Wine criticism is an often criticized endeavor. As Peter Pharos writes,
Wine is a many-maligned thing. The punters are snobs and bores; the servers are sycophants or stuck-up; the vendors dress the emperor in the finest invisible silk. None, however, is more deserving of scorn than the critic: depending on who you ask, s/he is either fabulist-in-chief or the eunuch in the winemaker’s harem.
I’ve never had a winemaker call me a eunuch to my face. But then I only dabble at this wine criticism thing.
At any rate, I’m still busy at my real job wrapping up the semester. So today I will leave you in Peter’s capable hands. Because he really does have several important points to make about the value of wine criticism:
It is wine professionals though, from winemakers, to educators, to vendors that gain the most from critics – that’s why it’s so strange to me when I see them receiving friendly fire. Wine critics can act as a stabilising mechanism to vendors’ and winemakers’ pet fixations. Their helicopter view of the global scene offers insights that are not easy to gain from someone more or less committed to a specific plot of land and particular approach to winemaking. For smaller stores and educators, they give information that might simply not be financially feasible to achieve otherwise. Perhaps most importantly, every column inch and every minute of TV time they get, is a win for wine in general.
I couldn’t agree more. Without criticism, any practice becomes rigid, narrow and dogmatic. The job of the critic is not to tell you what to drink but to reinforce standards of quality and point out something about a wine that others might have missed.