Wine Doctor - Paywall Went Up

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all that the winedoctor has to offer for some time now. I went to read the site today and found the paywall has started. I understand his reasoning for instituting this policy, but sadly the tariff is a bit high for me to subscribe with all the other free info available. Genuine well wishes to the wine doctor in the future. I am, however, also interested to hear others’ thoughts on this subject.

I think Chris has invested so much time and effort to produce excellent content that I totally understand his pay wall. I have been too lazy to put together such information, although it has been my intention to do so… Many bloggers and writers intend to write in detail about the wines they love. Chris Kissack intended to and has done so. Pay wall or no pay wall? That is a question that is hard to answer. On the one hand, you have sites that are free. In the world of news, I think of The Guardian for example. Or - if you prefer - The Daily Mail… Then you have hybrids like The Financial Times. Or teasers like The Economist. Chris is doing what he thinks is best for all the hard work he puts into his site. I too, wish him all the best!

I feel the same, Rob. Love Chris’ stuff and I wish him the best, but I"m not going to be one of his paying customers. Maybe some day but not now.

Chris’ site is one of the best of the web. I will miss it. I swore off subscriptions quite some time ago and do not want to go down that path again.

I will also miss the Winedoctor, epically his writing on Sauternes, and I wish him every success.

All the best to Chris and his future success. I’ve enjoyed his site and his writing the several times I’ve had the occasion to visit.

I agree with everyone else. He’s quietly put together one of the very best wine sites on the Web, mercifully free of thousands of ratings and instead full of thoughtfully presented information. I truly wish him all the best in everything.

But I just don’t see paying. There’s too much available and unlike say, the Economist, I don’t look at the site every week.

Off and on I’ve toyed with the idea of putting together a site but Chris set a high standard and for the effort it would take and the two readers who’d show up, I always talk myself out of it. Too bad Chris couldn’t make it work as a free site - he’s far superior to so many other sites where people blog about the wine they just tasted. Best of luck to him.

If I’m figuring the exchange rate correctly, the subscription price is about the same as WS online, and a little less than TWA, IWC, or BH. I have enjoyed the site, too, but I won’t be at that price. There are only so many of these things you can do.

Sad to see this. I’ve used his site for some good info, but end up there no more than a few times per year. If it was a more nominal charge, or required login with a suggested donation, I might go for it, but $72 (plus probably some exchange rate surcharge and fees) is too much. For tasting notes, it’s hard to compete with CellarTracker, where I can find tens of thousands, from hundreds of good tasters.

Exactly. Jumping to the price charged by Wine Spectator was a bit cheeky, too. As you said, a nominal fee or a donation would be more like the place to start.

What would you pay for good authoritative wine info? At some point, sites like his will have to “pay off,” or else they will die off. If I make one or two wine descisions that pay off because of what I read on his site, isn’t that worth something?

Jim, that’s a very logical way to look at it, particularly for wine geeks like us who spend a lot of time and money on wine. But still a tough sell when there are quite a number of these types of sites, and the info can largely be found in other places with a little effort. I honestly think that unless you have a really strong commercial presence, with a loyal following, restricting access to paying subscribers is the best way to drive a site into the ground.

Best coverage of the Loire Valley. Unfortunately, I’ve also sworn off paid subscriptions.


At some point, I think that tap will turn off. I think the best sites closing off will make a lot of the secondary sites starve for material. There are only so many people on the ground in a given region who are gifted at what they do. I would rather support their efforts with a token sum than hope I can pound through their paywall with google for free.

Call me an old-fashioned capitalist, but I think someone providing value should be paid for value.

Good luck Chris!

Loved your writings on BDX

P.s are you really a Dr?

It has been a great free resource for quite some time but personally I don’t refer to it enough to make it worth the subscription. I understand where he is coming from though and best of luck to him.

Perhaps he will supply the latest info but as I recall he has a medical degree, qualified as a doctor and [at least at one stage] practised as a paediatrician.

Call me an old-fashioned capitalist, but I think someone providing value should be paid for value.

Jim - it’s old-fashioned capitalism that you’re seeing in this thread. The market is speaking and the market is saying the price is out of line with the product. Nobody has denied that it’s a great product either. But in a capitalist market, pricing is very important. Maybe he’s pricing as a premium product and there’s just not that much demand for that particular product. I would think his audience is largely people who frequent boards like this, and if these people are demurring, that bodes ill for the entire venture.

Pricing is a big deal. You can’t price to cover your costs because the market doesn’t care about your costs. If you can’t make it, you fold. That’s capitalism. If you can price to cover your costs and then make something, you’re good. If you can price to cover your costs and then make something, and then get people to pay a hell of a lot extra because you’ve convinced them that you’re really special, you’re Bordeaux.

If Chris would have said something like $10, I bet he would have picked up all the posters so far and made the $75 in no time. Instead, at $75, he’s not picked up anyone.

I seriously doubt that the tap of free info is going to turn off. The regional trade associations are getting better and better at putting out information and links. Wineries too.

In addition, every day more people are starting blogs about their food, wine, personal trips and experiences, etc. People are willing to do that stuff for free, just to get a couple readers or cadge some free samples, or call themselves writers. Lots of people are hoping to get noticed and to get paid gigs from their free work. I don’t see that stopping any time soon. And you’re right in your implication that most of them aren’t very good, but there are so many, sooner or later someone is going to be good.

The WS, for better or worse, has spent a lot of money building their brand and they have a stable of writers, some of whom are very good, and they have some synergy between their online and print materials. That’s hard to beat for a single guy. Suckling, who has far greater name recognition than Chris, isn’t doing it, although I suppose he’s making a living doing his lectures, etc.

Personally, I’d far rather read Chris than Suckling but I’m not paying for either of them.

I signed up. It costs the equivalent of one decent bottle per year. But that’s not why I did it. I think it is important to support voices other than the glossy magazine, status quo establishment. Knowledgable, independent voices are important. Chris Kissack, John Gilman and, while she is probably establishment, Jancis Robinson are definitely independent. I enjoy reading about the wines that they loathe as well as love. And about the vignerons and regions and historical info. I’m happy to pay to read them and to support their points of view and reporting. Hell, I may even subscribe to Alice Feiring for the same reasons.

Every time I’ve read Chris’ features I’ve marvelled at his dedication and inexplicable ability to provide everything he does for free. In particular his domaine profiles and interviews are excellent and easily equal to if not better than anything produced professionally - he’s leagues above the average blogger and his/her asinine, cod tasting notes.

The subscription is equivalent to a monthly magazine, which doesn’t seem that unfair. But as we’ve all been conditioned in the online world to expect content for free (something I think will change a lot over the next few years), it would probably have been wise of him to pitch a little lower. $10 is probably too low, even at $25 it would be a no-brainer for me.

Thinking about other writers I like, John Livingstone Learmonth for instance, one way forward would be for some of those writers with complementary interests to forge subscription alliances and offer discounts for access to all.