Should wine magazines review wines by style instead of regions?


When I was half way through a blind tasting of 42 wines from Rioja, a thought struck me: why do magazines still organize their correspondents along regional lines? Some of the Rioja wines I was tasting had regional character and they, obviously, could be evaluated alongside some of the other wines from the region.

But some of the wines were so extracted, bathed in lavish oak, and made in a new world style and clearly seeking Parker points and high prices. These wines, it seems to me, should be evaluated against other such wines. Araujo versus Aro if you will.

In fact, we could carry the logic even further and change labels to state what really matters for these wines. See above.

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6 Responses to “Should wine magazines review wines by style instead of regions?”

  1. Dr. V, I wholeheartedly agree with your logical conclusion that wine style should be indicated on the bottle!

    Whether a wine magazine wants to sort their reviews by style or region is up to the editors, though it would surely be easier to find what I might want to buy if I could just look for the styles I enjoy.

    But it seems the height of paternalistic arrogance on the part of the wine industry to force Jane Winelover into extensive product research, not to mention cross-referencing for vintage and winepoints, just so she can be confident that she’ll like what’s inside that bottle. No wonder so few Americans drink wine!

  2. It might not be a bad idea for reviewers to taste by style instead of region, but there are practical difficulties. Who would determine the style? The producer? I don’t think so. Then, the producer’s cost of shipping would go up enormously [assuming that most reviewers taste wines that are sent to them]. I can’t see an Australian producer sending wine to, say, a critic in Italy, instead of a local writer. So, for better or worse, regional reviewing is probably with us for a while.

  3. Improbable label! No way Parker would lavish 96 points upon a weakling of a wine at only 15.3%. Mollydooker’s Two Left Feet, extracted to merely 15.5%, rang in at only 94 Points.

  4. As the wine universe continues to expand, the shift toward thinking about wine by style is necessary to avoid overload. Reviewers may never give up on their geographical reference points, but they are foolish if they don’t couch their actual reviews in stylistic terms. Simple words like light, heavy, oaky, concentrated, tannic are by far the most important terms when it comes to real people looking for wines that suit their tastes. And if regional character is part of a wine’s identity, that too needs to be made crystal clear. The current model of tasting notes that read like fruit/vegetable shopping lists are totally outdated.

  5. This doesn’t seem like the important question of the day, if for no other reason in that there’s so many wines in the middle. But, perhaps when they list/organize their report, they COULD group them by style. But that, would be like, oh, progress, change, and wine reviewing doesn’t seem to have THAT in store.

    Points for Wine Reviews/ratings: 89. (Only vertical tastings get over 90pts with me).

  6. Tish makes a very good point about style being much more important than flavor elements in describing wines. Similarly, describing a painting by only mentioning its colors would be an absurd art in itself.

    Still, as Steve H. mentions, organizing reviews by style is difficult in practice. Best Cellars does a good job of organizing wines they sell by style but they have a small selection. There’s a local shop here in London – Snugs (formerly Ex Cellars) – that also organizes by style but with a much larger selection which has the unintended consequence of making things more confusing. For instance the Cru Beaujolais are split with Fleurie in light reds and Moulin-a-Vent in the big reds. I “get it” but not really. Sometimes they have the same wine in two different categories which highlights the difficulty in the method that Jack points out. Many wines will fall between categories. Not my idea of clarity.

    In a perfect world, there would be a hybrid system of organization by style and region that would actually be helpful. We should probably get the world’s greatest minds on this urgent problem pronto. OK, I’ll stop now.


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