Shills on CT/Vivino

So I had the following conversation with a salesman at a local winestore yesterday, who saw me on my phone:

Him: “Are you on Vivino?”
Me: “No, on cellatracker.”
Himn: “Let me tell you something. I worked at an importer. Whenever we brought a new wine in, first thing we would do is get a couple of folks to post positive notes on Vivino and CT. Don’t believe what you read for new release wines.”

So: true, partially true, or false?

I’m not ITB, but I’ve recently come to be suspicious of certain CT notes. It’s just like Amazon reviews…They were great in the beginning but I now question the integrity of many.

Salespersons are always honest, forthright and without agenda.

So we have a link next to every note. Please report things that look suspicious. It is really that simple.

I have favorite tasters and always look at an unknown to me tasters’ profiles and tns. If they have numerous detailed notes, I would think they are legit and not a publicist or such.

Gotta luv the interwebs! It’s the closest thing to the modern Wild West, complete with snake oil salesmen.

I have no first hand knowledge of this, but would not doubt it happens. So many folks now search CT when searching for wines (congrats, Eric!!!) or Vivino that it make ‘sense’ to ensure your wine ‘looks good at first glance’ when someone searches for it . . .

And thanks for the advice, Eric - hopefully they will clean some of this up.


Clean some of what up? I have personally looked at every reported note over the past 13 years. I can count the outright shills and frauds on two hands in that period of time. (There was one obnoxious importer who had something like 13 accounts. He was easy to spot and shut down 7 years ago.)

Success will make it inevitable that more people will game the system, but this thread is heavy on the innuendo and light on facts and follow-through.


Sorry - yep, I do not have ‘facts’ but anytime anyone offer folks an opportunity to ‘voice their opinions’, you’re bound to have some that ‘take advantage’ of it. Glad to hear that you’re on top of it and hope that this does not happen often.

I guess we all know where ‘assumptions’ lead us.


TBF, he told me this while I was looking at two similarly-priced bottles with similarly-decent CT notes. He certainly didn’t know I was a deep wine geek when he said it, though.

Unless we can get access to the IP addresses of all CT posters, and then trace those IPs to their owners, and then find out where they work and where their relatives work, there won’t be any facts that anyone on a hobbyist website can prove. Don’t be naive though - it happens on EVERY site, including ones MUCH larger than CT, like Yelp and Google.

A real fact is that Law Enforcement is looking into ways to punish people who leave bogus reviews, either positive or negative. Right now, that’s difficult to do but not impossible. I had this discussion with my brother-in-law (a detective). It comes down to the cost of enforcement versus the seriousness of the infraction. There are bureaus and specialized forces that deal with internet crimes. Tracking down fraudulent reviewers (shills) is not exactly a high priority.

And it’s not just outright fraud as well. I had a very uncomfortable Yelp experience this year. I boarded my dogs out while we were on vacation and was very happy with the experience (the business finds and vets homes of dog lovers who will take care of your dogs in their home). They asked me to review them on Yelp since I was so happy and I gave them a 5 star review but mentioned that the service was expensive - which it was.

They contacted me and said they’d give me a 5% rebate if I took out the line about them being expensive. I didn’t reply as what I wanted to say about the attempted bribery would have meant that I could never use the service again.

That’s a common practice on Yelp - the business will offer you credit or something else in return for altering or deleting your negative review. And if you blow the whistle, you’re gone. Pretty shitty, ain’t it? Now imagine somebody less forthright using it to blackmail a company into discounts. It’s happened - I have first hand experience. It’s making me think the expense of a body camera would be worth it just to counter, and then prosecute, these nefarious scammers.

Thanks for calling me naive.

Please, report notes that look fishy. It’s simple. We respond.

BTW, FWIW your account fits the profile of a suspicious account (e.g. no cellar data, just notes on a series of wines). That is a more rare usage scenario. Not a lot of shills are spending a lot of time also managing cellars, so there is a very clear tell that most people notice pretty easily. We have access to a lot of extra details, so, if you see something, please say something.

Ha! I never thought of CT as being a “social media platform” with “big data,” but it clearly is. Eric could probably make a ton of money selling info to wine marketers – even if it was limited to aggregated data and pattern analyses.

You saw what happened when the floodgates of money got into politics?

I want to take up for Eric. His site is probably the least “astroturfed” crowd sourced review site on the web and as evidenced by his reples, he works to keep it that way. [welldone.gif]

It’s just part of the game, people. If I had a business where free advertising with a broadly cast net was available, I would do it too. I have recommended to smaller wineries that they should at least enter their wines into CT and provide label/bottle-shots for their products as a means of increasing awareness.

If a shill merely provides a numeric score without a descriptive tasting note, that’s lazy.


If CT was not the useful tool for personal inventory and recording tasting notes, no one here would be addressing this issue.

The fact is, I use CT several times a week and I appreciate the tasting notes of others. I would bet that many “shills” might even be store employees who predominantly drink what they sell and, consequently, post tasting notes on those wines…

Or they could simply be dedicated customers who buy almost exclusively from a single store, and therefore post notes mostly on wines from that store.