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Wine Publications: Scoring the Critics
Wine Enthusiast

Wine may be the most reviewed product on earth. The importance of reviews to the sale of wine could only be compared to the importance of reviews to the Broadway stage or the Manhattan restaurant business.

Inspired by Lettie Teague's piece in the Wall Street Journal called "Do the Right Wines Win" I decided that my nineteen years of experience working with these publications and websites, not to mention constantly matching our impressions of wines to their scores and reviews, puts me in a pretty good position to create my own guide to the wine review websites and publications.

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Enthusiast, founded by Adam Strum in 1988, is a lifestyle magazine covering wine, food and travel that skews its target audience decidedly younger than Wine Spectator. The magazine reaches over 800,000 readers and contains an extensive buying guide where they review up to 1,000 wines a month using an 80 to 100 point scale and specific editor/tasters for each major wine region.

Their website, contains an archive of over 150,000 wine reviews along with a host of articles from previous issues.

This is a publication that works hard to look hip, with lots of colorful, short, full-page and half-page lifestyle articles that are designed to appeal to a younger audience. They also devote a significant amount of space to craft beer and spirits. Trust me, you would never see an article titled "Six Top Family-Friendly Wineries, tasting with tots has never been easier" in Wine Spectator. Generally, I find Wine Enthusiast less stuffy and an easier read than Wine Spectator, but lacking a little in the "in-depth" article department.

How We Use Wine Enthusiast

I think Wine Enthusiast reviews are generally very reliable, in spite of the fact they tend to be a little more enthusiastic when it comes to awarding points. What really works for us with Wine Enthusiast is that they are much more egalitarian in their choices of wines to review. James Laube, Wine Spectator's California editor, will routinely review 20 Cabernets for an online feature without tasting anything that sells for less than $75.

Wine Enthusiast spends its time finding the values, especially in California and Washington, reviewing all those $15 to $25 wines that other publications snub. There are plenty of great wines out there that sell for less than $20 and Wine Enthusiast is one of the best tools for finding them.

That doesn't mean that they don't review the higher-end wines, they may score a $100 bottle of Nickel & Nickel Cabernet a 93 when Spectator gave it a 92, but overall they do a very good job.