Friday, December 07, 2007

How Do You Review? A Case Study

It's time to put on your thinking cap. (19th century phrenology chart from the University of Houston's College of Engineering)

During the past week I've had the chance to review the same wine four times in four different ways. So I thought it might be fun to compare the different style of wine reviews that are out there courtesy of the web, the blogosphere, and the consumer- driven content known as wine 2.0. I ask not because anything is going to change here at GWU$20, but because I'm genuinely interested in how different people respond to different kinds of reviews. Besides, my students are all feverishly getting ready for their final exams, and I can't resist inflicting a little bit of schoolday stress on you, too, so you will find at the bottom of this post a question for you to ponder and (if you feel moved to do so) answer in the comments section below.

It all started in my hidden elves' workshop of wine reviews, CellarTracker. After I drink a wine, the first thing I do is enter a note on CellarTracker, my preferred wine cellar program. The wine in question was the 2004 Peterson Zero Manipulation Red Blend. (WineQ, $12.49), and you can look at the review by clicking here. You will instantly see that (among other things) this has a 100-point score on it, which is my way of registering a number for my own private use to calculate the QPR simply because it's easier in this format to do so.

Then, I posted a review of the same wine on WineQ (scroll down past the description), a brief review on GWU$20 extolling its virtues as a takeout wine, and a review (finally) on Chateau Petrogasm, the wine review site that does its work through images. I was thrilled to be asked to be a resident of the Chateau, which means that I will be posting my reviews of wines that are hard to find and/or expensive over there.

So my question, dear readers, is which of these reviews (or combination of reviews) worked best for you, and why? Which one clicked, and made sense to you? Whether you like QPR, stars, points, pictures, short reviews, long reviews, or something in between, there is an example here for you. Please use a #2 pencil and write neatly in the comments section below!


Syrrys said...

Well for my money (none) I like the CellarTracker review most and the GWU$20 one next. The "2 days on the counter" comments are often some of the most interesting to me even though I now have enough people to share with that bottles rarely remain unfinished. The cellaring potential also added an interesting dimension.
on the Take-out/GWU$20 review I like the food pairing and the seasonal house wine ideas.
WineQ left off the best bits of Cellartracker while the Chateau was novel but not "actionable".

Anonymous said...

I personally loved the Petrograsm review, and that's the one that made me most intrigued by the wine.

However, it made me think more about the "Zero Manipulation" title of the wine, and the photograph itself which I find hard to be is without manipulation. It looks too otherworldly. So I suppose I agree with syrrys in that it wasn't the most actionable of the reviews, despite it being the most thought provoking for me.

That brings into question the purpose of reviews as well. Are they sales tools only? If they are, does that reduce wine bloggers to shelf-talkers? I don't think so. Each review comes from a different part of the brain, perhaps; each stimulates a different response; and each serves its own purpose.

Anonymous said...

my apologies for numerous grammatical and typographical errors in my previous post. that's what you get for typing fast and failing to proofread before hitting "publish"...ah, blogging.

Anonymous said...

Agree with syrrys although I liked GWU$20 the most. Very practical, which is the point. Chateau didn't do it for me.

Marshall Æon (Enneagram) said...

Hi Debs, I liked the Cellar Tracker review the most, as well! I especially liked hearing about how it opened up after a couple days. I may have to copy that stuff over to the WineQ review (with permission)! :)

We'd be happy to let you post full blog reviews to WineQ as well, including a link back to your blog post. I even want to put your Chateau Petrogasm pic on there!

We'd also love to have input on how to improve the reviewing process. (For example, would a point system be valuable?) I will be sure to follow this discussion and see what useful information I can glean to improve WineQ.

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Anonymous said...

The WineTracker review was my review of choice. Concise, yet you packed a lot of important info in there. While I think the Petrogasm reviews are fun, they often leave me thinking, "Wha???"

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks to everybody for their interesting comments. I am struck, especially, by the fact that people like all the weird musings on lifespan of the wine I stick in CellarTracker but not in GWU$20 (think I'll do that more in future!) and the sense that somehow the CellarTracker compactness/score combination led people to think they knew exactly what they wanted to *do* about the wine after they read it.

I know what people mean about Ch. Petrogasm, but I also think there is something very evocative about the image process. No, it is not "actionable" as syrrys points out in the same way a score is, but I continue to think it manages to capture those parts of the wine experience that are difficult to convey in words.