The dangers of negativity

One of the perils with my line of work is that it can be so easy to allow negativity to seep into my writing. I’m strongly convinced that negativity is poisonous and it can easily taint a writer’s output if it is allowed to take control.

Of course, this is not unique to wine writing, and it’s something that all of us have to deal with in our general lives. But I’m prompted to write about it because there’s a lot of it about.

I’m not arguing for uncritical acceptance, or just a general, bland niceness. It’s vital to be critical; to ask questions; and not to simply act as unpaid PR for whichever wine company wants to get their message across.

Rather, it’s about the focus of a writer’s work, and the way it feels to read it. There’s a lot to be positive about in the world of wine; there’s also plenty to be negative about.

In the latter camp:

  • International-style red wines at 15% alcohol with lots of new oak
  • The hyper-inflated scores dished out by egomaniacal critics with questionable taste
  • The anonymity and joylessness of many supermarket wines
  • The vacuousness of some Instagram ‘influencers’ who buy followers and engage in mutual self-promotion drives with other influencers
  • Ultracompetitive, self-promoting wine communicators who muddy the water for the rest of us who are friendly and collegiate
  • Big wine companies who muscle out competition
  • Environmentally degrading chemical viticulture

But if as writers we focus on the negative, it ends up tainting our writing. We end up being mean. We end up thinking we are better than others. We forget to be humble in the face of wine. We end up developing a taste for negativity; an addiction to antagonism. We will start looking for trouble and enjoying a good verbal scrap.

It’s very hard to escape a negative mindset when it is entrenched. We will find it difficult to praise, to be positive, to enthuse others about what’s good. And that should be our focus as wine writers: to find great things and tell people about them.

5 comments to The dangers of negativity

  • Richard Morris

    To take your third point, you do (occasionally) read critical comments – in a general sense – the anonymity of supermarket wines. But that’s no good to the consumer. In fact every critic who has a wine column always praises the supermarket wines they are reviewing.

    Other critics in the press are critical – of books, plays, restaurants, films, cars, in fact everything – apart from wine.

    You might usefully ask why that is.

  • Fully agree. I’d suggest this is why some of my reviews and writing has found such a resonance among SA consumers / producers so tired of negative, back biting local commentators, though the situation is improving in SA I reckon. It’s about time too.

  • Keith Prothero

    Yes although one could argue Greg that we never read anything other than positive views from you and most other wine critics.
    I have no problem with negative reviews of wine and indeed welcome them. Guess so many don’t want to upset people they probably know well .

  • Petri Pellinen

    Honest wine writing with critical approach when required is what’s preferred. Who want’s to read “advertorials” or totally negative whip slashing? But; how often does one find honest, well studied, sound and multifaceted wine writing? And as Richard Morris wrote, writing of other issues are often tackled with much tougher approach.

  • Wine criticism is a diffficult issue. Many producers are not doing that well financially, so it seems a bit mean to make things worse for them. Yet your average consumer wants to know if wines are “good” or “bad”. As someone involved in production myself I guess I would generally gloss over / avoid talking a bout a “bad” wine or constructively criticise, stressing also the good points. Personally I’d never feel comfortable posting something like “wine a is crap”. Yet nobody does, right? Surely there’s a market for that…

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