Should You Publish a Negative Wine Review?
As a wine review blogger you may face a decision whether to publish a negative wine review or not.
While it almost seems obvious the answer should be Yes, there’s surprisingly a lot more to the decision than you might realize.
Many wine bloggers, including some of the best and most highly regarded won’t publish a negative review of a wine they tasted. Others will and I respect the decision of each.
So, in this article we’re going to take a look at several different factors and points that play into the decision. We’ll talk about the perspectives of the winemaker, the wine blogger, the consumer and more.
And finally, I’ll weigh in with my opinion based on my own experience with my wine review blog, Honest Wine Reviews.
The Winemaker’s Perspective
Now, to be transparent I’m certainly not a winemaker. However, I have talked with several of them and have spent time picking grapes, observing the creation process and have broken bread with a vineyard owner and their staff.
The biggest thing I learned is that the winemaking business is a tough business to be in. And, for the purposes of this discussion I’m talking about the smaller winemaker that farms the grapes and makes the wine. The bigger mass produced wine comes from wineries that have more technology and processes in place to control the variables.
The smaller winemaker has a lot to deal with. They grow their own grapes, they’re constantly on guard against endless variables (weather, wetness, dryness, temperature, grape eating animals, disease, soil, staff, equipment, etc.) and they go through all the post-harvest steps to produce the wine, all on their own.
Not to mention running their business, which is time-consuming in itself.
I seriously doubt many of them are rolling in dough as a result of their efforts.
They do it out of their love for making wine.
Now, let’s imaging you’re a winemaker and you and your staff have been busting your backs all season to make the best wine you can. You share it with a wine review blogger and he or she doesn’t like the wine. Even worse, the reviewer is a big influencer and now people are not buying your wine.
Your business suffers, your reputation suffers, all due to one person’s opinion.
Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?
The Wine Blogger’s Perspective
As a wine blogger, you also have a number of different variables to account for.
First and foremost you should be providing the best value you can for your readers.
But, you’re dealing with other things too.
For example, there’s the expense of purchasing wine for review. That can add up until you start receiving free samples.
As you start receiving samples you start to enjoy not having to pay for wine to review and having a good backlog of review wines. And as you become more well known, you start to receive higher end wines (read, more expensive).
So, one day one of your contacts sends you a bottle that you review and don’t like. Decision time! Do you publish the review? Will someone get mad? Will they stop sending you wine because of it? Will the industry start to shun you?
Check out this interesting article from Winethropology about just that situation.
There’s another great perspective from Alder Yarrow, the highly respected writer of Vinography. He talks about whether there’s any point to writing a negative review.
Certainly food for thought.
Another variable (which I haven’t seen discussed before) is the value of controversy and how it can benefit a wine blogger. Or any blogger for that matter.
Controversy on a blog comes through in the comments from engaged readers. Engaged readers are a good thing. They spark more conversations and that user generated content is great for SEO purposes, as Google tends to elevate blog posts with lots of comments in the search results. Or at least that’s what I’ve observed on Honest Wine Reviews.
So, from that perspective, if you publish a negative review and a reader comments to say they loved the wine, that ends up becoming a good thing for your wine blog.
The Consumer’s Perspective
The general wine consumer probably doesn’t know a lot about the intricacies of winemaking. Some do. But, more likely the consumer is in the frame of mind to buy wine and they have a dinner coming up this weekend and they just want to pick a good wine that they and others will hopefully like.
Maybe they’re out shopping for a bottle to serve with dinner. Or maybe, they’re out at a restaurant and looking at a wine list. They pull out their phone, go to Google and start searching.
Up pops our wine review blogs with our reviews based on the wine they searched for. They read and they decide.
If a wine consumer sees that a wine blogger they trust doesn’t like a particular wine then they’re probably not going to purchase it.
For the general consumers of any product (who likely have a limited budget), it’s in their best interest to gather as much information about a product as they can before they buy.
Consumers are looking for honesty and truthful opinions. They want to know the good and the bad.
Just like we do with other things like cars, electronics, insurance rates, credit cards, etc.
So, where do I stand on all this?
I believe being objective and honest will lend to our own credibility.
I believe our readers come first and if every review we write is positive, people will start to wonder if that’s all we do and if we have some kind of agenda or not.
Here’s an example of a comment I got once about this and how I responded:
So, Yes, I do believe you should publish a negative wine review.
I’ve been doing so all along and haven’t experienced any repercussions as of yet.
Now having said that, I do think it’s important to try to find at least one thing good to say about a wine you’re reviewing. It could be the aroma was nice, but you didn’t like the taste. Or maybe you felt the wine was too young, but a little age might make it better. Something along those lines.
It’s also important to consider that you could have received one bad bottle out of a great lot. There’s plenty of things that are outside of the winemaker’s control once a wine is shipped (e.g. transportation issues, handling, heat or cold, etc.).
As I proved in the picture above, I also think you should be just as critical of free sample wines as those you pay for.
I get a number of my samples from PR companies who represent wineries and I believe they appreciate it when your reviews are honest. It gives them honest feedback to work with as they interact with their clients.
Here’s a tip… Utilize the Samples Policy page on your website to state whether you will give negative reviews or not. In mine I say “The review will be honest and may be positive or negative.”
Finally, as a wine blogging community I believe we should uphold honesty. As long as it’s done with a sense of sensitivity toward the producers and with keeping the best interest of our readers in mind, publishing a negative review shouldn’t be a bad thing.
What do you think?