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Wine Publications: What We Think...
Wine Enthusiast

This is the third installment of our "What We Think" series about the wine publications whose ratings we use to select wines for our stores. So far I have written about Robert Parker's publication, The Wine Advocate and the largest wine publication Wine Spectator. This week we will take a look at Wine Enthusiast.

Wine may be the most reviewed product on earth. The importance of reviews to the sale of wine could only be compared to the importance of reviews to the Broadway stage or the New York restaurant business. Every week you see a lot of magazine scores and reviews quoted in our newsletter but I have never really talked about the publication's editorial content. The question I am asked most often is which publication's scores do I trust the most. And, there is no easy answer to that question, since each magazine seems to occupy a special niche for us.

Wine Enthusiast, founded Adam Strum in 1988, is a lifestyle magazine covering wine, food and travel that skews its target audience decidedly younger than Wine Spectator. The magazine reaches over 680,000 readers and contains an extensive buying guide where they review up to 1,000 wines a month using an 80 to 100 point scale and specific editor/tasters for each major wine region. Their web site,, contains an archive of over 115,000 wine reviews along with a host of articles from previous issues.

This is a publication that works hard to look hip, with lots of colorful, short full-page and half-page lifestyle articles that are designed to appeal to a younger audience. Trust me, you would never see an article titled "6 Top Family Friendly Wineries, tasting with tots has never been easier" in Wine Spectator. Generally, I find Wine Enthusiast less stuffy and an easier read than Wine Spectator, but lacking a little in the "in depth" article department.

I think Wine Enthusiast reviews are generally very reliable, in spite of the fact they tend to be a little more enthusiastic when it comes to awarding points. What really works for us with Wine Enthusiast is that they are much more egalitarian in there choices of wines to review. James Laube, Wine Spectator's California editor, will routinely review 40 wines for an online feature with out tasting anything that sells for less than $75.

Wine Enthusiast spends its time finding the values, especially in California and Washington, reviewing all those $15 to $25 wines that other publications snub. There are plenty of great wines out there that sell for less than $20 and Wine Enthusiast is one of the best tools for finding them. That doesn't mean that they don't review the higher end wines, they may score a $100 bottle of Nickel & Nickel Cabernet a 94 when Spectator gave it a 92, but overall they do a pretty good job.