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 greyhound')."
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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