to bitch about the glossy wine magazines in some way or another. I, for instance, like to sling mud in the direction of the Wine Spectator for what I feel is a completely idiotic internet strategy. I also happen to single them out on occasion for overlooking a lot of wines, or for what I feel is an occasional lack of subtlety in their ratings. If you’re a wine connoisseur I’m sure you’ve got your favorite magazine or critic you like to bash, too.

Well, despite all our kvetching about this or that with the wine magazines, we never really have much to back up our thoughts about what they do well, or not so well, because we’ve not got the time, or energy, to take a really scientific or statistical approach to our particular issue.

It was only a matter of time, though, before someone else did. One of my electronic acquaintances and wine writing colleagues W.R. Tish finally decided to see just what was going on with those big sets of wine reviews called “buying guides” that the glossies put out every month, or quarter, or every so often (depending on the publication).

In particular, he reveals some very interesting facts:

  • Some magazines force wineries to pay them money just to print images of their labels as part of these buying guides — essentially letting those who want to get more visibility and appear to be “recommended” more highly do so by forking over cash.
  • There’s a very big difference in the grading curves of the various magazines, with some giving out far more high scores as a percentage of the wines they taste than others.

    I suggest you take a look if you’re a subscriber or thinking about being one. Or even if you need more justification for why you DON’T subscribe.

    Readers should note that there is an error in the tables of wine review values that appear in the article. The boldfaced percentages in the wine ratings tables should all be shifted one column to the left.