Overview


Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Northwest wine to you and bringing you to Northwest wine. Our goal is:
  • To help you select Pacific Northwest wines at a variety of price levels
  • To keep you up-to-date about the Northwest’s wineries, vineyards, and individuals
  • To help you plan trips to wine country
  • To connect you to the larger wine community

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'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Recently I discussed some highlights from the latest Wine Advocate issue which includes the publication’s annual review of Washington wine. I also looked at how Wine Advocate compares to its print peers Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast in terms of the breadth of coverage of Washington wines and how they rate the wines. Today I will compare the publication rate of Washington wine reviews for these three publications.

For publication rate, I looked at how often in 2009 each published reviews of Washington wine and the number of reviews they published. Wine Advocate releases six issues annually and reviews Washington wine in a single issue. The recent issue, #185, contained 566 Washington wine reviews. By comparison, Spectator releases fifteen issues per year and has reviewed 562 Washington wines throughout the year. Wine Enthusiast publishes fourteen issues per year and has reviewed 722 Washington wines (Note: Totals for Spectator and Enthusiast include web-only content; Advocate’s reviews for Washington are all in print).

The number of Washington wine reviews in 2009 for Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are summarized in the table below.

Spectator

Enthusiast

Issue

# of Reviews

Issue

# of Reviews

28-Feb

49

Feb

0

31-Mar

31

Mar

136

30-Apr

31

Apr

0

31-May

25

May

132

15-Jun

86

Jun

64

30-Jun

51

Jul

0

31-Jul

21

Aug

161

31-Aug

0

Sep

146

30-Sep

22

Oct

0

15-Oct

12

Nov

83

31-Oct

0

Mid Nov

Not released+

15-Nov

11

Early Dec

Not released+

30-Nov

4

Mid Dec

Not released

15-Dec

5

Year End

Not released

31-Dec

Not released

--

--

Total

343

Total

722

Web-Only

214

Web-Only

Unknown

Grand total

562

Grand Total

722








+ While the print editions have been released, the on-line content has not been published therefore neither are listed here.











Note: The per-issue totals for Enthusiast include both print and web-only content. The per-issue totals for Spectator include only print numbers; a separate line item exists for web-only content. Spectator does not categorize its web-only content by issue; Enthusiast does. However, Enthusiast does not specify which reviews are web-only; Spectator does. These differences prevent an easy “apples to apples” comparison. However, as Enthusiast’s web-only content requires no subscription whereas Spectator’s does, the numbers are listed here.


Considering the Advocate, Spectator, and Enthusiast review numbers, what is most striking to me is the difference in approaches. Wine Advocate releases a single, ‘big bang’ issue on Washington each year. This gives the issue a bit more power and impact. The issue is released and wineries and wine buyers start scrambling. As a reader, I also appreciate being able to read Wine Advocate’s take on Washington wine in one place in printed form.

Spectator, on the other hand, reviews approximately the same number of wines annually as Advocate (if one includes web-only content) but does so in drips and drabs. Spectator has also typically had an annual issue that includes a large number of reviews of Washington wine as well as a Buyer’s Guide summarizing the year’s reviews. For someone interested in Washington wine, Spectator generally has something in each issue. That said, usually not much. Additionally, if you subtract the web-only reviews which require an additional subscription, Spectator’s print coverage of Washington looks anemic compared to Advocate’s.

Wine Enthusiast,
by comparison, has reviewed a larger number of Washington wines in 2009 than Advocate and Spectator but also does so in a different manner. Enthusiast reviews a substantial number of Washington wines approximately every other month. The large number of reviews provides a better experience for the reader than Spectator, in my opinion, as it gives a fair amount to chew on. Enthusiast also currently provides both its print and web-only content free of charge (registration is required and there is a delay in reviews appearing on-line).

While Advocate’s ‘big bang’ approach has appeal, one of the issues for a reader is that some of the wines listed are in the past, some are in the present, and some are in the future. For example, the new Advocate issue is a mixture of wines just released (Va Piano’s 2007 Syrah), wines released some time ago, wines that already had new vintages at the time of publication (Mark Ryan reds), and wines that will not be released for some time (Doubleback 2007 Cabernet). This is not the fault of the publication but rather a result of what wines were submitted by the wineries (and when), when the reviews took place, and what the publication date was for the issue. However, for consumers who see everything in the present, the mixture can be confusing.

Spectator’s
more frequent review cycle should, in theory, allow them to stay more current. However, Spectator struggles with the same issues with a number of the wines it has reviewed recently already on the next vintage at the time of publication. Enthusiast seems to do the best at staying current with few recent issues showing stale reviews. Note that in both Advocate’s and Spectator’s case, it is unclear whether these stale reviews are a result of the review/publication cycle, when the wineries choose to submit the wines for review, or something else.

In summary, Advocate, Spectator, and Enthusiast each take considerably different approaches in how frequently they publish reviews of Washington wine. These approaches differ in style and impact on the reader. Personally, and not surprisingly given that I subscribe to them all, I enjoy each of them in different ways.

That’s all for today. I have another post or two comparing these publications before I wrap this up. As always, feel free to send along any thoughts, comments, or critiques. I would be interested to hear readers' perceptions of these publications' coverage of Washington wine or thoughts on the comparison.

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