If you enjoy wine but you are frequently uncertain as to what to buy, there are two approaches you can take. The first is to build a relationship with an LCBO product consultant at your closest retail store. The 2nd is to seek advice online by buying a subscription to a wine rating service or alternatively to a wine expert’s newsletter. Most wine experts, although not all, score wines using the 100 point scoring system. Unless you are on a very tight budget, I would not buy anything below an 87.
Wine Align is a community-based subscription service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine. It provides a detailed product review of the bi-weekly VINTAGES release. Wines are reviewed by a panel of expert wine critics (John Szabo, David Lawrason, Sarah d’Amato and Michael Godel in particular) using the 100 point scoring system. Also, Steve Thurlow publishes a monthly listing of his top 50 value picks on the LCBO general listing.
The Wine Align product reviews are integrated with the LCBO’s inventory availability so it is very easy to set up your favourite stores and check the availability of the wine you are interested in. Also, once in a while, Wine Align organize winemaker dinners.
Vintage Assessments, compiled by Michael Vaughan, is another subscription service providing a detailed product review of the bi-weekly VINTAGES release. Ratings are based on a maximum of three stars ***. It also provides news of upcoming events.
If you use a wine rating service but the wine you are interested in acquiring is either not listed at all or is listed but did not get a rating for the year in question, you can use Vivino to get a crowd source rating. If you are able to take a photo of the wine prior to acquiring it, the Vivino app uses image recognition software to connect the photo to its database of over a million wines and instantly tell you the wine’s rating, based on customer reviews, and average price.
Situations where that would be useful include shopping for wine or following up on a wine that you have consumed at a restaurant or private household that you loved and want to obtain. However if you aren’t able to take a photo of the wine but you have the name and year, you can simply look it up. This would be useful if you were looking at selected entries in a restaurant’s wine list.
Newsletters typically contain news and views from the world of wine as well as the author’s review of the most recent Vintages listing.