Plenty of people have trashed wine snobs. That said, Felix Salmon of Reuters enters the debate with somewhat more interest
than your average dinner-party jeerer--his inaugural wine column
, a departure from his daily business blogging, posted last week--and offers a particularly fresh take.
Reading a Columbia Journalism Review comparison
of professional and amateur wine critics, Salmon draws out
the question: "should wine writers be experts?" The answer, for him,
seem to be an emphatic "no." Though expertise has its place, the
experts have done enough damage already.
"Learning about wine,
I think," writes Salmon, "is something best done over time and out of
love, by drinking it and by occasionally visiting wine-growing regions
of the world, which are invariably beautiful places to go on holiday,
even if you're not a wine geek." Expertise, by contrast, is "a
double-edged sword," where otherwise helpful knowledge "all too often ...
manifests itself in impenetrable winespeak ('cardamom and leather on
the nose, with lingering top-notes of freshly-mown grass and wet
There's a real and unfortunate consequence, here,
argues Salmon: "natural enthusiasms are educated out of wine drinkers,
who are constantly and unhelpfully told that the most expensive wines
are the best wines." Instead of a wine critic aristocracy, he'd prefer
"a world where everybody's an expert and nobody's an expert," where
wine enthusiasts follow their own tastes and feel free to call out
"heavy and tannic" California cabernets as the hundred-dollar rubbish they are.*
*The Wire paraphrases. Salmon does acknowledge said cabernets "pair well with ... maybe a bloody steak and a cigar."
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