jamie goode's wine blog: The Wine Advocate's new standards

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Wine Advocate's new standards

After all the fuss about standards/conflicts of interest with respect to the new reviewers at the Wine Advocate, Robert Parker's influential publication, they have released a new set of Writer Standards. Very sensible they are too: this should put that little storm in a teacup to bed (sorry for the mixed metaphors).

One section I particularly applaud, titled Individual Accountability. I'm reproducing it here, because I think it's so true.

Individual Accountability: While I have never found anyone's wine?tasting notes compelling reading, notes issued by consensus of a committee are the most insipid and often the most misleading. Judgments by committees tend to sum up a group's personal preferences. But how do they take into consideration the possibility that each individual may have reached his or her decision using totally different criteria? Did one judge adore the wine because of its typicity while another decried it for the same reason, or was the wine's individuality given greater merit? It is impossible to know. That is never in doubt when an individual authors a tasting critique.

Committees rarely recognize wines of great individuality. A look at the results of tasting competitions sadly reveals that well?made mediocrities garner the top prizes, and thus blandness is elevated to the status of a virtue. Wines with great individuality and character never win a committee tasting because at least one taster will find something objectionable about the wine.

I have always sensed that individual tasters, because they are unable to hide behind the collective voice of a committee, hold themselves to a greater degree of accountability. The opinion of a reasonably informed and comprehensive individual taster, despite the taster's prejudices and predilections, is always a far better guide to the ultimate quality of the wine than the consensus of a committee. At least the reader knows where the individual stands, whereas with a committee, one is never quite sure. Every article and tasting note we issue is attributed specifically to the writer responsible.


At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Yup, I also agree with that.

It also got me to wondering if anything similar happens in "offline" style gatherings of wine-geeks. I'm not convinced it's anything like as severe, though, as praising a bland wine never goes down well in such a group!

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Alex, I think the idea that there is one universal palate is bonkers. Experienced tasters often disagree. It is these points of disagreements that are interesting: they're not statistical blips that need to be ironed out, but they teach us something useful.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Jim Budd said...

I agree I've found experienced tasters, whose judgment I respect, can have widely differing views, especially when tasting wines blind.


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