Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dear Wine Spectator,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dear Wine Spectator,

I have only recently fallen in love with wine, and it is clear that, among the many allies available to consumers in navigating the thousands of bottles available, you are one of the most beloved. In the 2007 year end issue, in which you provide the most detailed explanation of your blind tasting method to date, you say that tasters are only told the region and variety of the wine without beyond told the winery. It is laudable that individual tasters initial reviews so that consumers could see how different tasters differ.

Having traveled abroad, it is clear that Americans suffer from acute myopia when dealing with world culture. Be it Hollywood, music or literature, with the exception of a few lucky Brits, we just don’t bother (or aren’t exposed to) foreign influences. This is due in part to our innovation and vitality of our ability to produce products, but also our ability to market them. In addition to helping local producers, you have done a lot for getting Americans into French and Italian wines.

In terms of your tasting, I can’t help but wonder: isn’t one of the signs of being a wine expert the ability to guess the region and variety? The famed 1976 Paris wine tasting that put American wine on the map was revolutionary precisely because the judges were blind to the region of origin of the wine. I am left wondering if I can trust Wine Spectator to inform me about the next revolution. It is great to promote our once underdog domestic industry, but are you bringing to readers attention wines and aspects of wine that they wouldn’t otherwise notice?

  • Have you made efforts to explain what criteria judges use to give points? How do WS judges differ from each other? How do WS judges differ from judges at other magazines? Other countries?

  • You say that you tasted 15,000 wines this year and that most of those wines were sent to you by producers. Do you have relationships with producers in other countries? What percentage of the wines reviewed are from other countries? Is it the same percentage as the percentage of wines produced by those countries?

  • How do WS tastes reflect popular tastes in the U.S.? How do they influence popular tastes?

I am going to buy and read the next issue, in which you treat the “science of blind tasting”. If I don’t see adequate answers to these questions, I think I’ll just limit my reading to the pile of magazines I peruse while sitting at Borders after buying nothing but a cup of coffee.

Sincerely yours,

Ari Pliskin