Does having a nice experience of a country bias writers, even subtly?
Keith P posed an interesting question in response to one of my blog posts from New Zealand. To paraphrase: does having a nice experience when visiting a wine region of country introduce a degree of positive bias in subsequent reviews?
Let's put this another way. Would it, in fact, be better for wine critics to have samples sent and taste the wines blind in a relatively neutral environment, such as their offices? There are a couple of well known critics who 'don't do vineyards', for example. Is their coverage more objective? Are wine reviews done in large, blind peer-group tastings of c. 100-150 wines per day in some way more professional and therefore more useful to readers because they are shorn of such biases?
I don't think there's a simple answer to these questions, and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. But here's my current thinking.
Visiting wine regions and vineyards, and meeting with the people behind the wines, is absolutely vital if a writer is going to be able to make useful comments about the wines. Wine is more than simply a liquid in a glass that we, as critics, measure in much the same way as a Foss WineScan might do.
I had a great time in New Zealand and met some great people. My coverage of New Zealand wine will be better for it. I'm also aware that positive experiences can lead to a desire to big-up the wines a little, but I have visited enough regions now that I'm aware of the danger of thinking that the latest region visited is the next big thing - just because I have been there.
I also think large, blind tastings have problems of their own - often the results that come from them frequently seem a bit odd when you know some of the wines included well. They are useful, certainly, but they are not the final word. The job of the wine communicator is to tell the story of the wine, as well as evaluating it.
Pictures above: top two - the gold mine sluicings at Mount Difficulty (Central Otago), viewed from the restaurant and also from above (you can see the winery from the aerial picture); bottom picture is of a vineyard in Gibbston, Central Otago.
Labels: New Zealand