“The wine has the rich tastes of blackcurrant, tobacco, and loam. 94 points.”

“Blackberries, blueberries, and spices are supported by sweet tannins and a lingering finish. 90 points.”

Two different reviewers can give completely different descriptions of the same wine. So which one is right? Both? Neither? Actually, that is the wrong question. The better question is, “which one is right FOR ME?”

Palate Press: The online wine magazine, is excited to announce our Palate Calibration Project, an industry-wide attempt to match you, the wine lover, with your own personal wine reviewer. We are going to pick a few widely available wines, ask reviewers to send in tasting notes, then invite you to try the same wines, review the notes, and find the reviewer for you.


The days of the sole expert, the authority with all the answers, are fading away. For years wine lovers were stuck with just a few voices, sometimes only one in smaller winemaking regions. If that reviewer loved big, fat, fruity, high-alcohol wines, but the reader was looking for lean, high-acid wines to match with food, the reader was simply out of luck.

Today, with the plethora of opinions, websites, and reviewers, wine lovers have an opportunity, which was never before available. Today, wine lovers can find a palate that matches theirs, a reviewer who can help them find wines they want, instead of wines they are supposed to want. A wine lover can pick from the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voices available to identify her own personal palate match. But how? How to find that voice, and how to figure out whether it matches?

We can help. Palate Press: The online wine magazine, is excited to announce our Palate Calibration Project, and we want to invite every wine voice in the world to participate. You can be on line, in print, or on the air. It does not matter. What matters is that we can help match you with the right wine drinkers. We want to invite every wine lover to play, too. Find the people who taste the same things in Riesling that you do. Find people you can follow and trust, not to tell you what you should drink, but to help you find what you will like.

So how will this work? Actually, it is pretty easy. We will start by asking people to suggest a few wines that are reasonably priced and widely available. Ideally, they will include wines of different styles. Also, by “reasonably priced” we do not mean “cheap.” We mean reasonable for what is in the bottle. That can be $7 or $25 (though that is likely the upper end for this particular project). Once we identify six wines people can get just about anywhere, we will ask reviewers to try them and take notes. Please, though, do not publish them. We do not want one review to be guided by another (“Hmmm, is that blackcurrant? Let me see what Jeff said. I know he has a good palate.” It happens.). Send us your notes. When we publish, we will publish your note with a link to your website. On one day we will publish all the notes for the same wine. Then wine lovers can buy the same wine and test their perceptions against the various reviewers.

Step One


Please give us suggestions for wine to include in the project. We need to know the brand, the wine, the price, and where you are finding it, including Country and State or Province, whether it is available in the grocery store of just the liquor store. Just drop a note down in the comments, below. We will do our own research, review the suggestions, and pick some wines.

Also, please tell us if you are willing to participate in the project, and include a link to your website or tell us the name of your show or publication. Tell everybody you know about the project, whether they are another reviewer or a wine lover.

Step Two

Once we identify the wines for the Project, we will post the list. The list should be deep enough, and the wines so widely distributed, that everybody should be able to get several of them.

If you are a reviewer, buy the wines, taste them, and send us tasting notes, along with a link to your website or publication. No art is required. We will provide a bottle shot for each wine. When we publish (we will announce it ahead of time and send an email to everybody who gave us a review) we will include the link. We will roll out the reviews one wine at a time, once we have all the reviews in hand.

Step Three

This one is for the wine lovers. Buy the same wine. Before you read the reviews,taste it yourself. Linger over your impressions, identify the aromas you are smelling and the tastes on the palate. Get an overall impression. Take notes. It will help. Then comb through the different reviews for a palate that matches yours. Did they taste the same things? Did they get the same impressions? Did they reach the same conclusions? Keep in mind, one reviewer might match your palate on a Cabernet Sauvignon, while another might have the same taste in Chardonnay as you do. Bookmark their websites. Follow their notes. They are not right. They are not wrong. They are right FOR YOU. You now have a personal wine reviewer you can trust. And don’t stop there. Comment on their website, email them, develop a relationship. Once a reviewer knows you, they can answer questions, make personal recommendations, and more. This will truly be wine writing 2.0, taking advantage of the capabilities of the internet and social media to match people and palates in a way never attempted before.

Good luck, and I hope we make many a (palate) match.

Please direct specific inquiries to dhonig@palatepress.com.

17 Responses

  1. Constance C

    The first I’d like to nominate is Stongeleigh Vineyards Marlborough Sauv Blanc (http://www.stoneleigh.co.nz/wines/stoneleigh/sauvignonblanc.html). This is a widely distributed New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc that isn’t as well known. It is available in both liquor and grocery stores (dependent on the state, of course) as well as online and is relatively inexpensive (around $15/bottle give or take.)

    The second I’d like to nominate is from Wyndham Estate, George Wyndham Founder’s Estate Shiraz (http://www.wyndhamestate.com/Wyndham.html#/Intense_Wine/George_Wyndham/4/0/) this wine retail’s for $19.99/bottle and is widely available across the US in liquor stores and online.

    Added bonus, you can use this website: http://prusawinefinder.com/ to find either of these wines in your area (state depending)

    Let me know what you think! (Don’t want to give you my tasting notes on here and ruin the fun!)

  2. jason (@jasonswineblog)

    Great stuff! I’ve been working through a similar exercise on my end though not quite as technically. So far Jon Bonne is leading the way with a 4 out of 5 hit rate. Can’t wait to see the results start to come in…

  3. Julien Marchand

    That is a great idea. Sign me up as a reviewer as well as a happy participant. It will help everyone know ourselves better, which is mighty important when it comes to wine appreciation. Also, it will make us discover some new faces, which is always a good thing!

    As for wine choice, being in Quebec limits me to SAQ (which Is not that bad..!), but I would recommend anything in the Favourites section (http://www.saq.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/GeneralContentView?page=/nh/section1_our-suggestions/may-we-recommend-z/may-we-recommend&langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10001&WT.ad=BannSugg3En), which generally has wines with pretty good availability.

  4. Lizzy

    Well, it’s really an original and funny idea! I don’t know if it could work, but for now it seems to be the most interesting initiative of this year…


  5. Laurel Lyman

    1) Martin Codax Albarino. Available online and in stores in California at K&L Wine Merchants and Wally’s Wine & Spirits. $14.99/bottle.

    2) Leeuwin Estates Siblings Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc. Available online at wine.com and through importer Old Bridge Cellars. $17.99/bottle.

    3) Belasco de Baquedano “Llama” Malbec. Available online and at K&L Wine Merchants. $11.99/bottle.

  6. Geoff

    A nice idea, but I do see a couple of issues, firstly there are a LOT of wines out there, how do you determine which are the benchmarks for all others of similar taste, and secondly wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to try training themselves first, there are kits to enable you to do this, and there are courses in various areas.

  7. Robbin

    Great idea!

    This concept is exactly how explain wine reviews when working retail.

    “Wine reviewers are like movie reviewers. Some you agree with more than others. You have to discover which critic matches your palate the most.”

  8. Dan Huras

    Great idea. Wished we had this in Canada. Suggest you consider 2008 Climax Malbec by Zorzal. Trophy winner as the best Malbec in Argentina at last year’s Wines of Argentina Awards. Available at Specs on-line in Texas.

  9. chris schmidt

    Great and innovative idea David. I did this for movie reviewers, and always followed Janet Maslin from the New York Times as my personal gold standard. Once you know who to trust as your guide the trip gets much easier.
    Can I recommend a Rosenblum Zinfandel. I would go with the 2008 Contra Costa Zinfandel at $18. Its available on the site: rosenblumcellars.com.

  10. Kori

    Interesting idea! Here are a few wines to consider:
    Domaine Ste Michelle Brut
    Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha
    Nobilo Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
    Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz
    Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
    Pacific Rim Riesling

  11. Taylor

    I agree with some of what people have already said… it’s going to be tough to narrow it down to wines that everyone has access to. But the wines from widely available producers like La Crema (Chard or Pinot), Chateau Ste. Michelle (Merlot or Riesling), Kendall Jackson (Chard), Nobilo (Sauv Blanc), Bogle (Petite Sirah), or Chateau St. Jean (Cab) are normally sold in most states, if not all. I look forward to being part of this, as a consumer and a professional wine reviewer.

  12. Robert Larsen

    Might want to include a few bottles from Rodney Strong. The Alexander Valley Cabernet, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chalk Hill Chardonnay represent their respective categories rather well… Just saying… and yes, I do work for Rodney Strong. It’s true nevertheless, though.