I have recently witnessed an industry wine buyer for a Minnesota retail account, and a multitude of wine consumers using Vivino to make wine buying decisions. For full disclosure, I am a “Featured User,” a designation given by Vivino to highlight a user as worthy of extra attention. Most Featured Users are wine writers or influencers. Having witnessed the increased use of Vivino to make buying decisions, I want to pause to test Vivino’s own claims, and ponder the growing power of this app.
Vivino suggests that their 5 star rating scale is equal to or better than the ratings publications like Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast. For one, Vivino publishes all ratings, and so we get to see the bad apples. This isn’t true for some publications. Additionally, we get more reviews from Vivino, as millions of public users review exponentially more wines than a limited number of professional critics ever can.
But do Vivino’s claims add up?
To test, I’ve logged in to my Vivino account and clicked through the “Best Wines under $20” in Minnesota, the “Best Wines between $20-$40” in Minnesota, and a smattering of other wines I’ve recently reviewed. Then I compared them to reviews in Wine Enthusiast (public) and Robert Parker (subscription). I’ve preferenced Wine Enthusiast, as it is a public source. The findings, which are compared to the above chart:
Best Wines under $20
- E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2013
- 3.6 stars (3356 ratings) 87 points Robert Parker
- 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel 2014
- 4.1 stars (7674 ratings) 90 points Wine Enthusiast
- J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
- 4.0 stars (2673 ratings) 87 points Wine Enthusiast
- Bogle Phantom 2014
- 4.0 stars (1278 ratings) 90 points Wine Enthusiast
- Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc – Viognier 2016
- 4.1 stars (578 ratings) 89 points Wine Enthusiast
- Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2016
- 4.1 stars (3510 ratings) 89 points Wine Enthusiast
Best Wines between $20-$40
- Meiomi Pinot Noir 2016
- 4.0 stars (8463 reviews) 88 points Wine Enthusiast
- La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015
- 4.1 stars (1491 reviews) 90 points Wine Enthusiast
- Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
- 4.1 stars (243 reviews) 90 points Wine Enthusiast
- Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
- 3.9 stars (6756 ratings) 90 points Wine Enthusiast
- Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
- 4.0 stars (210 ratings) 88 points Wine Enthusiast
- Ferrari Carano Siena 2014
- 4.0 stars (1127 ratings) 87 points Wine Enthusiast
- Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese 2014
- 4.0 stars (1036 ratings) 91 points Wine Enthusiast
Selection of my Recently Reviewed Wines
- A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2015
- 3.6 stars (126 ratings) 88 points Wine Enthusiast
- Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay 2015
- 4.1 stars (26 ratings) 92 points Wine Enthusiast
- El Molet Jumilla 2013
- 3.6 stars (18 ratings) 86 points Wine Enthusiast
- Domaine Tempier Bandol Cuvée La Migoua 2006
- 4.3 stars (34 ratings) 93 points Robert Parker
- Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2016
- 4.0 stars (394 ratings) 89 Wine Enthusiast
A few data points stand out. First, ratings do have a strong correlation between Vivino and Wine Enthusiast/Robert Parker. 66% correlate within 1 point of Vivino’s chart. When the points fail to align within 1 point, Vivino typically scores the wines higher than the traditional publications. This rings true to my experience when using Vivino. Of the six wines out of alignment, five have higher ratings on Vivino.
Also of interest, note that the “Best Wines” segments created by Vivino (block 1 and 2 of data), all have massive numbers of ratings. Clearly the algorithm favors volume when deciding which wines qualify as “Best Wines.” On the flip side, three of the five wines randomly pulled from my recent reviews have a low number of ratings. Even those with more ratings pale in comparison to the (multiple) thousand reviews of the other wines.
This raises a question. Does more mean better or, in this case, “best”? I typically argue no. However, a wine’s accessibility matters when creating a public platform for the masses. With that said, lower production wines have often been crafted with a more careful touch. Do all like the result of low production wines? No. Many prefer the consistency and centrist styles made by larger producers.
To Vivino or not to Vivino? Do you value the data? Clearly millions do. I will continue to use it as a public source with a slick interface for researching a new bottle. As for reviews, it is a tool I will continue to use—one of many.