Bad Reviews For Wine Reviewers
“Flinty.” “Leathery.” “Hauting.” “Vegetal.”
These are all terms wine reviewers use to describe what they’re drinking. Does anyone—beside the writer—really understand them?
Apparently not, at least according to a recent survey done for an online wine merchant. Some 55 percent of respondents said wine critics’ legion of fancy descriptors were confusing and did nothing to help them understand what a wine actually tastes like, while two-thirds said they didn’t get any of the aromas touted on wine labels.
It gets worse.
While only one-third of those responding to the poll found wine reviews helpful, almost half said they were “pompous.”
It turns out that wine reviewers may be every bit as confused as consumers. French researcher Frédéric Brochet asked more than 50 wine experts to describe a glass of white and a glass of red wine, without telling them that the “red” was actually the same white wine dyed with food coloring. Which didn’t stop the “experts” from describing it with terms typically associated with red wine like “jammy” and praising its “red fruit.”
Another Brochet experiment gave another batch of so-called experts a glass of what they were told was cheap table wine and a second glass of allegedly Grand Cru Bordeaux. They were, in fact, the same mid-level wine, though that didn’t stop the critics from describing the “cheap” wine as “simple,” “unbalanced” and “flat” and the “grand cru” wine as “fresh,” “complex” and “flavorsome.”
If the experts don’t know what they’re talking about, how can they be of any help to consumers? Well, according to the poll, they could start by dropping the pomposity and grandiose language and start using words with real meaning that consumers can understand, like “fresh” and “peachy.”
Or maybe it’s already too late. After all, only nine percent of poll respondents said they consulted a wine critic before buying a bottle.