typing

Dear Reader,

Whether or not you’ve been following the recent debate on quoting third-party wine reviews, you deserve to hear my thoughts on it in the interest of balance and fairness.

To summarize, I’ve always been open and consistent in my manner of attribution, but I realize that it should change and I am doing that now, and my reviews are not influenced by whether or not wineries subscribe to my site.

When I was approached by a fellow writer about how I quote other writers’ wine reviews, I didn’t realize that there was an issue since I had been openly quoting reviews for years, in addition to publishing my own reviews.

I believed then (and still do) that another criticism or evaluation of the wine provided a helpful comparison for my readers, especially since I thought that the manner in which I was attributing the reviews was appropriate, given that I assumed they were already in the public domain on other wine review sites and liquor store sites.

As well, my own reviews have been quoted on other wine sites and no one has ever contacted me to ask permission. I believed that it was also fair to quote my reviews. I still do.

With this view, I didn’t immediately revise the way I attributed the reviews and decided to do some research, to confirm if my understanding of attribution was correct. Part of that research included seeking legal advice. I then confirmed with the writer who had contacted me that I would do as he had requested, putting names, publications and web site addresses after each review that had been quoted, rather than relying on initials that were explained in the directory key on my site.

On Wednesday, December 12, I e-mailed those whom the writer had copied on his inquiry, confirming that I would be making these changes, starting with the most recent reviews and working backwards. I confirmed this again to the same group on the morning of Saturday, December 15 to assure them I was taking their suggestion seriously and working my way through the reviews.

However, close to midnight on Saturday, December 15, without having contacted me for their story, a U.S. wine blog posted their views on the way I had been quoting reviews previously. I was the first to respond to the blog, confirming that I was in the process of changing the way I formatted the attributions, as requested. I posted a second response on Monday, December 17, reiterating the change and offering to speak with the editor.

I feel awful that some writers think that I would try to make their reviews look like my own. I’ve also heard from more than forty writers around the world who have expressed their support and confirmed that they’re fine with the way in which I quote their wine reviews, especially with the revised format, as they believe that it helps raise their profile with a new audience since I am only selectively and occasionally quoting them, not reproducing all their reviews.

As for subscribing to my site, I can confirm that more than 90% of the wines I review, I taste at the local liquor store during monthly tastings held for media. I upload the information myself on my site. No wineries or wine agents are involved in this nor do they have to be a member of my site.

About 10% of my reviews result from tasting samples sent to me by wineries or agents. When I receive samples this way, I ask the winery or agent to submit the basic facts about the wine, such as region, appellation designation, vintage, product codes for the ten liquor store chains across the country, UPC codes, prices, bottle picture, label shot, alcohol level, sugar code, agency contact, bottle size, etc. to my site.

I do this because after many years of going back and forth multiple times to get about 15+ pieces of information on each wine that wineries sent, and realizing that I could never keep up with doing that and write the columns that actually paid the bills, I asked wineries to submit these facts.

If I like the wine and decide to post a review, I will verify that the information they’ve submitted is correct and current, then add my score, tasting note and food matches. Wineries cannot post the score, tasting notes or food match information themselves, nor do they have any influence over what I post.

This is similar to how wine competitions work. Entering a competition doesn’t mean you’ll win or even get a medal; only that your wine will be tasted. The winning wines also are reviewed in the magazines. However, I never promise to publish a review of the wine just because a winery has submitted information on it, nor do I in any way indicate whether the review will be positive or negative.

Further, there are wineries that do not have a subscription, send samples and I review them. Conversely, there are also wineries with a subscription to the site, that have sent samples and I have not reviewed them.

The subscription is an administrative fee of $2 a month that doesn’t cover my costs in running the web site, including staff such as a web developer, graphics designer, two app developers, and others, since I am not paid a full-time salary by any publication. Everyone who joins my site gets two free months of access to the subscription section to try it out before they decide if they want to commit to paying $2 a month.

I’ve learned a lot about these issues over the past week. It’s not so much the debate about them that has been painful, but rather the personal attack on my character that has gone beyond the issue.

I’d like to thank all my readers, as well as my fellow writers, bloggers, editors and partners who have expressed strong and unwavering support over the past few days. I appreciate your understanding and your loyalty. You’re welcome to post any comments or questions you have here.

My goal has always been to introduce you to wines that are delicious and affordable, and to make the topic of wine accessible and fun. I hope you enjoy some great wines this holiday with friends and family.

Warm regards,
Natalie