In Mutineer Magazine Issue 3 we highlight twelve blogs that were represented at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Here is the third of twelve full interviews from the conference.
Blogger: Tim Lemke
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Launched: June 2007
What inspired Cheap Wine Ratings?
It started one day while I was walking through Trader Joe’s. People had been raving to me about the value wines you could find there, saying there were tons of cheap wines available, so I was walking down the aisle thinking to myself, “Are any of these any good?” So I decided to buy a case of all different wines, compare them, and figure out if any of these are good, and then come back and buy more of whatever is good. The end result was that I didn’t like any of them. So I realized that I needed to share this stuff, I needed to get online and let everyone else know who is looking for good values what is and what isn’t. I started keeping a record and started going from place to place looking for the best bargains out there to give people a resource that are looking for good deals.
So you were disappointed with your first case of value wine. Have you since found the value wines you were seeking?
I have, and I’ve become a big advocate of going to your local, privately owned, non-chain wine shop, and talking to the experts there who are familiar with the wines, who taste the wines before they buy them, and know what’s good. I also suggest looking at wine blogs like Cheap Wine Ratings. I share all of my experiences with wine. In a way it has taken something that I liked, which is drinking and enjoying wine, and turned it into a labor in a way, because I don’t get to just enjoy wine anymore. Every time I open a new bottle I have to sit down and take notes and study it and figure out how it stacks up against everything else in its category, but I think there is a demand for that out there. You look at wine publications like Wine Spectator and they’re focused on collectors. They’re focused on people who are buying expensive wines, and they are in a different category. My audience is really the everyday drinker. Someone who enjoys wine, but is looking to step it up just a notch. They know they like wine, they know the wine they’ve been drinking isn’t the best wine, they don’t want to spend a whole lotta money but they want something better than what they’ve been drinking.
What qualifies you to write this blog?
When I first started it, nothing, which is the same amount of experience that Robert Parker had when he started writing about wines. In everything that I do in my professional career, which I work in marketing, I am a very analytical person, and the way that I approach everything on the blog is very analytical.
What is your approach and philosophy regarding wine ratings?
I have sixteen qualities I’ll review on each wine, with ten points for each quality, and I’ll mathematically equate that down to a one hundred point scale. So it is a very analytical and technical process that I go through. I look at the appearance of the wine, the aromas, the intensity, the flavors, it is very systematic. I’m not a CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine), I’m not a Sommelier, but my audience isn’t looking for someone with that much experience. They are looking for someone to tell them whether this is a good wine to buy or is it not. The way that I approach my blog is by looking at a category and trying all the Chardonnay wines and all of Cabernet wines I can find within the price range, or all of the Cotes du Rhone I can find within the price range and trying all of these within a month or two and creating a record of it and comparing. I’ll post write-ups on each as I do them, but then I’ll do a summary at the end, which I think is one of the most valuable things I do on my blog. You’ll see a summary where I’ll include the fifteen or twenty I tried in the category and how they all stacked up.
How do most of your wines rate using your 100 point system?
I do try and be selective about the wines that I buy, and I do look for recommendations from other folks. I find that a lot of wines in this price range fall between the 85-90 range.
What does a score of 85 on your blog say about that wine?
An 85 says that this is a good wine. This is a good, drinkable wine that I can enjoy without having to fork out a lot of money. It is not a knock-my-socks off wine though. It is not something that I’m going to rave about, but something that I’m going to enjoy, and I think a lot of people are looking for that.
Which region excites you the most right now for value?
Cotes du Rhone.
Edited for clarity.