Cyber-Wine: Online snobs vs. valuable wine websites

Every jackass in the world now has a blog or a crappily designed website, and the people devoted to wine are no exception. Across cyberspace, those offering opinions about, and cases of, the grape are now legion, and many of them should be avoided at all costs.

A few, however, are worth checking out. Just not necessarily the most popular ones.

I Googled “wine” to start, and wine.com topped the list. A well-funded corporate entity with a revolving door of executives, wine.com has never tempted me. Its prices don’t beat local stores, and the selection often matches that of the wine shop down the street. So what’s the point?

Wine Spectator magazine (winespectator.com) came in second. With its snobby, biased, advertising-influenced editorial slant, I consider it to be the product of the antichrist, but it does have some utility. Its “Learn About Wine” section, for instance, can be a useful, independent source of information for those seeking to deepen their wine knowledge.

Further down the list is Wine-Searcher.com, a practical site for those seeking rare wines. It allows you to search more than 6,000 shops to buy a bottle from a certain winery or year — maybe a birth year or anniversary. The only bad thing is the search results include cognacs, whiskeys and armagnacs — distilled spirits far from anything I’d call wine.

Wineloverspage.com, created by veteran wine writer Robin Garr, embodies an homage to the wine obsessed. The site features hundreds of wine reviews, numerous columns and blogs from a smorgasbord of wine writers — and, for those who like to speak their mind, densely populated online discussion groups. This is one of my favorite sites and it’s recommended highly for those seeking down-to-earth wine education.

Most of the others produced by the Google search are so mired in snobbish winespeak that I gag. Explore with caution, as the attitude is contagious.

Not located by the search, for whatever reason, are two other useful sites: appellationamerica.com and localwineevents.com. Appellation America, whose name conjures up the Appalachian mountain range in most people’s mind, is designed to teach consumers about buying wine based on where the grapes are grown — so you can figure out what flavor you like the most. The idea is if you liked one bottle of Dry Creek Valley zinfandel, you might like another. The site is pretty new and fresh stuff is added every day, like blogs by wine writers across the country, direct wine sales by appellation, and info about wineries all over North America. For the wine geek, it’s close to nirvana; for the new-to-wine, it’s a great starting point.

Localwineevents.com is a national site that lists wine events in cities across America. The listing is free for the event organizers and free to you, as well. This way, you’ll never be without the juice.

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