Great topic, @Mooble.
Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of subscriptions. Robert Parker was the obvious one for me about 10-15 years ago, I suppose for the sheer breadth and the wonderful level of detail, and the rating consistency, even if I disliked or disagreed with the system. But I abandoned that after the descriptions became too annoying and the influence of the man began to distort the entire world of winemaking. I also once subscribed to James Halliday and then didn’t renew because of the ridiculous levels of grade inflation, and the overexcited descriptions of often merely generic and boring wines. And that’s just Australia. I also subscribed to the excellent Burghound (in spite of the simply shocking website design and user interface) because Allen Meadows is such a passionate writer and I love Burgundy. But I can’t afford the wines really, so it’s a lot of investment in time and energy and money when I only really buy a few cases EP a year in a good year. But for big spenders and Burgundy lovers, I would say Burghound is an essential subscription.
For me, the two most valuable subscriptions are Wine-Searcher Pro and Jancis Robinson. Wine Searcher is in my view completely indispensable. I use it every single day several times, including the app, and wouldn’t really know what to do without it. It lets me compare, check, buy, read reviews, learn, connect regions, grapes, vintages and sellers quickly and painlessly. It’s the only way to track down old vintages and see who’s selling them. Jancis has grown on me massively as a taster. I used to find her descriptions aloof and idiosyncratic, and preferred the torrent of adjectives in the American Parker-Suckling tradition because it’s easier to visualise the actual taste in the mind’s eye (smell it in the mind’s nose?). But the truth is, Jancis is a fantastic, fearlessly independent taster, and her team is just as good. And they all respect the integrity and restraint of the 20-point system, and studiously avoid grade inflation. So on the Jancis website not only do I get these superb tasting notes and consistent, careful scores, but also excellent content about regions, varieties, vintages and so on. And unlike Decanter and Wine Spectator and so on, no annoying ads.
Oh, I would add another one: Tim Atkin. I’m a huge fan. I don’t think you can subscribe to his site (it’s free), but his reports on regions and vintages are essential purchases and I would strongly recommend buying 2-3 a year. At about £20 each they’re fantastic value. You just pay and download. http://www.timatkin.com/reports
So that would be my ha’penny’s worth on this topic.