Are wine writers and critics too soft? Am I too soft?
Lots of wine writers seem to follow the principle, 'if you haven't got anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all'. It seems polite not to be mean about wines, and I can see why some people might prefer to keep their negative opinions to themselves. However, many who take this course come across as toothless.
You may be liked by the trade if you are a safe bet for a kind review. But you don't serve your readers very well if you aren't totally honest. I try to write with my readers in mind, rather than winemakers whose wines I'm critiquing, or PR people who kindly send me samples.
I'm worried that I might be getting a bit soft. Have my scores crept upwards over time? Am I afraid to use the 70s, and perhaps even the 60s?
There's a certain honesty and transparency that comes from reviews written by people who have actually paid for the wine they are drinking. Perhaps I should be buying my own wines a bit more often?
But there is also the opposite scenario, when reviewers are deliberately and OTT mean, because this is entertaining. It might be fun to list your five worst wines of the month, and exaggerate the awfulness of these bottles for dramatic effect, but we are dealing with people's livelihoods here, and so we need to be fair in our criticism - and not grouchy and harsh for the fun of it.