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The Washington Post had a recent article on the mislabeling of wine ratings at the retail level, the article can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...AR2007122200399.html

Note – you probably have to register to read it, since it’s my local paper, I’m registered. The gist of the article is that in a recent informal survey at 10 local wine stores, 25% of the wines were rated incorrectly. Most of these were blamed on distributors who put up labels and retailers keeping ratings from a previous year’s vintage on a current year. I have a friend who has worked on both the distribution and retail side of the beverage market, some stores rely totally on the distributor’s rep for this sort of thing, others retailers manage their own database to track ratings.

Another interesting thing mentioned was Wine Spectator’s new wireless offering that will allow a consumer to search their database while in a retail store. I’m sure that will cost the retailer something, as it should.

A major retailer in the DC area was quoted as saying that two out of three consumers make a purchase based on shelf talkers (the blub that talks about the basic characteristics of the wine, how it pairs with food and in some cases, it’s rating). It’s scary – knowing how distributors push their sales people to push certain wines based on deals they’ve made with producers and how promotions come into play. Just like anything – the consumer needs to be informed – unfortunately most consumers rely on what information provided from non-objective sources at the retail level.
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I use those blurbs to decide what wine to buy. I expect them to be honest and truthful. If I am buying a wine described as having hints of citrus, then I would expect some citrus flavor and not something that tastes like magic marker crossed with raisins. If there is no blurb, then I look at the back of the bottle.

One of the reasons I don't drink much wine is because I've been tricked into buying crap by believing what is written on the back of the bottle. After a dozen $15 mistakes it becomes a pain to buy wine.

The blurbs are a better source of information. I had no idea this was marketing, I thought this was a service by the store to help customers.

What would help me more is if there was a marking on the bottle to indicate a first press. I sometimes wonder if I am buying water mixed with grape skins and stems. They should make second and third pressings illegal.
As I am local, have shopped in several of the places mentioned in the article, which is a little surreal.

For dedicated wine shops, the establishment would do well to use their own specific talkers in their own formats that clearly list the vintage (which is the most common mistake and is often a deliberate mistake IMHO). A very large chain that I will not mention does not have consistent talkers and rarely lists the vintage year on them in an easy to see manner.

For delis and grocery stores, where they offer a decent selection of wines but no dedicated wine staff, they have and will continue to reliy on distributors to post talkers and this problem will persist.
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
If you're going to rely on "talkers" to guide you in your wine purchases, go to where the talkers are wearing shoes and have been there for a few years. Talk to them. Adjust accordingly with time and experience.


Much easier said than done. In our area (for example), short of driving downtown, how many places have biological talkers that:

1. Know what they are talking about (and are not snobbish jerks for bonus points).
2. Work there long enough for the buyer to establish a relationship with them.

Sure, there are a couple of places but they are often not terribly convenient if someone just wants a bottle of cabernet for dinner.
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
If you're going to rely on "talkers" to guide you in your wine purchases, go to where the talkers are wearing shoes and have been there for a few years. Talk to them. Adjust accordingly with time and experience.

Forget the rest.

PH

PH,

I'm from the 'burbs as well (Maryland) - what shops do you favor? I live near the border - I often find myself going to Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits (especially for a craft beer) or Circle Liquors - these two stores seem to have knowledgeable and friendly staff. If I know what I'm looking for, I'll swing by Corridor in Laurel, I work somewhat near there and they have a huge selection, but help is spotty.

Bob
quote:
Originally posted by jfoobar:
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
If you're going to rely on "talkers" to guide you in your wine purchases, go to where the talkers are wearing shoes and have been there for a few years. Talk to them. Adjust accordingly with time and experience.


Much easier said than done. In our area (for example), short of driving downtown, how many places have biological talkers that:

1. Know what they are talking about (and are not snobbish jerks for bonus points).
2. Work there long enough for the buyer to establish a relationship with them.

Sure, there are a couple of places but they are often not terribly convenient if someone just wants a bottle of cabernet for dinner.


I very rarely buy wine at retail in Maryland. Not only are the prices in Montgomery County (my home) prohibitive but the selection is abysmal.

I either buy in DC or online.

PH
quote:
Originally posted by love-to-bike:
I'm from the 'burbs as well (Maryland) - what shops do you favor? I live near the border


Hey, Bob......

Circle is OK. If you can, do some pricing homework before you visit there. Their prices can be a little out of whack. Use winesearcher.com to get an idea of what a fair price is for the wine and then seek out Park, the owner. He'll adjust pricing if asked nicely.

I prefer MacArthur Liquors, Calvert Woodley and Schneider's in that order. All have their strengths and weaknesses, but I believe they are the 3 big hitters in town.

PH
Let's face it. Gone are the days when most retailers assembled an interesting portfolio of wines based on their own palates and the anticipated tastes of the consumers in a given marketplace. Now, in an average shop, you need a good score (or a snob appeal label) to be on the shelf, at least if you are in the upper pricing zones. Retailers do seem to try to find intersting wines and QPR winners on the lower end, since high scores are not expected in this price point by the public. The whole movement is sad and drives the market towards homogenization since the same 2 or 3 critics determine the scores and therefore the marketplace for an entire nation's supply of wine. If you make an oakey, mellow Rioja, but the critics from WA and WS prefer fresh fruit laden Rioja, good luck selling it in the USA.

The one saving grace is the internet, where you can find whatever you want. I do admire the shops that sell a lot of wines with mediocre scores (as well as the high flyers) and are willing to tell consumers "I think "Critic X" missed the mark on this one, and that's why we sell it.
quote:
Originally posted by Wine Joe:
The whole movement is sad and drives the market towards homogenization since the same 2 or 3 critics determine the scores and therefore the marketplace for an entire nation's supply of wine.


WJ,

And who is to blame for that situation? The consumers themselves, because they are the ones that invest those critics with their power.
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:

I either buy in DC or online.



I assume that you have your online purchases shipped to an alternate (non-Maryland) address?

Your dismissal of Maryland retailers (and I don't disagree for the most part, although a couple in Baltimore are pretty good) drives home my point. Driving to MacArthur when you live in Gaithersburg or Burtonsville or wherever just for a bottle of cap with dinner is not a reasonable option of 99% of wine consumers. That leaves local retailers and talkers for the most part. It's fairly unavoidable.

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