Friday, March 23, 2007

Love that wine, or do I?

I came across a reference to his site today: in off licence news (no website! tsk, tsk).

To be entirely honest with you I had seen them before at the BBC Good Food Show (in fact an ex-colleague works there) but had failed to take in the concept before.

I believe the idea is to have a reference site for all wines in UK retail, with reviews by 'real people'. Thus the site allows any consumer to register to add their tasting notes on any wine and thus to create a shared database of wine notes.

You can read the details of what they offer here, so I won't do their pitch for them, however the concept is one I have toyed with myself before.

"Wouldn't it be great if you could go to a site that told you what wines, from the vast number available in any particular UK supermarket, are actually any good."

The issue is 1) how you get the information and 2) how you get it to pay for itself? The second would probably sort itself out if you go the first right, so I have wondered about it.

Love That Wine has decided to aggregate the views of tens of thousands of consumers. Presumably with a broad enough base the scores would reflect a general consensus. The problems with this approach are:

* quite how many people do you need to post regularly to ensure the number of views on any particular wine are actually representative? LOTS!
* that consumers are likely to post only on wines that generated strong feelings (positive or negative) so results will be skewed
* that consumers may not 'understand' a particular wine and put off that small niche of drinkers who might actually like the wine (e.g. old style white Rioja or anything German)
* they make regular references to "unbiased opinions" and "like-minded wine shoppers", but how true is that really?

This is the usual debate about tasting notes, points, reviews, etc. that all such sites contend with. Apparently they have a registered database of 50,000 consumers so maybe their reach can become broad enough, but it will take a lot more than that I suspect.

The alternative is a site such as Quaffers Offers. The design is awful, but the notes are useful as they are always by the same person/people and thus you can achieve some level of consistency.

Despite the reliance in both cases on "offers", the fact that these are linked to tasting notes and reviews means that the value of the wine (quality relative to price) is also addressed.

My ideal solution would be to take the Love That Wine model and combine it with the Quaffers one, to get a headline "expert" view on each wine that would be supported, or not, by the members. Something akin to's book reviews, with both the main review and the customer comments.

Of course it would be difficult for one expert to manage to taste all these wines alone, so you'd have to put together a team of 'experts' with some commonality of taste to review the wines. Now, where might such a group of people be found, I wonder?


Andrew said...

Not too sure of the independence of Love That Wine. As OLN says one of the owners is a wine distribution company and they expect suppliers to pay to pormote/list their wines.

Of more interest to me is Bottletalk - have you seen it? Very web2.0 and with some interesting developments in the pipe-line.

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Andrew. I hadn't seen it, but a quick glance through it tells me that it suffers from the same problem as many other similar sites. By trying to appeal to drinkers all over the world, it becomes less useful for the "average" drinker who is trying to get into wine in any one country.

Sites like these are great for well known, widely distributed wines or even smaller wines that could be sourced wherever you are.

If you are a 20-something UK resident who rarel buys wine and certainly not outside of the local Tesco, how useful is such a site? I would say "not at all". But these are the people sites ought to be able to reach out to.

Love That Wine and Quaffers are at least targeting the kind of person that we need to involve in wine in the UK if we are to have broad enough interest in wine for a real wine culture to exist, that is why I thought they were interesting.

Of course, as someone who already likes wine and knows a little about it, bottletalk et al. are more interesting to me as I might come across new wines, regions or styles I would like to try, but that makes me part of a rather small market niche where the competition for my attention is already very high.

Worth keeping an eye on though.

As for "independence", there isn't such a commercial animal really. I don't mind producers paying to add links and extra information so long as the reviews themselves are independent.

Anonymous said...

You will be delighted to know that Off Licence News now has a website. I should know, because I'm the editor. All are welcome at

Robert McIntosh said...

thanks Graham. I had spotted the news in OLN about the new site but not had a chance to mention it

hope the roll out goes well!