Q & A on Tastings

We received the following questions and wanted to share our answers.

  1. Why is there a need to have wineries pay for wine reviews? What was the reason for the change?

Wineries do not have to pay for wine reviews. Unsolicited samples can still be sent to our office the same way unsolicited samples are sent to any other wine reviewer. As with any other wine reviewer, there is no guarantee when, or even if, the wine will be reviewed.

We get hundreds of wines sent to our office for review each month – it’s difficult to keep up. What we are doing differently is that we now have a service that will prioritize those wines that are submitted through our tasting service. By using our tasting service, a winey or agency can send one bottle, pay one delivery fee and get reviews from multiple wine writers in a timely manner.

Early this year the LCBO drastically reduced the frequency and quantity of wines made available for VINTAGES tastings. According to the LCBO, one of the key reasons for this reduction was “fiscal responsibility” (i.e. to save money). So, the cost of this program was pushed back onto Ontario wine agents. WineAlign was approached by multiple wine agencies and asked to set up a program to help get wines reviewed that were not available at the VINTAGES media sessions. In order to do so we essentially have to replicate all of the expenses that VINTAGES is offloading (an office to taste, receiving and organizing wines, cleaning up, etc.). In addition, our wine writers have to commit to a separate day to come into the office to review wines and expect to be compensated for that. 

After devising this program, we contacted several wineries for their thoughts and feedback. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We decided to make it a service available to everyone. We really envision this as a service to help with portfolio tastings.

  • Some say that wineries paying for reviews on a wine review website (or in any media) is a conflict of interest or pay to play at best.

WineAlign is a business and employs some of the most experienced wine reviewers in Canada, and the world. Wineries look to our reviews as credible and important, especially in the Canadian market. So do our readers. Our reviewers are professionals, and professionals are paid for their expertise. To prioritize the huge number of wines we are asked to review, and to cover the administrative costs of reviewing these wines (we did 60 wines Oct 30th alone) we expect a sharing of expenses. We have instituted an administrative fee so that our reviewers and staff can make a living based on the time and talent they bring to the task. Our perspective on what makes a wine great, or great value, is not the least affected by this compensation.

  • The added bonus of wineries who pay reviews being able to delete reviews they don’t like is concerning on many levels. Won’t wineries be able to manipulate a higher score if they eliminate two low scores and keep two high scores?

It’s important to state that wine publications don’t publish poorly scored wine in the first place. However, wineries paying for this new service need to see all the wines reviewed, both the good and not so good. Due to the volume of wines being added it’s almost impossible, from an administrative perspective, to pre-check with each winery on every wine before publishing. The solution to this problem is to un-publish all reviews for a wine on demand.   

But to be ultra-clear, deletion is all or nothing. We will delete ALL of the reviews associated with a wine upon request, not just the less favourable/lower scoring reviews. There is no cherry picking.

Our policy on deleting a single review is long-standing and will stay in place. If an agency or winery finds our review poorly written (no one is perfect) or suspects a faulty bottle, we will remove the review temporarily, provided another sample is sent promptly. We will review the wine again and the new review will stand.

  • Are you concerned that this will further erode the trustworthiness concerns many consumers already have over wine reviews?

Absolutely not. That is the last thing we would want to do. Our objectivity and trustworthiness are at the root of our business. We consider ourselves a beacon of rational wine scoring in a world of run-away score inflation. We’ve been very consistent in our articles (see below) where we have been critical of the LCBO using ridiculous high scores to help sell wines. In fact, one of the reasons for this service is to help offset the loss of advertising revenue due to the objectivity of our wine reviews. It’s a sobering moment when the marketing manager of a major national brand says: “Less than 90pts hurts our brand so we can’t do business with you.”



Return to details of our new Tastings service.