No more sighted, free tastings

By , 5 November 2019

Comment

56

For the last nine years, Winemag.co.za has taken a hybrid approach to generate ratings, combining the outcome of sighted tastings conducted by me as editor on an ad hoc basis with the more formal findings that were generated by a three-person panel tasting blind, these dubbed “Reports”.

Those producers wishing for a sighted review simply had to ensure that I got to see the wine one way or another and no money changed hands. On the other hand, those wishing to have their wines included in a category line-up where they are measured against their peers, labels out of sight have been required to pay an entry fee.

The free, sighted tastings were useful in that they allowed Winemag.co.za to cover those producers who can’t or won’t enter wine competitions. South African wine has been in a terrifically exciting state of flux over the last decade with a wave of new and interesting wines emerging from all sectors of the industry. But how to separate the worthy from the not so worthy?

Winemag.co.za feels that it is time to do away with the hybrid approach and insist on blind tastings as standard across the board. To be clear, the only ratings appearing on this site from now on will be based on tastings where participants have paid an entry fee.

What justification for that fee? Well, that’s quite simple – why should non-payers get the benefit of our endeavours when others have no issue with paying? Our experience has taught us that both producers and consumers appreciate the value we add – in an over-traded market, ratings lead to more informed purchase decisions.

I would also contend that blind panel tastings are 1) fairer as wine is measured on inherent merits rather than brand attributes or presumed pedigree and 2) they are more rigorous in that the wines are assessed by three wine professionals and not just one. In addition, there is the not immaterial issue of Winemag.co.za’s continued financial viability at a time when all digital media is struggling – we simply cannot afford not to charge for our expertise.

It is our aim to expand our tasting activities in 2020 and we intend to assess Chenin Blanc, Méthode Cap Classique, Pinotage, unwooded Sauvignon Blanc and perhaps some of the more niche categories like sweet and fortified wine in addition to what we already cover. The site will continue to feature some of the best wine and food writing in the country by our esteemed contributors including Michael Fridjhon, Joanne Gibson, Tim James, Melvyn Minnaar and Greg Sherwood MW on wine as well as Daisy Jones and Anna Trapido on restaurants. I’m sure you will miss reading a daily wine review, as I will miss writing them, but there should be plenty of other content to keep you occupied.

Postscript
It bears mentioning that we are exploring reader funding. If you like what we do, we invite a financial contribution. The amount is voluntary — you decide how much and how often. To find out more, click here.

Comments

56 comment(s)

  • Christian Eedes11 November 2019

    Thank you all for your feedback concerning the way forward for this site – we never knew you cared quite so much! We’ve reconsidered and will retain both sighted AND blind tastings. We have, however, taken you at your word that you’re prepared to pay so we urge you to make a financial contribution right away. Please do so here: https://winemag.co.za/contributions/

    • Udo Göebel11 November 2019

      A wise decision.
      But this is a very short reply to lots of issues raised by your readers.
      And I am surprised that you are surprised that your readers care about the site.
      Not sure if this is the way to promote donations:
      “We have, however, taken you at your word that you’re prepared to pay so we urge you to make a financial contribution right away.”

      My advice would be to organise a more long term solution and use different wording.

      In the meantime I will make a donation 🙂

  • Kwispedoor11 November 2019

    I have made a contribution and I hope many others have, too. I’m just concerned about the sustainability of the revenue generated thus. Will people keep donating now that the content is going to change?

    I fear that most of the really good producers that don’t currently submit wines for the blind tasting reports, will continue to do the same . This will likely contribute to the fact that readers will mostly have to turn elsewhere to read current reviews on all the exciting new wines that enter the market.

    I feel that readers will probably be willing to contribute more money more frequently if they can have Christian’s reviews on said wines too, instead of just access to only the blind panel tastings. It seems from the comments here that most people will be happy enough to pay a small amount to access certain content on this site. Worth reconsidering?

  • Rioja11 November 2019

    as I see it this will turn content into advertorial – to my mind not what any of the current readers want . a small subscription is a far better way to go.

  • Stewart Prentice10 November 2019

    I’d consider paying a subscription fee, but I want far less x out y scores and more ‘back-story’ and insightful content (Tim James, Michael Fridjhon and the historical stories are my highlights. Weekly, my FT hit from Jancis Robinson usually gets my mind wandering to new places). Where ratings are given, they’re useful as an indicator if you know the scorer’s preferences but unless it is a truly awful beverage to be avoided at all costs, then they’re not really worth much to me. To this end, the sighted model works well because a bit of fruit and sugar in a blind tasting will overpower subtlety many times – I drink for pleasure and sometimes find what I’m having is more interesting than what I had last time; and so may do a bit more research on it. It doesn’t mean I’ll never touch the other stuff again though – sometimes good enough is really good enough. Then again, I don’t think I have either the palate or the stomach for the adjectives which seem to pass for informed criticism often. Taste descriptors are fine, but balance them with a sense of context, comparison and a purely personal opinion and you’ll get me to the end of the article.

    Good luck with the site Christian, but please consider more in-depth articles and fewer ratings.

  • Mike Froud8 November 2019

    Would it be possible for Winemag to get more sponsors and advertisers and then dispense with the fees that producers are charged for their wines to be assessed by the panel? Would it be an option to budget for the purchase of wines to be assessed by the panel? In terms of those who choose not to submit their wines voluntarily, could Winemag source those regarded as essential to include on the tasting bench in order for their reports to be regarded as sufficiently comprehensive and authoritative?
    Competitions aside, is it right or wrong for a panel of judges to review what’s being sold by producers who don’t voluntarily submit their wines for assessment? If they’re working in the best interests of the wine buyer, the public, the consumer, then of course it’s okay to do so. If producers’ wines are as good as the producers believe they are, then more often than not they will be rated to be among the best. And important for a consumer publication is to address the readers’ curiosity: wine lovers who’ve heard about something touted as great want to know how it compares with the competition on a level playing field.
    It’s amazing how some wine producers believe it’s their right not to be rated on the basis of a blind tasting or by anybody other than a critic they’ve befriended. “You may not score my wine unless I give you permission to do so,” some feel, including a number who regularly get their PR agencies to circulate all manner of puffery that wine lovers and the media are expected to lap up. Many wine producers don’t believe in advertising what they’re selling, expecting the media to provide a free marketing platform and to never be critical. Weird! Or not?

  • Michael Fridjhon7 November 2019

    This debate has touched on several important issues. These are – in no particular order – the question of editorial independence, the nature and usefulness of ratings, and the value of information.

    The decision to abandon all but paid-for ratings touches at the heart of the question of editorial independence. This doesn’t mean that the rating is less independent, merely that the publication’s independence, in terms of its focus, is now publicly and overtly limited to producers who pay for their editorial space. This puts all of those who pay on an equal footing, but it makes clear that WineMag’s editorial content will henceforth be incomplete. Going forward, what is being left out will be the edgiest and most dynamic component of the industry. If I owned the publication I would never agree to this: frankly I think it’s suicidal given the profile of the readers. To touch on the figure mentioned by Kwispedoor, but to expand upon it: the statistics I’ve been given are that while there are 25000 monthly hits on the site, only about 20% revisit in a 12 month period and 40% of these are non-South African. That means the heart of WineMag’s regular readership is some 3000 locals (of whom more than half live in the Cape). They’re not visiting WineMag for information/ratings readily available everywhere.

    Then there’s the fraught question of ratings. Score inflation has narrowed the sweet spot to a 3 point range. Where it’s a panel score, there’s already an averaging effect – so it’s far from absolute and, in my view, of limited value. It may always be the same panel (so it has a predictable and therefore reliable “house palate”) but it can never have the precision and personality of an individual. Even assuming that hipster winemakers were prepared to pay Christian to taste their wines, would you want to buy a rating obtained on this basis? I think not.

    Finally there’s the question of the value of information: if you want something of value, you should be prepared to pay for it. The internet has spawned a culture of non-payment. This is unsustainable if the information is costly to produce. WineMag has been unviable for most of its life (including when it was a hard copy publication). If it hadn’t been bought about a year ago by Eileses Capital it would sooner or later have folded. That would have meant that South Africa – “the most dynamic wine industry in the world” – would have been left with one specialist wine magazine and a few websites and blogs. This is the inevitable result of selling goods and services for less (in this case nothing) than they cost to produce.

    For WineMag to survive as an independent publication it needs a consumer (not producer) based revenue model. If you want an independent judiciary, you ask the tax payers to fund the judges’ salaries, not the plaintiffs and defendants.

    • Greg7 November 2019

      Spot on Michael. As I posted two nights ago: if we wine lovers value and want a Winemag.co.za it’s time to contribute financially. Daily Maverick seems to have had excellent success with such a contribution model. Let’s give our support whilst Christian re-evaluates the viability of his editorial independence.

  • Ben7 November 2019

    I also don’t think this is the right decision. Like many here, I’ve discovered and learnt more from ‘what i drank last night’ than the reports (which i generally read too, but never with the same attention). One thing that the themed tastings will never provide is insight into a range. Looking at the recent Badenhorst single vineyards, over the year I’d have to keep an eye out for them in around 4 or 5 different reports. I realise that you’re arguing that this publicity is something that the producer should pay for, but credibility dissolves if you feature a rated, paid for ‘advertorial’ for a producer’s recent releases, and them entering their wines to the competitions throughout the year just won’t work.

    Also, you’re pretty critical of Platter releasing ratings late for wines once they’re generally sold out, the same would immediately apply to you, or you just wouldn’t feature them at all.

    I’m happy to pay a reasonable subscription for this content (I still remember my disappointment when my subscription to the physical mag ended!). Otherwise you should probably cement the partnership with Wine Cellar, and make money off selling the wine you help to promote.

  • Udo Göebel6 November 2019

    A few remarks:

    I have been looking back at the reports and in 2019 all were tasted by Christian, Roland Peens and James Pietersen. Consistent, but also limited.

    On the section https://winemag.co.za/who-we-are/ I cannot find anything about ownership, but I found an article from August 2018 that WineMag is sold to Eileses Capital, the San Francisco-based investment firm which also recently acquired the two Stellenbosch properties Warwick and Uitkyk.
    I Cannot find that fact anywhere else on the site.

    I miss more feedback from producers, big and small about this decision.

    And offcourse a reaction from Christian about all the comments?

  • Francois6 November 2019

    Christian,

    This post seems to have generated the most comments ever, which is good because you’ve clearly struck a nerve!

    Firstly, I think you’re wasting your time asking for voluntary contributions, you are running a business not a charity.

    Secondly, I share the sentiments of many of the readers regarding your sighted tastings. This is the only independent platform where we, the reader, get exposure to a range of producers, both large and small. We need someone to do what you do, but I agree that your model needs to change.

    Thirdly, people seem rather critical of the reports. Personally I think they’re okay, but I don’t benefit too much from them. There is room for improvement and I’ll make a suggestion below.

    Lastly, I think you will lose readership following this new model. You need to drive daily visits to your website. Without that producers won’t pay to enter the reports and this website will cease to exist.

    What I propose you do:

    1. Charge a monthly / annual subscription for premium content on the website, the premium content being your sighted tastings. Make the signup and payment as frictionless as possible (Snapscan, etc).

    2. Relook the model around the Reports. Use funds from subscriptions / sponsorships to purchase wines for reports (i.e. producers don’t pay to enter) and give us interesting reports (say Swartland Cinsault or 2016 Stellenbosch Cabs) where you self select 10 – 25 producers and pit them against each other in blind tastings.

    3. Drive reader engagement – i.e. we get to propose themes for reports, or propose wines that you can do sighted tastings on.

    I have no idea what your reader base looks like, but with as little as 4,000 people paying R250 per year (the price of a half decent bottle of wine) you’ll have a sufficient base to work from to create good content and the money from advertising and sponsorships will be cream.

    • Mike B6 November 2019

      Some good suggestions from Francois. We should be happy to pay as a subscriber to read reviews, ratings, and other stories ….I am and I also gladly pay for other electronic subscriptions on other interests I have. I think you have a good model you can build on which will appeal to wine enthusiasts and /or experts, and will promote the industry. We have such a vibrant wine industry in SA and need reviews and opinions from the likes of yourselves to both stimulate drinking of wines, and challenge winemakers and consumers.

  • Tom6 November 2019

    I’d be happy to pay a reader subscription – monthly/annual, as with JR.com, where the subscription gives you full access, on top of the free content.
    The contributors are excellent and have really added to this. I’m concerned the producers do not play ball. The daily write ups are the core of this site.

    • Colin6 November 2019

      I think your comment “you’re concerned the producers do not play ball” refers… I am curious what you mean by it? Do you mean the producers aren’t paying winemag to showcase their wines? Or aren’t paying winemag to enter their competitions? My question really is – do you want the producers to bankroll winemag?

      Are you aware what is going on in our economy? Are you aware what is going on with wine economics in South Africa at the moment (and in the past however many years). Producers first of all do not owe winemag a thing. Secondly, producer simply do not have money to waste. It is quite as simple as that.

      • Mike6 November 2019

        Colin, it seems you feel Winemag exists to serve producers at no charge, to advertise wines for free. Interesting! Apparently you regard media coverage as a waste of money. Amazeballs! Could it be that you’re one of the producers who hasn’t included a marketing budget in your business model! Do you really think that really good wines won’t show well in blind tastings where the panel members are good at what they do! Producers who shy away from being compared with others can’t complain if their claims to being special are viewed with some degree of skepticim.

        • Colin6 November 2019

          Hey Mike. Not a producer, just a wino. As for the comment “it seems you feel Winemag exists to serve the producers at no charge” – WineMag as a venture was started to serve the PUBLIC with information about wine. It was the editorial team’s choice to write about wine to its readers. It has never been a trade publication. So yes, I don’t see how there is any obligation to ANY producer to support Christian financially. The rest of your comment is irrelevant because I am not the trade. You know what they say assumptions.

      • Tom6 November 2019

        Hi Colin, I was not debating or speaking on behalf of producers as to the merit of the reports and paying for such reviews. It is their prerogative. Some will, some will not.
        I’m aware of the economy thanks.

        That said, I have worked at a producer where we willingly submitted for the exposure the report might provide, but more importantly (with a producer finding their feet, and a young winemaking team) finding it crucial to benchmark and see if we were on the right path with key and qualified individuals of the industry – the panel.
        The report is blind, unbiased, and the entrance fee is/was a lot less than going out to buy the wines for benchmarking in house.

        In my current position, the producer policy is not to pay to be a part of reports or competitions, anywhere, and I also understand this point of view. I’m not concerned with it.

        As a consumer, I enjoy the reports, the discussions they create, the score parity debates sometimes thrown up, and general humility of the editor in response to nitpickers.

        Importantly, the panel make clear the traits they enjoy of the category, readily engage and debate among themselves. It would be terrific to see them gain more sample data from willing entrants, and for us to document the evolution of the categories covered in 20/30 years from now.
        It is not a waste should a producer see fit to enter.

        To my comment, and I was merely implying that there is a role for the consumers enjoying the daily writes up to play, in being rewarded with the content winemag puts out, where I see the continued daily sighted reviews as most vital.

        With my consumer hat on, I think a subscription is the way forward, and I have signed up to monthly contributions in the hope this will happen elsewhere and see the daily reviews continue.

  • Ant6 November 2019

    Hi I enjoy the sighted reviews which give exposure to many wines you will not find in the local shops. They have influenced my purchasing decisions, so I will miss them! Could affect the “stickiness” of the site! Why not make them pay as well as it is good advertising?

    • Kwispedoor6 November 2019

      Perceived integrity will fly out the window if producers pay for sighted tastings, Ant. It’s not easy to score a wine 84 if a hopeful producer has paid for your review. And, after getting 84, will the producer pay again for a next review?

  • Matt A6 November 2019

    No sure why the latest comments on the home page are not visible here… but my sentiments are along the lines of Greg’s: what I drank last night has far more relevance to me than panel tastings. I am a daily visitor to this site. I come here for the new and interesting as well as opinions on latest releases of the established wines. And yes, ratings do also have relevance to me.

    I don’t get why rating / reviewing wines is being seen as a service / free publicity to wineries? Surely the main aim of this site is to provide information to readers?? We are the customers and the ones who should pay for the service. The content should be interesting enough for us to want to pay and for it to attract enough readers that others are willing allocate marketing spend. The new model seems back to front. Wines and wineries are the content, not the customer.

    I understand the need to remain profitable, and the numbers have probably been crunched, but going the route of paid for panel tastings is more likely to alienate rather than attract readers like myself. Keep the panel tastings, they do serve a purpose. But consider hitting us with a subscription and keeping the site relevant and alive.

    • Kwispedoor6 November 2019

      It has probably happened quite often that, when Christian awarded a high score to a wine, there has been a marked impact on sales. The reasoning probably being that producers are getting this surge in sales, while Winemag is not really making anything tangible from the process.

      But I agree with you, Matt. Perhaps if the sighted reviews (and perhaps other parts of the site) become paid-for content, it could go a long way towards solving all the problems. The trick is to make it affordable. At R100 a month there will be subscribers, but if it’s only R50 a month, it’s really cheap enough so that the uptake will be pretty enthusiastic, I think. If only 10% of the current 25 000 monthly readers subscribe to this suggested content, that’s R125 000 in the coffers every month. Perhaps a poll (not only on Twitter) to see who would pay R50 per month could be a very helpful tool?

  • AB6 November 2019

    This is definitely a bad decision.

    I’m sure most of the daily viewership here is based on the daily reviews. Put up a paywall or something, but if the top SA wineries aren’t featured here – which they surely will not be, if they are to pay – then a great deal of interest will be lost, along with the website’s associations with those top wineries.

  • Greg5 November 2019

    Put another way “What I drank last night” is a more interesting read than a “Prescient Chardonnay Report”. How can we help to make the former more commercially viable?

  • Greg5 November 2019

    Like most things in life, we don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it, so let’s start by pledging support and ensuring that SA’s only (and darn good!) platform has support. Meaning, it’s time to pay a little to keep this worthy and enjoyable thing going. The flexible ‘pay what you think it’s worth, or whatever you’d like to’ model is generous and deserves support.

    That said, I’m not convinced that the chosen direction will make WineMag stronger or better. I’d like more editorial clarity on how reader/consumer preferences will be researched and accommodated in the new business model. For me the blind panel reviews are the weakest and least interesting of WineMag’s content. I support Mike’s suggestion/wish for filling the void: assuming professional credentials – which Christian and team have full barrels of – wine reviewing and writing should be personal, quirky, and boundary pushing. That’s worth reading; the ratings of blind tasting nine o’clock in the morning three person panels are soulless and reductive.

  • Sam5 November 2019

    As a reader, I am very disappointed. I agree with Mike and Tim, I check WM almost daily to see the new small, and older cult wines in review. Then the panel tastings highlight the bigger brands that might otherwise not stand out or get reviewed in such a cool-kid environment. It seemed a very balanced approach. Many of the top producers do not enter their wines in panel tastings, and this was the place to learn more about them.

    I am surprised that in all of the comments on all social media, there hasn’t been a mention of customer subscriptions. I pay to subscribe to endless publications from news, politics, wine and food. I would happily have subscribed to WineMag in its current state… always on the leading edge of what is happening out there in the world of wine, well written reviews that are professional and interesting. The new feature contributors like Greg Sherwood have added even more value.

    If I want results of a blind panel tastings, there are 20+ medal contests that can direct me to the winning wines. I read WineMag because it is the only place in South African wine that took in everything outside of the medal contests.

    I really believe many of the readers (worldwide) would have had no problem paying for a subscription. But I would not want to pay money to subscribe to a publication as described in the new vision.

    Of course, the venture must be profitable, thriving even. I worry that the attempt to be one more medal contest will be the end of what was a really well put together project with a clear and distinct voice that the South African wine world respected. Christian, people actually were interested in what you had to say.

  • Gert5 November 2019

    I used to visit this website at least twice weekly to see interesting tasting notes of lesser known wines. I read very few of the articles. But that is just me…I think your readership will be affected negatively.

  • Rolff van der Linden5 November 2019

    Hi
    Either …..or (blind/sited)
    is good for me.
    I find my palate is similar to CE, what he rates, I enjoy!

    I am prepared to pay R10 a newsletter. Perhaps start a Patreon Page.
    I would pay for this valuable info on wine.

  • Ab5 November 2019

    The sighted, free tastings have always been my major draw to this site. Along with some of the opinion articles.

  • James5 November 2019

    Congrats Winemag!

    From a personal point of view, i have to say it’s a pity, albeit totally understandable. I’m sure this decision has been carefully considered. Commercial realities preside, and the existing model is obviously unfair on those holding the can.

    I wish you great success, but must say that what i value is Christian’s sighted opinion. That’s why many of us visit the site. Incidentally it’s not his scores that interest me, but the commentary. And this isn’t possible without context. Serious wine lovers want it, and fear a scenario where scores become more important.

    As for blind pay-to-play competitions. Well, they certainly serve those winning and those getting paid.

    I understand the dilemma though. A paywall perhaps?

  • Wino Rob5 November 2019

    Business decision understood – however this is going to backfire quite badly I feel. Content is hard enough to come by as it is – and it’s content that brings people back to Winemag. The value is in the amount of content on the website. Monetising a crowd is easier than forcing the crowd to pay to see something that someone else will give away for free.

    On another note, there is now one hellofa opportunity to create a user content driven destination for all things wine!

  • Michael Olivier5 November 2019

    Excellent idea Christian. Bests, Michael

  • Colin5 November 2019

    To me your blind panel tastings are a crapshoot. There’s always the chance someone has an off day or a wine shows better on the day than it does otherwise. You’ve had some very strange results on your reports as I am sure you would admit. The latest being that rather ordinary unwooded chardonnay you awarded 94 points a few weeks ago. The reports are merely another competition in a different guise and let’s face it, no one really cares about competitions anymore. Competitions are only about scores and dumbing down wine to a score only is absurd. You should stop scoring wine altogether and just write properly detailed information rather anyway. It will also get you away from those 90 points you dish out which to me is the greatest fence-sitting score in the history of wine.

    I think you’re making a mistake stopping the regular reviews, unless you’re going to make regular reviews blind. I am sure you can get missus Eedes to run a daily blind tasting for you? 5 wines blind with the only context being which variety you’re tasting. Easy peasy to do. I do it in my lounge on a regular basis.

    Otherwise, put a pay gate in and let people pay for sighted tastings.

  • Hennie Taljaard5 November 2019

    let me give perspective: what you are doing is asking everyone here for money but giving them less coverage especially of the really cool wines because they dont enter competitions.

  • John5 November 2019

    I understand the business imperative, but I still think it is a sad move. No consumer drinks wine in the way that your panels assess entrants to your blind tastings. We drink with food, with friends, over conversation, over a couple of days and the wine reveals itself a little more with every sip. That’s what we’ll lose with the cessation of your sighted tastings. And, as pointed out by other readers, the range of wines you assess will almost inevitably narrow because of the limited marketing budgets of some of the more interesting SA wines. But I wish you well and hope the decision works out for you.

  • Mike5 November 2019

    I am disappointed in the decision. The benefit I extract from WineMag is being exposed to smaller, lesser known winemakers and their wines, not just the “usual culprits”, or those willing to pay. Your ratings (and commentary) will have influence at times, and occasionally may lead me to trying a wine I would not have otherwise bought – it would be naïve not to expect that. But, quite frankly I am very cognizant that my palate differs from the wine taster, in this case Christian Eedes, and your rating is not the prime driver – I still need to make up my own mind. In my case I have found that I very similar views on white wines, but actually differ on reds, and make my choice accordingly. However, I find the review interesting and relevant,
    The usual wine panel collective tasting and rating is not for me, and I have a very strong preference for the regular tastings and look forward to reading this an almost daily basis. Good luck with the business, which is fully understandable. My wish is that a similar type regular review or blog fills the void you leave.

  • Frank5 November 2019

    I totally understand the need of making money, but skipping the (daily) sighted tastings might result in (much) fewer visits, as many wine lovers around the world (like me, so pls. excuse my Englisch ;-)) visit your website just because of this usp. A panel tasting once in a while will not come up for that. Plus, those panels such a standard (boring) procedure in the wine industry. Suggestion: Why not charging a little (monthly?) fee for people who want to read the daily sightings?

  • Henk5 November 2019

    So we shall never again see ratings for any Swartland wines, or from small independant producers, as they never submit wines for competitions / blind tastings? Current regular readers are likely to lose interest.

  • Tim5 November 2019

    I know this wont be the case for everyone but I basically only come to WM for the regular sighted tastings I find the panel tastings have some merit but just in practice not that interesting. I understand you are a business so wont take the break up to heart 😉

    • Duncan5 November 2019

      Same. That they’re idiosyncratic, not always that rigorous, depending on the whim of the (informed, expert) taster from day to day is part of the charm.

      Getting to know a critic’s taste – deciding where you agree and where you dissent – is a lot more fun than mere awards.

  • Pierre Rabie5 November 2019

    It is just fair that you charge for your expertise. This is a move in the right direction, especially if it impacts the viability of Winemag’s continued existence. The South African wine industry cannot afford to lose your excellent publication.

  • Jacques5 November 2019

    For me it’s a good decision, wine wine judging should be blind and assess by professionals, yes there are great reviewer who do this sighted and I still hold respect for them. Wineries need to pay for expertise it’s can’t be business as usual by free tasting and lunch then expect a feedback. In fact very wineries should be assessed on the same basis as it’s peers, by paid blind tasting. Yes these other two taster have financial interest on other wine companies, but the entry fees we talking about here is purely logistic. We as professional taster we don’t just seat and get pleasure in tasting free bees it is work let us get serious.

  • Elaine Clarke5 November 2019

    I think it is sound business practice, and indeed, why should some wineries benefit from free services whilst others are prepared to pay for the same.
    I wish I could afford to contribute, as your articles are always clear and concise, with a touch of humour thrown in from time to time.

  • Brian Jones5 November 2019

    I put little store by any of the ratings from tastings, whether blind or sighted. I have so often bought wine with a relatively high rating from whatever tasting method to find that the first taste is impressive, but try to go on to drink a glass or more and the wine can be too heavy for enjoyment, or just doesn’t have the legs (apologies for not being able to be more technical) for more than a mouthful or two. This is often the case with high alcohol reds. Tasting sessions can be an indication of quality, but not necessarily drinkability!

  • Udo Göebel5 November 2019

    Has something changed in ownership? First impression for me that this change is done to generate more income/profit.

    Will something change now in the judging team? So for two members are working for one commercial firm with an interest in the score’s. I am sure judging is done fair but this fact seems very strange to me.

    Too bad this decision, you won’t be covering as good as you used to do as I am sure some wineries will refuse to pay.

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