Tasting Notes & Personal Branding


A very interesting article. Martin Isark charges 15000 pounds plus 2% of sales commission to share his tasting notes. And he has sued three times. The angle is very interesting. The idea of charging makes some sense. Very little sense. Tasting notes are very ephemeral and how many people would care what the notes say to charge a good deal of money? Isark is either obsessed with his own work that he refuses to let go of and share or he has serious wrong expectations. I don’t think I will see one such as this again.


Wine writer Martin Isark is currently suing Majestic Wine for using one of his tasting notes. He claims that that the company used his tasting note without his permission and on the wrong vintage. Obviously, putting the note on the wrong vintage is not accurate, and, if true, could be considered misleading the public, but I can’t help feeling that Mr Isark is shooting himself in the foot a little.

Wine writers are simply people who have an ability to put what they taste into words, and whilst they may not be the richest people in the world, I can understand them wanting to make money out of their work, and I can also understand their issues with other people and companies capitalising on what they write.

However, in an increasingly diluted media world, to use a phrase often used by another wine critic, personal branding is everything. If Mr Isark’s name is seen on a neck collar on a bottle or on a shelf end tasting note, the person buying that wine will be exposed to his name – his personal brand. If they then like that wine, they are more than likely going to follow his recommendations in the future and that could result in them visiting his website, reading his columns, buying his book and increasing his income that way.

I know a wine critic who writes for a national newspaper and her views, expressed in the paper she writes for, will influence sales in my shop. If she writes about a wine and loves it, I know that at least half a dozen people will be in my shop within two hours of opening to buy that wine. These people hang on every word this wine writer says, and it is these people who, indirectly, pay her salary by purchasing newspapers and attending events she runs.

I looked at Mr Isark’s website, and he, almost proudly, mentions the three times he has sued companies for using his website and that he charges £15,000 plus 2% of sales for use of his tasting notes. I don’t know if this is the going rate for wine writers, but I couldn’t find anything on any of the leading British wine critics websites warning retailers off using their notes. Only The Wine Gang mentioned a fee, which was £200 for a year’s membership of their website and for that you could reproduce the notes of five of the UK’s leading wine critics. Significantly less than Mr Isark’s fifteen grand!

Using critics tasting notes is of mutual benefit to the writer and the retailer, with one getting cash for selling a bottle of wine, and the other brand awareness, and it is this last part that is too often forgotten.

It should be mentioned that any retailers reading this can use any of my tasting notes for free, all I ask is that you credit The Tasting Note.


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