Good wine review sites? Know of any?
March 24, 2008 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm relatively new to wine and would like to know more about it. Which labels/names are best, what goes with what, etc. So, what are some good wine review sites and blogs for the average Joe? I've Googled for such things, but I don't know which ones are worth their salt.
posted by katillathehun to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't watch Wine Library TV, you should. The host explains many of the ideas and issues of wines in easy to understand ways. Plus, it's teh funny.
posted by Argyle at 11:00 AM on March 24, 2008

Vinography and Dr Vino are great. Corkd is good, though it helps if you can tell your Merlot from your Meursault.

There's tons of stuff out there, though you might want to start with HowStuffWorks' basic introduction. 'Which labels' is the wrong question, because it takes you off into the world of wine snobbery and chateau-hunting. Work incrementally: start with what you know, find more in the same style or same region (and in your price range) and trust your palate. For pairings, you can't go far wrong with regionally-minded choices (pasta/meatballs = beefy Italian red, etc.) and that gives you a foundation to work with.

(Your local wine shop will have tastings and advice. The web has yet to touch people's taste buds.)
posted by holgate at 11:10 AM on March 24, 2008

It's not a blog per se, but I enjoy the Tastings column in the WSJ. Dottie and John, the authors, are really engaging. I've learned a lot from reading their columns and they don't talk down to their readers.

Seconding Dr. Vino, too.
posted by pointystick at 11:25 AM on March 24, 2008

I like the 30 Second Wine Advisor.
posted by maurice at 12:05 PM on March 24, 2008

You'll likely find these previous related AskMe threads to be of interest: 1, 2.
posted by ericb at 12:16 PM on March 24, 2008

On personal principle, part of me is loath to recommend her (because outside of the wine writing she's an affected twit), but Natalie Mclean has great media (newsletter, site, books), which offer approachable, informative doses that even a wine newbie can benefit from. Her wine writing manages to be simultaneously entertaining and helpful.
posted by pineapple at 12:34 PM on March 24, 2008

I'd suggest going to a local wine shop and asking a staff member for recommendations. Internet searching is helpful, but speaking to someone will get you more personalized suggestions.
posted by emd3737 at 1:00 PM on March 24, 2008

In addition to media, attend tastings... look around for local restaurants that do wine tasting dinners.... I always feel I get more information and knowledge out of a "tasting" than a "reading"....
posted by HuronBob at 1:04 PM on March 24, 2008

Start by getting a good book on the subject. I would recommend Introducing Wine by Oz Clark or Thirsty Work: Live Wine Drink Better by Matt Skinner. Have a good read and learn how wine is made, where it is made and the grapes it is made from, then set out on a lifetime of discovery!

You can start off by exploring wines by country and by grape. The first wines I got to grips with were Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I went out to my local wine store, found the New Zealand section and started buying and drinking the NZ Sav blancs. I did the same with Chile and Pinots. Then I tried Sav Blancs and Pinots from other countries and while reading started to understand more about the grapes, processes, differences etc each country applied to the same grape and how it affected the taste, price etc. I then tried other wines from each of these countries, particularly the wines the countries are most famous for eg I had months of drinking nothing but Tempranillos and Riojas from Spain, Chinati's and other Sangiovese's from Italy, Chardonnays from Australia, Rieslings from Germany and so on. Pretty soon you get a good general overview of the world of wine and the types you like and the country you like it from. If, for example you love Sav Blancs from New Zealand you can explore this even more and get your preference down to specific areas like Marlborough and explore the producers from this area more still.

I then went on to learn about French wine which is a fairly daunting prospect but again I picked a region and with the help of basic books I started drinking and learning about Bordeauxs, how they are made, what areas use which grapes, how they are classified, what they taste like and why before moving on to other regions and joys of terroir, gradually broadening my knowledge each time.

It's a fascinating "hobby" and it's best done by simply reading and drinking. You'll quickly discover the wines you love and those you hate and when you find one you love, with a bit of research and exploration you will find others that you will love even more and love enough to go out and buy cases of the stuff because you never want to not have it around to drink.

Do not fear the wine! It's a subject shrouded in pomp, snobbery and ritual but really it's very simple and easy to go from a complete novice to someone who can tackle a posh restaurant wine list with aplomb.

I would say that the following rules wold be worth playing by however:

1. Buy the best you can afford. I usually spend £10-20 ($20-40?) for a bottle of wine on average but often more. It's worth it.

2. Find a good wine store and speak to the staff for recommendations.

3. Learn about wine and food. Their enjoyment goes hand in hand.

4. Explore, read, explore, read, explore, explore, explore!

5. Your taste is your taste. If you love it that's good enough.

You should start your wine journey on your own door step! California produces some brilliant wines! Here are some recommendations for good vineyards in CA, most with mail order:


SANTA BARBERA (The home of Pinot Noir and the location of the film Sideways)
Fess Parker
Hitching Post
Au Bon Climat


Bonny Doon


Domaine (Sparkling)
Schramsberg (More sparkling!)


Well, there are many, many many...

Most of all just get out there, get stuck in and enjoy drinking the stuff!
posted by brautigan at 1:08 PM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding the "Tastings" column in the WSJ. Their book, Love by the Glass is also worth reading.

Per your profile, you're in the LA area. Sign up for the Wine House mailing list. They have good catalogs that talk about how their wines taste and what to serve with them. They also have a lot of tasting events and classes.
posted by mogget at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2008

How To Order Wine Without Sounding Like An Asshole. I'm lucky enough to be friends with many people who are fairly knowledgeable about wine, so when I eat out with them I leave the ordering up to them. On occasions when I'm with another novice, I try to refer to this guide. It's not so much about particular wines, but gives a good rundown of what the point of looking at the label and the cork, and swishing the wine, is.
posted by autojack at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2008

(Apologies, just realised you'd asked specifically for wine review blogs and sites and not how a newbie can find out more about wine. Me bad.)

You might like Wine Geeks and would probably get a lot out of Robert Parker's site.
posted by brautigan at 3:34 PM on March 24, 2008

There are some really good suggestions above, but not many online resources. This might be because many of these are pay to use. I'm thinking of James Halliday's site or that of Jancis Robinson. These both have some free content, but that's really just to lure you into the pay section. I'm a big fan of Jamie Goode's Wine Anorak and his companion blog. "Anorak" is British for "geek" or "nerd" or somesuch (being derived from the stereotypical attire of trainspotters) but that's just very British self-deprication; the stuff there is useful for all levels of knowledge. Goode started out with just the web site and is now a published author. The site is a great resource.

The CIA (no; it's the Culinary Institute of America) provides a "tuition free" online course, but I haven't checked it out yet. There really ought to be a lot more out there, but the industry seems to be loathe to give out anything for "free". Good luck.
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:45 PM on March 24, 2008

Since I'm poor, I like Good Wine Under $20
posted by craven_morhead at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2008

I like The Frugal Oenophile. He recommends wines that are $12 or under and are readily available, and tells you what type of food goes well with them. IMHO, it makes sense to go with the cheap stuff when you start because your taste buds won't be able to make fine distinctions at first anyway. He also has a book, podcast and newsletter.
posted by catburger at 6:51 PM on March 24, 2008

I'll second Wine Library TV. Gary is great! If you need to look for a wine, and have tried to Google it without good results, you know you should have used Able Grape instead :-)
posted by KimG at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2008

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