For any wine critic or writer, impartiality is a non-negotiable.
And I think that all wine writers realise this. So the real danger is not corruption, or obvious conflicts of interest. Rather, it’s the subtle loss of perspective that being sucked into the wine trade brings with it.
As a writer, I gain a great deal by getting closer to the trade, in terms of understanding wine, and having access to it. But I have to keep reminding myself that I’m writing for consumers, not the wine trade.
And I have to keep disciplining myself to think as consumers do. That is, to approach wine from the perspective of someone spending their own money on it.
There is still an awful lot of mediocre, expensive wine. You can spend £20 and end up with something that’s not much fun to drink.
It’s for this reason I still buy wine at all levels. I still buy bottles from supermarkets and independent wine merchants, and I compare the way I assess my own purchases with the way I approach samples. Only last night I found myself making excuses for a very average £30 Barbaresco (sample) when I should have been much harsher on it.
Perspective is everything. And it’s very easy to lose it.