It would be interesting to determine the breakdown of wines that I have reviewed over the past few years, to get an idea of which regions I review the most and least. It may be instructive to me as well, and indicate areas where I should review more. It would also be fascinating to see such breakdowns for other reviewers, including the Wine Spectator.
Thus, I was pleased to read their latest issue (1/31-2/28/10), which has an interesting article "The Year in Wine: 2009 In Review" by James Molesworth. It provides just such a breakdown for the nearly 17,000 new release wines they reviewed in 2009. There is a chart in the article which breaks down their reviews by region, as well as listing the average prices for wines that scored 90+, and giving a breakdown of the range of scores.
In 2009, their total number of reviews of new releases was 16,787 and those wines that scored 90+ wines had an average price of $77. That is certainly a very high average, making those inexpensive 90+ wines seem like tremendous bargains.
The wine region that garnered the most reviews is probably not a big surprise, France. There were 4719 reviews, roughly 28% of the overall total. Wines that scored 90+ wines had an average price of $100, so their wines are more expensive than the overall average cost. The most reviews were of Burgundy (1395) and Rhone (1026). That might surprise those who were expecting Bordeaux to be first.
The second largest region for reviews was California, with 3050 reviews, roughly 18% of the total. Wines that scored 90+ wines had an average price of $64, lower than the overall average. Though you might suspect Cabernet Sauvignon had the most reviews, it was actually Pinot Noir (637) with Cabernet (585) a fairly close second. There were only 161 Merlot reviews. The Sideways effect in operation?
Italy is a very close third with 2915 reviews, also roughly 18% of the total. Wines that scored 90+ wines had an average price of $69, lower than the overall average. Tuscany (1062) was the top region with Piemonte (745) in second place.
Fourth place is Spain with only 703 reviews, roughly 4% of the total. Wines that scored 90+ wines had an average price of $84, higher than the overall average. You can see the sharp decline in coverage between position three and four, from 18% to 4%. The top three regions occupy quite a significant portion of the total reviews.
In the U.S., wine reviews from states beside California include Washington (579), New York (422), and Oregon (328). There were also 84 reviews of wines from all of the other U.S. states, with no breakdown of which states are included in that total. It surprises me a bit that New York had more reviews than Oregon, only because Oregon wines are more readily available across the country than New York wines.
As for the other countries that came after Spain, there was Australia (688), Chile (587), Germany (586), Argentina (576), South Africa (466), Austria (294), Portugal (269), New Zealand (231) and Miscellaneous Other Countries (290).
Based on all of these figures, I think Wine Spectator should try to cover a greater amount of wines outside of France, California and Italy. As 64% of their coverage is just on those three regions, that seems a bit unbalanced. But it also leads to a few questions. Are those percentages intentional or accidental. Do these percentages simply reflect consumer buying patterns? Do they reflect production levels of the wine regions?
For wine bloggers and other wine writers, some of these figures also seem to offer opportunities. If you wanted to create a niche blog, concentrating on a specific wine region, you might be able to post a number of reviews competitive with Wine Spectator. You could provide greater coverage to areas where Wine Spectator provides only very limited coverage.