There are definitely some ideological splits going on right now. Parker is amazingly powerful in the industry, and while he has as much integrity as anyone, his judgment is far from infallible. His team really don't seem to understand Burgundy at all, and he and Clive Coates have been in a peeing match about whether some of the new Bordeaux producers are any good. We'll know in 10 years who was right about Chateau Pavie. Wine Spectator is good in a daily-newspaper sort of way. Articles tend to direct your attention to what you should be thinking and talking about, and ratings, while not really helpful, aren't generally stupid, either. Your best bet with all of this is to find a good store (of course, you have to know how to recognize that), and sample. When I wanted to start learning Burgundy, I found one store in Boston and especially one in NYC that had good collections, and got a mixed case. I opened everything over a course of weeks, called back, told them what I liked and why. Then we cycled through again. When a couple of good vintages came around, I felt a little better informed, and bought in more quantity. Do the same for regions. Try California /Australian /French/ New York cabernets to see what you like, if anything. Maybe aspects of a style will hit you, and if you have a good sales person, they can find you more like it. Do some reading to get a sense of what you MIGHT want to look for (do you prefer Chardonnays with a lot, a little, or no oak), but also taste without prejudice. Be aware that irrespective of Parker's opinion that a certain wine may be enjoyable upon release, many of the best wines don't do what they are supposed to do for 5-15 or more years after the vintage. Buy a few older bottles at auction to see what mature Bordeaux is like vs. the stuff in stores. The Wall Street Journal has a good column on Fridays that has the right attitude--- even if it is a little light on detailed content. Another source for opinions from someone who tastes in the right way: www.yakshaya.com
Good primer on Burgundy regions, and a lot more background in the write-ups. If you want capsule Parker reviews on a lot of fine wine, try the auctions at The Chicago Wine Company (www.tcwc.com
). If nothing else, you'll learn a lot about what drives prices in this country. Stay open-minded, but respect authority. If someone you trust says "try this," then try it. And if it seems weird at first, ask questions and stay with it. You never know.