How Wine Lovers Geek Out: The Best Insider Websites

American Age Official

“CHEAP WINES are too good these days.” If that sounds intriguing you might want to read the essay of the same title on the website Wineanorak.

Created by Jamie Goode, a scientist-turned-wine-writer in the U.K., Wineanorak is an online “Global Wine Journal” designed to appeal to wine geeks like me. (In British slang, “anorak” means nerd or geek.) I read it on a fairly regular basis along with a few other resources I appreciate for their sheer depth of detail as well as their authoritative information. While reading these won’t automatically make you a geek, they can certainly help nudge you in that direction if that’s what you want.

Wineanorak, which Mr. Goode created in 1999, includes winemaker profiles, wine reviews and videos. His essay on cheap wine, published in the “New to Wine” section, offers a good sense of Wineanorak’s style of analysis. “One of the problems that the wine category has these days is profitability. Wine is just too cheap,” Mr. Goode writes. “Competition between the supermarkets, who sell most of the wine in the U.K. (and in many other countries), has led to price competition. There has been a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, and it has largely been the producers who have suffered.”

While reading these won’t automatically make you a geek, they can certainly help nudge you in that direction.

“I think the luxury of Wineanorak is that I can post whatever I want. I can be as geeky as I want,” Mr. Goode told me in an email. “I’m not looking to chase readers by tailoring content to fit what the majority of people are interested in.” And although the “New to Wine” section seems designed to appeal to wine tyros—many of its articles focus on how wine is made—Mr. Goode noted that his current audience is primarily “geeks, trade people and engaged consumers.”

That also describes the target audience of Meininger’s Wine Business International, another geeky favorite of mine. I’m especially interested in the work of contributing editor Robert Joseph, who explores topics of interest to both wine professionals and committed amateurs on a weekly basis. Mr. Joseph’s recent essay on wine classification systems, for example, followed the trade news that two heralded châteaux—Ausone and Cheval Blanc—had opted out of the Bordeaux classification. In it, he wonders if the entire notion of classification is completely outdated. “Today, the people charged with drawing up these hierarchies take account of perceived quality, marketing and wine tourism,” he writes. “Which raises a fairly simple question: If a wine estate is getting all of these right, why does it need to apply for a place on a bureaucratic leader board?”

Felicity Carter was editor-in-chief of Meininger’s Wine Business International for more than a decade until she joined the Drop as executive editor this past February. Launched this June, the Drop is the online wine magazine of Pix, a Napa-based search engine/information platform for wine buyers. Ms. Carter is particularly keen to counter what she calls the “pseudoscience” of wine writing and marketing, particularly with regard to wine and health. “One of my goals is to make sure that anything we publish is science-based,” she said.

Ms. Carter’s purview extends to articles that appeal to non-geeks (red wines for summer, wine horoscopes). But many of the Drop’s offerings, especially those in the “Explainer” section, hold greater geek appeal. For example, writer and blogger Jeff Siegel explores such geeky topics as the marketing of Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck and why it costs so much to ship a case of wine. Of the latter, he notes: “Retailers and producers must get licenses from each state they ship to, and they may also need federal permits. So a winery in California that ships to 10 states must send copies of its license and permits to each state, complete each state’s paperwork, pay any state licensing fees, and then send copies of all of that to the shipping companies. And that’s before any wine leaves the winery.” Anyone interested in making educated decisions at the wine store could benefit from this perspective.

Mr. Siegel even uncovers something I didn’t know: that wine shipping laws can differ from one city to another even within the same state: “[S]hipping to one city in Maryland can be different from shipping to another city. Plus, the laws are different for wineries and retailers.”

The website I probably consult most often is CellarTracker , a veritable treasure trove of wine geeks’ tasting notes. Created by former Microsoft executive Eric LeVine, CellarTracker offers wine reviews and analysis gleaned from thousands of knowledgeable wine drinkers and collectors. (There are currently 755,000 CellarTracker users according to Mr. LeVine.) Their collective wisdom makes this site incredibly worthwhile, especially when it comes to deciding whether or not a wine in my cellar might be ready to drink—or past its prime.

Take, for example, my most recent foray to the site. I wanted to find out if I should take a certain Barbaresco from my cellar to dinner with friends. I found 13 CellarTracker community tasting notes on my bottle of 2013 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo and a collective score of 91.5. As I suspected, CellarTrackers thought the wine was far too young to drink.

A CellarTracker user known as Pinot Peter offered perhaps the most thorough assessment, from his own tasting of the wine in May 2021, worth printing here in its entirety: “The 2013 for me is a more classic tasting nebbiolo from Barbaresco. Starting to show a brick red colour, great acidity, tannins are softening and the fruit flavours are beginning to become more pronounced. Flavours of tar, leather, raspberries and tobacco. There is a dryness on the palate initially from the tannins with only a slight sweetness from the fruit. This is starting to show balance. Opened from the cellar at 60 degrees F. This opens up after the first glass as it warms in your hand and begins to show more weight on the palate and sweetness from the fruit. This becomes a great tasting wine as you let the bottle open up. I will decant or let the next bottle sit for a couple of hours. This will age well. Tried the leftover wine the next day. Softer and way more fruit forward. Excellent.” I can only add that when I opened (and decanted) the bottle, I found that Pinot Peter was exactly right.

Whether you want to know more about wine in general; delve deeply into wine science, commercial production, shipment and sales; or find out if a particular bottle is ready to drink, these websites can be incredibly helpful. And if you simply want to out-geek a fellow wine geek, they can help you achieve that goal as well.

Write to Lettie at wine@wsj.com

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