4 June 2020

Wine websites behind the paywall: Vinous

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It’s astonishing to remember that Antonio Galloni founded Vinous just seven years ago (after a dramatic falling out with Robert Parker over his resignation from The Wine Advocate). In that short time, he has built a site that rivals (and in many ways betters) major competitors such as winespectator.com and the aforementioned robertparker.com. Much of the site’s success has been down to Galloni’s deep pockets and dogged acquisitiveness. Within a year of launch he had bought Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (taking on Tanzer as editor-in-chief). Neal Martin joined in 2018. There are few major wine figures who haven’t had a call from the soft-spoken MIT alumnus, chequebook in hand.

The site’s authority is clear from the moment the homepage loads. The headline feature is a deep dive into Northern Rhône Whites, alongside Six Decades of Pavie-Macquin, and a retrospective on 2010 Napa Cabernet. Then – for those wanting lighter fare, a look at Italian rosés. Navigation is intuitive and efficient.

Its USP is the recommendations section. The database is vast – 3,750 notes on Rioja (going back to 1900); 2,000 notes on Gigondas, 650 notes on Domaine de la Romanée-Conti alone (“Sadly, the 1934 Romanée-Conti was past its peak,” Galloni reports). If your tastes are for the more recondite, there are 70 recommendations on Savennières, and over 100 on Utiel-Requena – and that is merely skimming the surface.

While the articles can be dauntingly extensive (Tanzer on the Domaine Marquis d’Angerville’s Volnay Clos des Ducs 1er Cru runs to 3,500 words; double that word-count isn’t uncommon) it’s nice to see such esoteric pieces as Martin’s essay on the low profile Lalande-de-Pomerol property Canon Chaigneau (he tastes back to 1988). He’s been to Pétrus multiple times, he says, “Yet how often have I actually visited a property anywhere within the neighbouring appellation?”

The USP of Vinous is its vast database of recommendations

Vinous has an innate understanding of brand extension. In your luxury hotel room in Napa you’ll find a smart box of the region’s AVA maps created by the site’s full-time cartographer, Alessandro Masnaghetti (he’s about to launch his Sonoma collection). That shows a nice understanding that your readers – web-savvy as they are – turn to analogue by default. There’s something more fulfilling in unfurling a finely-drawn map of Rutherford with all the vineyards colour-coded, rather than stabbing at your phone with a wine-stained forefinger.

There’s more: a $3,000 young writer fellowship is a fine initiative. There’s a good, no-nonsense gastronomy section including “Vinous in the Kitchen” videos and recipes and restaurant reviews; events – a Solaia vertical, a Bordeaux 1996 retrospective – at classy venues like London’s the Ledbury or New York’s Legacy Records. But despite running a series of seminars with eminent winemakers and owners on YouTube (Vinous Live!) the site doesn’t appear to have capitalised on the Zoom revolution of lockdown. Compared to its competitors it can appear slightly out of touch.

Vinous is the wine aficionado’s website par excellence – and like some wine lovers it can sometimes take itself a little too seriously. One baulks for example at sentences like “My palate and penmanship were working for Robert Parker…”. And the album reviews: why are wine critics so convinced we’re also interested in their music tastes? (On which note it’s worth remarking that a middle-aged wine writer who describes a female folk singer as a “chanteuse” is likely to quickly blow any residue of cool he’d hoped to build up.)

But we can forgive a little pomposity. Vinous is a venture that has the stamp of broad and deep authority, from homepage to terms & conditions. It’s an invaluable resource for the serious wine lover.

Scores

  • Topicality 5/10
  • Useability 7/10
  • Geek appeal 9/10
  • Popular appeal 3/10
  • Recommendations section 8/10

Annual cost

Classic One Year US$140/year

  • Full access to vinous.com and iOS/Android Apps
  • Upgrades for partner websites such as delectable.com and cellartracker.com
  • Links to Wine-Searcher Pro listings

Premium One Year US$210/year

  • Full access to vinous.com, iOS/Android
  • Upgrades for partner websites such as delectable.com and cellartracker.com
  • Links to Wine-Searcher Pro listings
  • Priority access to events and tastings
  • Additional special offers
  • All the benefits of Vinous Classic


Free

  • Visitors get several free clicks and views, which include the option to read the main body of articles and to watch videos. After that, almost all the site is behind the paywall

 

www.vinous.com

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