I remember that as a child I loved creating things. I spent hours drawing: pencils, felt-tip pens, and even drawing ink. I also loved sculpting things out of plasticine (famously used by Nick Park in his animated features) and clay. But each time I did something new, I needed it to be endorsed by someone else. This was usually my mum, and I’ll forever be grateful for her unfailing enthusiasm and heartfelt praise for my work. I credit this lavish approval for the confidence (or is it over-confidence?) I have in anything I create now. I’m always willing to try new things and stretch myself, and this has served me well. There’s no room for self-doubt if you’re in the media.
I don’t know if this need for approval ever leaves us. Whenever we do something, whether it is writing an article or making a wine, third-party feedback is so helpful. We may think we’ve done a good job, but until others give their verdicts, we’re never quite sure.
I guess that’s one of the reasons that we still need good wine critics. Not only is good wine criticism helpful for consumers who want to spend their hard-earned money wisely, but also it acts as a validation for winemakers. If a critic is competent and honest (some critics taste poorly and others just say nice things about every wine in a bid to be quoted) then their verdict is valuable feedback for winegrowers.
Of course, winegrowers know their wines and vineyards better than any critic. But we all find it easier to assess other people and their work than we do ourselves and our work. I’m quite good at giving my friends life advice when I see what they are up to, but I’m particularly bad in assessing myself. For this reason, I value the feedback of others, because they can see things that I miss. We don’t know what we look like until we have a mirror, and in this life the mirror is constructive feedback from friends who care.