Some wine experts lament the alleged death of quality online wine journalism. Yet critics like Jancis Robinson embrace this modern change, saying that social media is transforming the way we think about wine for the better. In a recent interview, Robinson said, “There was a time when someone like me could hand down opinions from on high and never be challenged. Nowadays people can comment and engage, and call my opinion rubbish. We are held accountable. I think it’s healthier.”1 Today’s collectors have more wine research options than ever before as online forums emerge for fellow wine collectors. In 2015, it’s not enough anymore to simply read a wine magazine or a Robert Parker rating; as online wine ratings become more important for young drinkers, collectors will need to know how to navigate online wine community forums.
Using a Wine Forum to Predict Markets
The best use of social media for serious collectors is as a way to find out what wine vintages Millennial wine drinkers are buying. A study found that only 17 percent of Millennial wine drinkers look to professional wine columnists and sommeliers for information about what wine to buy. Similarly, only 22 percent of this generation purchased print wine magazines for information. The vast majority of the youngest wine generation are turning to online resources for research, either looking directly at an estate’s website, or reading peer reviews of wine on an amateur wine forum.
Seasoned collectors can learn from the youngest generation of wine drinkers by signing up for and monitoring the top wine forums to find out which wines people are talking about most frequently. As we have seen in the past with California’s cult wine movement, it’s important for collectors to have a finger on the pulse of modern wine trends, not just established estates already known for their quality. The best use of resources for collectors is a combination of wine tasting notes from print magazines or expert ratings and keeping a close watch on amateur forums for trends.
Some collectors may worry about the quality of information on forums, but most of the time, amateur ratings closely match those of experts. For example, on Vinfolio’s community wine forum, Kosta Browne’s 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir received an average rating of about 92 from experts, with community forum members giving it overall similar ratings (between 91 and 95 points). Similarly, the 2013 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon received a score of 90 from both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, while community forum members rated it as an 89, on average. When Robert Parker tasted the 2005 Mancuso Vino de la Tierra, he gave the wine a 96, saying it still needed time to develop. Forum members agreed, rating it with an average of 95, and saying the tannins were still too tight. Even older vintages, like the 1995 Angelus, receive multiple reviews from collectors on the forum, giving this vintage an average score of 94. Tasters found that the wine had improved slightly with cellaring, compared which was consistent with the initial score of 92 that the vintage received from Wine Spectator.
It seems clear that most forum users who are not trained wine critics can still judge the quality of a wine with some accuracy. And regardless of the wine’s actual quality, vintages that are consistently given high ratings among forum members are the most likely to increase in market value, since more users have tried, and would buy more of, those vintages.
Where to Find the Best Sources of Information Online
Forums are useful, but collectors should still take what they read online with a grain of salt. Sources and reputations cannot always be verified on forums, so it is essential for collectors to choose the best wine forums for their research. Community forums like Vinfolio’s primarily cater to users who have bought high-quality wines from the website, or who store their collections on Vincellar, indicating a level of experience and commitment to drinking and collecting wine. Forums that are attached to an online marketplace may also allow collectors to see what wines forum members have in their collections, which gives a better sense of the kind of wine the user typically drinks.
In the end, the open-ended quality of online forums leads to more diverse wine collections that don’t merely follow the suggestion of every major wine magazine. Trustworthy online community forums can be a way to discover the wines people are talking about right now, and maybe even some that might otherwise have flown under a collector’s radar. Of course, collectors should also research each wine they discover online through reputable market data aggregates, such as Liv-ex, to ensure that each bottle is worth including in their cellars.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.