I have a worry. It’s that wine critics are doing too much tasting and not enough drinking.
The competition amongst the critics is becoming intense. As the Robert Parker era closes, there’s a bit of a power struggle. The point-scorers are vying for power. Who will have influence?
The wine world is now too big for one critic to cover. So what we see is teams of critics emerging. Their strategy is to try to be as comprehensive as possible. So they all try t0 out-taste each other. They try to be first. The result is that these hard-working critics taste hundreds of wines a session.
On one level I understand the approach. I can taste 150 wines in a day and give a relatively accurate verdict at the commercial level. But I cannot taste 150 fine wines in a day and discriminate among them. At the top end, we are talking about a level of discrimination that’s quite different.
For serious wine, we need to take our time. Drinking helps, too. I would rather jump off the competitive treadmill, taste fewer wines, and give a more considered, accurate, insightful opinion. My goal with wineanorak is to steer people towards the sorts of wines that I think deserve attention. The best way for me to do this is to combine large tastings (which are necessary for context) with some proper wine drinking. It is only when you sit down with a bottle that you begin to get to know it.
It’s the difference between shaking hands with someone, followed by a quick chat, and spending the evening with someone.
If critics carry on with their numbers approach (‘We’ve tasted and rated 2000 wines from this vintage’) they will prove increasingly irrelevant to wine lovers who can share their more considered opinions via social media.