There was a comment on twitter this week suggesting that the lack of negative reviews by wine writers (in contrast to restaurant reviewers, for example) is because we’re afraid to bite the hand that feeds. The implication: we’re a cowardly bunch afraid to speak our mind because we are in the pay of retailers/wineries/agencies, and so on.
Well, that’s not why I don’t post negative reviews. I make the occasional generic comment (and get in trouble for it), such as ’90% of all wines are crap’, and ‘most Chilean wine is boring’ (actually most wine from any country is boring, so it’s probably a bit unfair to single out Chile). But I won’t post specific negative reviews of wines. Trust me: I taste quite a lot of bad wine. And even more boring wine. Part of me would love to stick the boot in, because bad wine makes me feel angry, and depressed, or both. Worst of all: some very expensive, highly praised wine is crap. It’s true!
But I bite my tongue. The main reason is that it’s all a bit negative. I find so many wines I’d like to tell you about, they are the ones I focus on in this blog. I want to share my enthusiasm and help the good guys win. It’s much more productive to praise good work than it is to criticize bad work. I’ve seen some of my journalist colleagues turn a little negative and bitter, focusing on criticism, and it doesn’t look good and I don’t want to read their work.
Another reason for focusing on the positive is that a false positive is better than a false negative. I get it wrong sometimes. I’d rather not knock – unfairly – a winegrower’s work or reputation. No wine journalist is infallible, and so we have to tread carefully if we are about to criticize.
This is wine. It’s not politics. The wine world is a nice, generally happy place. There’s no great need for self-styled investigative wine journalists to probe for dirt and look for scoops. The news hounds continually looking for ‘stories’, often at the expense of others, can be quite damaging.
Of course we should be critical and discriminating, and we should look below the surface. I am very fussy about the wines I praise: I’m not relentlessly positive to the point of praising everything. But I don’t want to spend my time telling you about bad wines; I’ll just try to tell the stories that are positive.