January 20th, 2010 – Check those ratings carefully!

When I went wine shopping on the weekend, I noticed some “markdowns”…including the 2006 Cape Jaffa Shiraz (marked down from $26 to $18).  So I bought it and opened it tonight…it was okay, pretty standard jammy blackberries, a little bit lean for an Aussie Shiraz, but at $18 it was okay (but not at $26).

But the interesting thing about this wine was the “shelf talker” that said it was rated “92 – 93 points by Robert Parker at  the Wine Advocate”.  Now, that’s my wine expert, so I thought — when I first saw it – that even at $26, that’s a great deal if it was built to last. So I looked it up on my on-line Wine Advocate and….couldn’t find it! The review never happened.

So that is the topic of this column.  Whether it is done on purpose — or simply a changeover in vintages (i.e. rating was for a previous vintage, not for the current one) be careful out there!  It is always a bit dangerous to buy just based on a review, but if you are going to do it — whether you have a good history with the reviewer or want to take a chance based on price — it is a good idea to check it out first.  Most of the government wine stores carry the Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, so you can ask to see it to confirm. Alternatively, if you have a subscription to one of these publication, you can get the “on-line” version and access via your blackberry or smart phone (that’s what I do; just enable Java to do it).

Wine is expensive enough as it is; make sure you double check that the review you are reading is actually for the wine you are buying before you buy it!



2 Responses to “January 20th, 2010 – Check those ratings carefully!”

  1. John Hendry Says:

    Wow! Great tip Stephen. I had always assumed that the ‘shelf talkers’ could be trusted.

    At my favourite store (Everything Wine, Marine Drive, North Van), the knowledgeable staff produce their own ‘shelf talkers’ to add to the WS and WA tags. There’s no overlap between wines rated by Parker, say, and the enthusiastic staff so you end up getting a pretty good selection of recommended wines to choose from. And, just like you and me, the staff are pretty budget-conscious, so I’ve found that their recommendations often offer better value than some of the ‘pros’.

    • sbwineblog Says:

      Good points, John! Only thing I would add is one regarding experience with young wines that age…if you find someone who has been doing it for a while and whose tastes are link yours, that can “trump” some of the keen — but relatively inexperienced — local reviewers. But regardless. talking to someone who has tasted the wine is very valuable!


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