The Grapevine

Do Wine Recommendations Matter?

December 27th, 2016

In an age of “user-generated content” and computer algorithms, does offering advice to your wine shop customers even make sense any more? [level-members]

In a word, yes. In two words, absolutely yes!

Even though you can read about the greater consistency that is the wisdom of the crowd, that macro-view really only counts in the abstract. It’s great that the scores correlate nicely to big-name critics, but because they come from a crowd, they offer no chance for a relationship.

Why does a relationship matter? Because nobody buys every bottle of wine. We buy individual bottles, and we frequently do so based on the recommendations of a more experienced reviewer. The key, though, is in understanding where you and your favorite reviewer(s) align in taste and where you differ. This is true for movies, books, wine, and just about anything else with a subjective measure of quality.

You can provide these relationship-based reviews if you offer them consistently and make your preferences clear. You don’t have to apologize for your tastes. You just have to make them clear so that folks who love heavily extracted wines will know that, say, they’re likely to love a wine that you feel so-so about because of your own tastes.

Algorithms pose a different problem, though not a consistently different problem. Computers can’t think. They can only apply rules that have been devised by the coders who program them. Those rules might be quite individualized or might rely on the wisdom of the crowd but it’s still not going to have the consistency of a trusted individual reviewer.

Be that trusted individual reviewer! [/level-members]