Random Musings

Crowdsourcing Wine Reviews – Trust Your Palate

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I’ve seen a number of recent debates on whether or not fine wine reviews can be effectively crowdsourced. Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator contends that sites like CellarTracker, which crowdsource tasting notes, are not a good measure of the quality of a particular wine. Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude and Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle take the other side of the argument.

I truly believe that tasting notes on sites like CellarTracker provide valuable insight into the quality of any particular wine. However, with a couple of recent wines I’ve noticed what appears to be a groupthink mentality on the site.

In the first instance, CellarTracker notes for the ’02 Roumier Chambolle Musigny appeared to indicate that the wine might be aging prematurely and was ready to drink. My impression is that someone posted a note to that effect, and future notes echoed the opinion. Alarmed, as I have many bottles of this particular wine, I opened a bottle and found it to be stunning. I think the wine will age gracefully for at least another five years.

The second scenario involeved ’05 Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel. Recent tasting notes on Cellartracker seemed to indicate that the alcohol on the wine had somehow outlasted the fruit, and the wine would have been better many years ago. But I found the wine to be a great example of Napa Valley Zinfandel, with many good years ahead of it.

My takeaway? I’ve found two instances where negative tasting notes on Cellartracker appear to have fed off of each other. This tells me that wine consumers like me should use Cellartracker as a guideline, but ultimately we need to rely most heavily on our own palates.

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5 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Wine Reviews – Trust Your Palate

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your takeaway. Everyone palate is so different an overall generalization shouldn’t be made. The “Favorites/Fans” option within CellarTracker is a great way to identify others who may have similar tastes. I often scroll down a wine’s reviews looking for that little star next to a CT user’s handle whom I’ve identified as a Favorite/Fan. I’ll give more credibility to a wine if one of these users provided a review.

    Nice post Tom.

    -Trent Flecher

  2. This is an interesting topic. It’s almost like group tasting. Your bandwidth widens when you taste in a group but I also think you are influenced a bit by the other tasters impressions. I think it’s very similar on a site like CT. I agree with Trent above, that the friend feature is a great way to follow peoples palates that you are familiar with. What was Kramer’s opinion on the debate?

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