‘One good friend, a refugee from the wine trade James Herrick, likes to remind me that I once told him that when I approach the keyboard, ‘the milk of human kindness drains out of me” Jancis Robinson.
That’s my single most favourite quote about being a wine writer ever. It’s a mantra. A reminder that the privileged ‘job’ as a wine critic isn’t to be a cheerleader or a marketer or a promoter – it’s to dispassionately, even brutally, judge the quality of a wine, and not give a stuff about what anyone else might think.
But sometimes, I can’t help but cheer.
Cheer like a schoolkid. Feel ‘the stoke’ thanks to a wine that tastes exactly like I want it to taste. That joy that you get when a new producer delivers their first wine and its great. Or a winemaker who has had a rough year and gone on to release something delicious – where the tears are channelled into hard work, which is then translated into really fine wine.
And that’s where the challenge lies. I can try my best to ignore that milk of human kindness, but emotion still dictates how I ‘feel’ about it, and ultimately colours my perception, if only a little.
It’s easy to be either too critical or indeed too positive. I could slip into Halliday mode and give 94 points for middling boredom. Or I could go into ‘hard assed winemaker at a wine show’ setting and give nearly every wine 15/20 because of the mere suggestion of VA.
But I’d argue that neither approach is that useful. Ultimately, you want a critic to be hard but fair. To give high scores only when wines deserve it and call out the rubbish.
Is that really achievable though? There’s a point when I open a great wine and it’s just impossible not to get excited. How amazing is wine! But then, you come back a few minutes later and that initial enthusiasm has cooled again, and it’s just another good drink. Until you finish the glass, and then it’s a great wine again. How amazing is this fermented grape juice stuff!
You can see what I mean. Dispassionate judging is the ideal, but is it unrealistic when we’re trying to describe what are effectively emotional responses to one of the most complex products on the planet?
Help keep Australian Wine and Drinks Review free
Rather than bombard you with ads or erect a paywall, I simply ask for a donation to keep this site running.
Donate here and help produce more brutally honest drinks reviews
Leave a Reply