This week, I did something I had hoped would never be necessary: I deleted some comments here, and cut off the commenter. His statements were simply too toxic for my taste, and he was using this site to denigrate others (who had been skewering him as well, but in childhood parlance, “he started it.”).
I’m fine with people criticizing me, and even questioning my professionalism, as this non-gentleman did. I can answer for myself, and in this case I will respond, not to any trash talk but to the notion that one cannot assess wine objectively if one is friends with people in the trade, the wholesalers, retailers, restaurant buyers and vintners.
In a word, hogwash. Balderdash. Poppycock. Horsefeathers. Tommyrot. Oh, and malarkey.
Never mind that by hanging with these folks, I learn a LOT about wine and grapes and the people and processes behind them. Or that we find plenty else to talk about, whether in a vinous context or not: geography, history, ethics, politics, culture, etc. We might delve into whether winemaking is art or science, but we’re more likely to talk about art and science, period.
Never mind that I gravitate toward those who don’t take wine, or themselves, too seriously, people who realize that wine is there for enjoyment, to be talked about (or not), but never to be talked to death.
No, the key point is that when assessing wines, I know how to be objective.
I’m experienced enough to know that context matters, that at certain gatherings (especially with those pesky friends) and/or in certain locales, a wine is absolutely going to be more memorable than if it were one of a dozen bottles I taste when I’m appraising samples. So I grade the former on a downward curve.
I’m also wise enough to know that those sample sips are just a snapshot, and evaluated in a flawed context, nothing like the way that we otherwise consume wine: over the course of an evening, usually with food. I do the best I can accordingly.
Bringing impartiality to the proceedings is what journalists do. I am sick to f-ing death of the attacks on my profession that have emanated from the right wing since (at least) Reagan. It’s hogwash (et al.). Of course we have personal views on religion and people and, yes, politics. But we put them aside when we do our work, and to claim otherwise is misguided, mean-spirited
As simplistic as it sounds, there are two kinds of people in the wholesale and retail biz: those who are passionate about wine and those who might as well be selling widgets. I gravitate toward the former, and make no apologies for socializing with them.
Being passionate makes us better, not worse, at assessing wine: more delighted when we find something wonderful, and downright disgusted and insulted when we encounter swill.
Blessedly, these folks generally don’t traffic in swill.