In a bid to create more transparency for wine consumers, Mahana Estates and its winemaker Michael Glover is taking a stand against the practice of ‘paid for’ reviews.

Glover said that he had been surprised by the prevalence of the ‘paid for’ wine review since moving to New Zealand and taking up the role of winemaker at Mahana.

“Most people walking into a store and observing a big gold sticker on a bottle with the number ‘95’ on it would assume that the number has been awarded in an impartial and objective setting and is not subject to a monetary transaction,” said Glover.

“This is how it works; a producer sends their wine to a reviewer. The reviewer then charges them for each wine that is submitted for assessment. For me, this begs the question – is a paid review independent?”

According to Glover, the spirit of winemaking or wine enjoyment is not in line with such a review system where stars or numbers are attributed to wines.

“Any one of us can ‘score’ wine. We all have an opinion. What many of us cannot do, however, is put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and convey what wine is, what wine means, and what wine can be in our lives. This style of writing is much more about sharing knowledge and love of a subject than casting judgement from ‘above’.

As a result, Mahana Estates has backed Glover’s decision not to send its wines for ‘paid for’ review and not to display scores for its wines (numerical or stars) at its cellar door.

“As a wine producer, I can only do what I feel is right. I do not send any of my wines to a reviewer who requests payment for that review. From now on I will only publish or use words – rather than scores, ratings or stars, and I will ask wine critics and journalists to do the same. For me the role of the wine writer is to inform, educate, and most importantly, to empower the reader to make their journey with wine.”

“A bottle of wine is the result of a cold winter of pruning, a hopeful spring of growth, a summer of ripening and a nervous autumn of anticipation. Fruit is harvested and turned into wine. That wine can then mature in wooden barrels for possibly years before bottling. At some point, the bottle is opened and poured. This is when the real story begins. A bottle of wine can tell a story of seasons, people and places. It may be conservative, or it may be adventurous. It may be loud, or it may be quiet. Regardless, it will resonate with some people and not with others - it will be personal. Does a number do justice to all of this? Does a number tell a story?”