Wine Spectator and the Ethics of Wine Writing
The foundation of any wine critic's success is the trust he or she builds with readers. That trust, in turn, rests on readers' evaluations of two key qualities: expertise and integrity.
Expertise is built through tasting, interviews with winemakers, visits to wine regions and accumulated knowledge about viticulture, winemaking, sensory evaluation, history and culture in general. Wine Spectator's senior editors together count nearly 250 years of experience with the magazine.
Integrity is established when readers believe a critic is fair, impartial and independent. Wine Spectator has adopted specific policies in order to maintain credibility with readers.
1. Blind tastings
Many scientific studies have shown that judgment is strongly influenced by awareness of brand or price. Blind tasting helps to remove a critic's bias. At Wine Spectator, all official reviews of newly released wines result from blind tastings (any reviews not based on blind tastings are specified). In 2016, we reviewed more than 18,000 wines in blind tastings. (Read more about our tasting philosophy and tasting format, or watch the Inside Our Tasting Department video).
2. Financial independence
Accepting financial favors can compromise a critic's judgment and lead to the perception of a conflict of interest. Wine Spectator staff members are not allowed to accept financial favors from the wine industry. We pay for our own transportation and accommodations; we arrange our own itineraries; we set up our official tastings in independent locations. This results in significant costs to us, but ensures our financial and logistical independence.
3. Ethical behavior
In order to earn readers' trust, critics must always strive to act ethically. Every member of the Wine Spectator staff is required to accept our Code of Ethics, which offers specific guidelines to avoid any conflicts of interest, and to ensure our actions are guided by principles of truth and fairness.
Wine Spectator has been publishing for more than 40 years. Our readers are the ultimate judges of our expertise and integrity, and we are pleased to report that, according to independent research, Wine Spectator now has a readership of more than 3 million people.