Do wine critics matter any more?

wine critics
“It’s good to know someone is still reading my stuff.”

Go figure: Some one-quarter of wine drinkers still say wine critics’ scores and reviews are highly influential

The wine world has Instagram influencers, Facebook groups, Twitter raves, and who knows what else. So where does a traditional wine critic fit into all of this in the second decade of the 21st century?

Almost where we did the last time I wrote about this, according to one recent survey. We’re not quite as important as store employees or friends and family, but we still matter, according to a January survey by Wine Opinions (with analysis by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight). One quarter of wine drinkers say a 90-plus score from a “respected” critic is highly influential in wine purchase, while about one in five say a review on-line or in print is highly influential in making a purchase.

That compares to 42 percent for friends and family and 31 percent for store employees. Interestingly, tasting wine in the store ranked highest, at 60 percent, and second highest was “wine is from country or region I like,” at 45 percent. What makes those interesting? Talk to people who do store tastings, and they’ll tell you they often don’t sell that much wine. And that we buy wine from regions we know isn’t surprising; in fact, it’s one of wine’s great problems, that people won’t buy out of their comfort zones.

The other surprise? Price didn’t matter, coming in as only the seventh most influential. The question was phrased oddly, which may account for the result: “The wine is on sale for 10 percent off or more,”

And where did those Instagram influencers rank? The survey didn’t address them specifically, but this result speaks volumes for that approach to wine marketing. “Recommendation through an app” was just 8 percent, second lowest.

The survey results, not surprisingly, skewed significantly with age. Older men cared more about scores (which is why the preferences for scores didn’t bother me all that much). Meanwhile, younger wine drinkers cared more about recommendations from friends and family.

One thought on “Do wine critics matter any more?

  • By Doug Caskey -

    First, there are still people who read what wine critics say, Jeff. Including you.

    Second, I question these statistics as consumer segmentation, such as ,a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Constellation Brands Project Genome, will skew the results of each question. For instance, the 21% of consumers who are “price driven” will probably rank a discounted price as much more influential in their buying decisions than would the 18% of consumers who identify as “image seekers.”

    Likewise, the reviews of a critic or even an Instagram Influencer will be much more important to “engaged newcomers” and “enthusiasts” than to “everyday loyals” and “overwhelmed” consumers.

    Also who were the consumers that responded to the survey you cite? If these people were surveyed in the check-out line of a discount grocery store, you will get a very different breakdown than if you surveyed customers of an exclusive wine shop run by Master Somms or visitors to a high-end, wine forum website.

    Wine consumers are not created the same. Someone out there actually drinks Chardonnay!

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