Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, focusing primarily on wines that are either kosher or Israeli.

The Ethics of Wine Critics

The vast majority of wine critics demonstrate a well-balanced sense of ethics
10
30%
A small majority of wine critics demonstrate a well-balanced sense of ethics
8
24%
Less than half of wine critics demonstrate a well-balanced sense of ethics
5
15%
More than half of wine critics demonstrate unethical behavior
2
6%
Most wine critics demonstrate unethical behavior
1
3%
I have no opinion on the issue
7
21%
 
Total votes : 33
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Tim York

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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Tim York » Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:27 am

Rogov, thanks for raising this issue. I apologise for my tardy response but I have been taking advantage of the first warm weekend of this “summer”.

May I revert to your summary of ethical issues (points a.to l.) posted on 26th July?

Points a. to g - I regard these more as “competence” than “ethical” issues, unless one takes the view that it is unethical to present oneself before the public as a critic without the required competence.

Point h. – This is a very difficult one and is certainly an issue of intellectual honesty. I don’t expect a music critic to place J.S. Bach and the Rolling Stones on the same pedestal; he (or she) should reveal which he honestly prefers. Likewise I don’t think that a wine critic should fail to reveal his preference between, say, Château Haut-Brion and a spoofulated and highly oaked Shiraz; he should, however, be able to recognise where a wine of the less preferred style ranks in the hierarchy of its peers. And beyond this, I believe that a critic has a right to denounce certain styles which in his personal view are degrading wine and the public’s taste for it; highly oaked styles again spring to mind for me. What I think is important is that the critic’s tasting notes should be sufficiently explicit so as to allow the reader to “aim off” for the differences between his own and the critic’s tastes; this is usually the case with Robert Parker’s tasting notes. I recognise that personal taste versus objectivity poses a dilemma in attributing scores, which regrettably is all that many readers look at.

Points i. to l. deal with passive to active corruption issues on a more or less ascending scale.

Points i. to k. represent counsels of perfection which, I suspect, very few critics fully respect.

Point j. 2 is a favourite beef of mine; I suspect many wine writers in daily and weekly newspapers, particularly in the UK, of being sensitive to editorial pressures of various kinds including on behalf of advertisers; the presence of advertising in wine journals such as Decanter, Wine Spectator and la Revue du Vin de France leaves their critics vulnerable to similar allegations but here I give them less credence.

Point k.2 Some of the most famous critics fail this test. Robert Parker, whose integrity otherwise seems quite high, vilifies people who disagree with him, e.g. Jancis Robinson on Pavie, and his watchdog on his website closes down discussion threads where the master is getting too much flack. Michel Bettane, who views are always worth reading in spite of “interest” allegations angrily refuted, has the weakness of using the descriptor “stupid” too often for those who disagree with him.

This month’s number of Decanter has an article on the wine critic’s role by Andrew Jefford, IMHO one of the best English language wine writers right now. One of the best quotes comes from Michel Bettane - “I try to be a teacher....to take the hand of ordinary people and lead them to the best things I have learned” – a noble objective.

This brings me back to my response to Point h. I don’t see how a critic can do this, if he forswears his own taste in his writings.
Last edited by Tim York on Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Victor de la Serna

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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Victor de la Serna » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:42 am

Daniel's premises do seem to disqualify Robert Parker, Armin Diel, Joel Payne, James Halliday - and me.

I've been a wine critic for 25 years and a wine producer for eight years. My new, dual position has never cost me a minute of sleep. I simply never comment on my own wine. And since this wine comes from just about the least well-known, least prestigious region in the largest wine-producing country in the world, my distinguished winemaking colleagues don't seem to believe that my writing is biased to hurt their wines, possibly because we're not in competition at all and also because my habit of tasting blind is well-known and well-documented. Oh, one of them did, once, say on camera that my criticism of Rioja was a devious ploy to indirectly promote my own wine. Since it resembles Rioja like Dolcetto resembles a California zin, and since all of this winemaker's colleagues are still laughing at his suggestion because they know I've been repeating the same criticism for 25 years, i.e. ages before I even thought about planting a vine, I guess I'm OK. But indeed such a malicious intent could be suspected, so maybe I should start losing sleep or giving up my writing. Or my winemaking.

By the way, I'm with Alex in disagreeing with one of Daniel's points: "h. The critic should be aware that there need not be any relationship between his/her personal tastes and the standards. That is to say, he/she should be able to write objectively even about wines that are not to his/her personal liking." Reporting should be objective, or at least aim for the highest level of objectivity. Criticism is not reporting. It is subjective. Me, I read certain literary, art and wine critics because I'm aware of the fact they're touting books, paintings and wines they like, and I tend to agree with their tastes - or to disagree so consistently that I know that I'll probably like what they dislike. So subjectivity, IMHO, is an integral part of any sort of criticism. What I cannot stand is an ignorant critic, or one without any talent.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by AlexR » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:51 am

Chris,

Thanks for your reply.

I used the example of Château Brown only because that was the only occasion on which we met.
While not a sitdown meal, I thought it was nevertheless a pretty good spread...

I agree that the issue is much more pertinent when you receive individual attention at a wine dinner.
As I have done, and I'm sure you have.

Have you read a book called "Noble Rot"?
http://www.amazon.fr/Noble-Rot-Bordeaux ... 525&sr=8-2
It's mostly a sort of a News of the World approach to wine journalism, and the author is gratuitously vicious to Alexandre de Lur Saluces.
A staunch supporter of Robert Parker, he nevertheless gives a very poor image of his hero when he tells us of the importance of an American
broker based in Bordeaux who "pre-selects" wines for Parker to taste. In some instances, these were garage wines which later sold for huge amounts of
money, with the broker making a very handsome cut since he represented them in exclusivity...

Simply gaining access to a James Suckling or Robert Parker is a major undertaking. This, in fact, is where the critics fall down badly. They
tend to concentrate on the well-known labels. Sure, Parker has catapulted heretofore unknown wines to stardom. But it would be worth investigating how he ever got wind of these in the first place. The English-speaking mafia in Bordeaux certainly weilds a great deal of power! Soft power, but power nevertheless...

In defense of critics, there are so many wines, and they have so little time - especially when they try to cover a slew of wineproducing regions at the same time.

Returning to the issue of meals, the lunches provided at the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux are funded by the Union des Grands Crus.
These glorified buffets are funded by the UGC, so there's certainly no conflict of interest there.
Yes, it would be fair to say that lodging in a famous château is part of the package and should not tie any journalist to special treatment of the estate in question.

I'll fess up. When I was a freelance journalist, I accepted gifts of wine. There it is. Out in the open. May lightening strike me!
This goes back to the difference I made between wine journalists and wine critics.
When writing an estate profile, I *chose* the estate, already knew their wines to some extent, and had a favorable opinion of it.
I never asked for any wine, but saw no reason to refuse it.

Best regards,
Alex R.
PS - I place an order today for 2005 Cuvée Les Malgagnes. See the power of wine writers ;-)
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:07 am

Chris Kissack wrote:
Thomas wrote:Thirdly, I don't understand the usefulness of a discourse on how the wine would taste if the winemaker had done something differently. I suppose films can be re-edited, the 'director's cut', and ballets produced differently, with different interpretations of the story, a different choreographer, but wines can't be remade. The next vintage things can be done differently, sure, but it's a new vintage, and the wine is a whole new story. To comment on what might have been is of academic interest to a tiny minority, I suspect, and useful for those learning how to make wine, certainly, but for those wanting to buy, cellar and drink?


I won't re-answer the same issues--you know my position. You disagree with it--fine. But I do wish to point out that my point was--IS--that too many critics couldn't comment on what might have been mainly because they haven't a clue how things are gone about. In other words, the have no problem with making proclamations out of ignorance. I suppose, based on how it has been misunderstood, I used a bad example, but I thought the context of the previous argument was enough.

Far from having no understanding of journalism, I have come to my conclusions in part because I have been a wine journalist for 20 plus years. Unlike the criticisms that I abhor, my outlook came through the fire of experience.
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:20 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:14 am

Victor de la Serna wrote:Reporting should be objective, or at least aim for the highest level of objectivity. Criticism is not reporting. It is subjective. Me, I read certain literary, art and wine critics because I'm aware of the fact they're touting books, paintings and wines they like, and I tend to agree with their tastes - or to disagree so consistently that I know that I'll probably like what they dislike. So subjectivity, IMHO, is an integral part of any sort of criticism. What I cannot stand is an ignorant critic, or one without any talent.



Victor,

Right on, especially the final sentence.

Ignorance is the supreme failure in the ethics of criticism.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by AlexR » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:02 am

Hi,

Rethinking Thomas's comments in a more positive vein has me wondering at what point does someone, in fact, become a wine critic?

My initial reaction is to say: as soon as something you have written about wine is published, since there are no qualifications whatsover for the job
(as is the case for any number of jobs, even professional ones like mine: translating and interpreting).

However, the Internet has reared its ugly little head and changed all that! ;-)
I'd definitely call Chris a wine journalist and wine critic. However, he's "self-published" on the Net, something that was unimaginable not all that long ago.
This is a new brand of journalism, a new generation of critics who have upset the apple cart. But I think we have much to gain from it!

Can my frequent contribution to wine forums be qualified as "journalism"?
I'm sure not all of us would agree on that one... :-).

Of course, Thomas, I see your point. If I began writing theater reviews in the local newspaper for some weird and wonderful reason, it would be quite a stretch
to call me a "recognized critic", since I know next to nothing about the subject.
The English say "the proof is in the pudding". In other words, the quality of the journalist's writing, reflecting his knowledge and incisiveness, will define his level of professionalism.
This puts readers who are not familiar with the subject at a clear disadvantage: they cannot tell if the author is talking through his hat or not.

So, the common ground is that I too am frustrated and upset by some of the jokers who write about wine, but have only a limited understanding.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:58 am

Alex,

'sall I am getting at. Self-appointment does not necessarily account for producing a valuable critic.

Underlying that belief is my generally, and admitted, distaste for the egotistical trade of ill-informed criticism, as it has developed.

It's tempting to blame only the Internet, but I have to say that in the past two years alone I have met a few wine critics who got their newspaper gigs because 1. a general reader interest in wine made the publication's editor perk up and 2. in each case, the critic was given the assignment to save money on hiring another journalist and because the editor knew that the new critic liked and drank wine. I served as a judge with some of these people, and I was unimpressed by their wine savvy. But then, that's a critical judgment, and I don't criticize...

Incidentally, I don't take things personal, so long as the thread remains a debate and not a fight.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Robin Garr » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:15 pm

Thomas wrote:I have met a few wine critics who got their newspaper gigs because 1. a general reader interest in wine made the publication's editor perk up and 2. in each case, the critic was given the assignment to save money on hiring another journalist and because the editor knew that the new critic liked and drank wine.

For the record, that is exactly how I got into the wine writing trade.

My opinion, formed by my own experience just as yours is, Thomas, is that a general journalist is well positioned to take on just about any form of criticism because he or she is trained by profession to be an accurate observer and a good communicator. Few great restaurant critics are chefs (although some of us have spent time in the back and front of the house); few theater critics trod the boards; many sports writers were woeful athletes; and, frankly, few great wine critics were professional wine makers.

I kind of admire your chutzpah in establishing a criterion for wine critics that fits you well and hardly anybody else :lol: but in the real world, good critics learn their field well and communicate about it clearly; professional experience at the subject of criticism is rarely seen and, I could argue, might actually limit a critic's capability to rise above his own prejudices and think creatively.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:44 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Thomas wrote:I have met a few wine critics who got their newspaper gigs because 1. a general reader interest in wine made the publication's editor perk up and 2. in each case, the critic was given the assignment to save money on hiring another journalist and because the editor knew that the new critic liked and drank wine.

For the record, that is exactly how I got into the wine writing trade.

My opinion, formed by my own experience just as yours is, Thomas, is that a general journalist is well positioned to take on just about any form of criticism because he or she is trained by profession to be an accurate observer and a good communicator. Few great restaurant critics are chefs (although some of us have spent time in the back and front of the house); few theater critics trod the boards; many sports writers were woeful athletes; and, frankly, few great wine critics were professional wine makers.

I kind of admire your chutzpah in establishing a criterion for wine critics that fits you well and hardly anybody else :lol: but in the real world, good critics learn their field well and communicate about it clearly; professional experience at the subject of criticism is rarely seen and, I could argue, might actually limit a critic's capability to rise above his own prejudices and think creatively.



"chutzpah in establishing a criterion for wine critics that fits you well and hardly anybody else..."

Gee, Robin,

For the record, I was a writer before I became a wine writer. But I was also a winemaker before I became a wine writer.
Don't suppose it occurred to you that I did it the other way around, like maybe actively deciding to gain the knowledge before trying to tell others what I know. If it's chutzpah to live a belief, then I have chutzpah (is it only Daniel who knows what we are referring to here?)

On the other hand, having been in the military, I did learn the value of the slow, painstaking process of OJT, usually at the expense of someone else, I might add :lol:

Of course, if criticism is merely a professional expression of opinion with or without knowledge, it seems to me more likely that criticism is riddled with prejudices, which, in the end, may be its whole point. As for creativity, I won't go there, because I can think of but a small number of critics with that trait seeping out of them.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:05 pm

---It is clear that all human beings, that hopefully including the sub-species of critics have personal biases and that with regard to all things and ideas that they encounter in life. One of the roles of the ethical critic is learning how both physically and psychologically to put those biases aside. Best example I can give is one I have given on other occasions. I can assure one and all that if I live to 135 years of age, I will never walk into a wine shop or any other shop to purchase a bottle of half-dry Emerald Riesling for my personal drinking. On the other hand, considering that those wines remain popular in certain circles within Israel (much a kinship perhaps to the popularity of White Zin in the USA), I do taste those wines and when I do I judge them on the standards of what an Emerald Riesling based wine is capable of attaining and not on my personal likes or dislikes.

---With regard to editorial pressure put on wine critics – I will restate that in even more strong terms – journalistic ethics demand that there be complete separation between advertising and editorial policies. I feel so strongly about this that I will say that the newspaper that bows to pressure from advertisers is whoring itself and the journalist (wine critic or any other) who yields to this pressure is a whore. It is quite true that one can be a high-class or a low-class whore. I may even have a certain amount of respect for the highest-class members of that group but, to play with words, "a rose by any other name smells as sweet". I am aware of course that this can put a strain on the ability of a critic to earn a living. That's life. One has certain decisions that must be made. I will admit that I have been very fortunate because every newspaper I ever wrote for had very strict policies in this realm. If someone were to phone me tomorrow from the advertising or managerial side of the staff and even suggest that I do a "more than usually positive piece" about this or that winery or set of wines, it would take about six minutes for them to receive a very cold handshake as they were escorted permanently out of the front door of the newspaper's offices.

---A large part of this discussion has centered around the need for training, knowledge and credentials. Leaving wine aside for a moment, more than a few of the world's best known and agreeably most important film and theater directors never studied formally – not cinema, not literature, and sometimes not even past the . That has not stopped these people from becoming extraordinarily knowledgeable and even going on to become highly respected film and theater critics and in some cases even professors at some of the very best universities in Europe and the USA. Many of the Western World's most significant social critics have come from fields as diverse as biology, economics, literature, cinema, and even mathematics. I do not believe there are courses given nor training offered anywhere in order to prepare one to become a social critic.

---None of which negates the need for the critic to develop and be able to support a broad base of knowledgeable and experience. Nor does it negate the need to be able to write in at least coherent paragraphs. It does rather say that formal training is neither the begin-all nor the end-all of criticism. Indeed, no one wants to read the writings of an imbecile or even of an idiot-savant. It is not, however, the option of other critics to "allow" new members into a guild. I dread the day that wine critics (or critics in any other field) develop such guilds.

---Do please note that I have not yet answered the original question of this poll – as to whether I believe most critics follow an ethical standard or not. Nor, of course, have several others who have responded here. In my own case, I'll do that later this week. Considering some of what I will have to say, I prefer to hold off the execution squad until near the weekend.

---With special regard to the use of the word chutzpah, let it be known that in Hebrew usage the term is always negative (implying unmitigated gall) but in Yiddish it can be either positive or negative (on the positive side implying spunk, guts, go-get-it-ship). And as some of us meet over wine in the future, I can tell a few (I promise, only a few) very good jokes about chutzpah.

Best
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:24 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:
---With special regard to the use of the word chutzpah, let it be known that in Hebrew usage the term is always negative (implying unmitigated gall) but in Yiddish it can be either positive or negative (on the positive side implying spunk, guts, go-get-it-ship). And as some of us meet over wine in the future, I can tell a few (I promise, only a few) very good jokes about chutzpah.

Best
Rogov


Daniel,

A reasoned response with really only one paragraph against which I have an argument, but I am through debating this issue, for fear of sounding like a broken, er, scratched CD.

As for "chutzpah," I'm from Brooklyn, and I've known the word only in its Hebrew definition. But I neither speak nor read either Hebrew or Yiddish. I just had friends in the right places...Crown Heights and the bagel capital of 13th Avenue!
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:43 am

Ah well, here I go getting myself into trouble once again because I have the distinct feeling that I am going to be more harsh than many others who posted here. Returning not to the issue of the qualifications of the critic but to the ethical questions, it is my general belief that far too many wine critics do not demonstrate full or even "full-enough” ethics.

Before getting to a list of sins, let me please make several things eminently clear. First of all, my list of sins most certainly does not encompass all wine critics. Going a step further than that, there are quite a few of those who write criticism that I am proud to call "colleagues".

Second, my barbs are not directed specifically at Israeli critics. The barbs are more or less international. I am not, however, going to name names. Perhaps that reflects a certain lack of courage on my part but I do, after all, have to meet many of these people on a fairly regular basis. On the other hand, those to whom such criticisms are aimed will recognize themselves and, with not too much effort so will intelligent readers.

Finally, as I myself have no claim to sainthood, neither do I require that of others. One can be a thoroughly ethical and moral human being and/or critic without aspiring to either sainthood or some absolute concept of perfection.

Best
Rogov


The Less Major But Too-Too Common Sins

- A great many who write criticism present themselves as "experts" without nearly enough knowledge or experience. As I said earlier, I have no objection whatever to the naïve critique but there should be enough clues given by such writers to the effect that this is from "where they are coming"

- There is simply too much bluffing that goes on. That such bluffing happens with wine consumers is one story, even somewhat amusing. That it happens with critics is another story entirely and has no humor whatever.

- I think too many critics attend wine tasting events, wine shows and wine fairs for the pleasure of the company there and for the free meals and somewhere along the way they lose track of the fact that they have come to such events to work.

- I think too many of the bottles given to critics do not go so much for tastings as they do for personal pleasure. That is to say, too many critics are too easily influenced by p.r. efforts.

- I think too many critics mistakenly think that their standards should be the standards of their readers.

- I think that not enough critics are open themselves to being criticized.

- I think there is a not insignificant number of critics who think whatever they write was dictated on Mount Sinai.


The More Serious Ethical Violations

- I believe too many critics are directly involved with and dependent upon advertising on their internet sites and in their publications and that this automatically invokes unfair positive bias towards one's "paying customers"

- I believe that too many critics moonlight as consultants to restaurants (in building wine lists for example) and often tend to more highly rate those wines they recommend for inclusion and downgrade those they do not. In some cases those "critics" even then write very positive articles about those restaurants and their wine lists.

- I believe that too many critics are not at all embarrassed to ask wineries and/or wine shops for "extra bottles" of wine and that those are not destined for tasting but for enjoyment purposes.

- I believe that some critics actually work as consultants to various wineries and then write about those and competing wines.

- I believe that too many critics too freely accept "freebies" from wineries, importers, distributors and wine shops, that especially in the way of trips abroad.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:58 am

Daniel Rogov wrote:- I think too many critics mistakenly think that their standards should be the standards of their readers.

- I think that not enough critics are open themselves to being criticized.

- I think there is a not insignificant number of critics who think whatever they write was dictated on Mount Sinai.


Thus listing my nearly all of exact concerns with the most powerful wine critic in the world. But I would make the following modifications/additions:

- thinking what they write is dictated from heaven itself, not just Mount Sinai

- cultivating a herd of zealous followers eager to protect the sanctity of every word handed down from heaven, even to the point of supressing debate
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:21 am

Daniel,

I admit it: you surprised me.

There's nothing there that I wouldn't have said.

Incidentally, since I rarely do wine criticism, I am of course exempt ;) add to your list: critics who rationalize it all.

In any case, welcome to the "chutzpah" club.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:25 am

To quote a line from THe Big Chill: Ever try to get through the day without at least one big, juicy rationalization? :wink:
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:37 am

David, Hi....

Indeed, a critic that intentionally sets out with those three rules in mind, has something in common with the leader of a cult, but in the specific case at point, I do not think Mr. Parker is guilty.

It is obvious that Parker takes himself seriously. So should be any critic or commentator and that is fine with me as I certainly don't want criticism that is wishy-washy. I cannot escape the feeling that Parker is well aware that his crits come not from heaven but from Baltimore (and, with no insult meant to anyone, anywhere, Baltimore is a pretty far cry from either Paradise or Mt. Sinai). If by chance a cult develops about a certain critic we must ask if that was the intent (conscious or other) of the critic or the need that some readers have for "a leader".

As to the stiffling of dessent, I am not at all sure that eminates from Parker but more from those who have chosen to be his accolytes. Accolytes and disciples tend to be far more outspoken than those they follow.

I must also ask, just who was it who crowned E. Robert Parker as "the world's most powerful critic"? I doubt very much that it was the critic himself. I suspect that the vast majority of American, French, Italian, and other wine drinkers have never even heard of Robert Parker (or for that matter Decanter or the Wine Spectator). I would also suggest that far more in the countries mentioned read other critics and hold some of them in no-less high regard. That Parker has attained a certain level of power is beyond question but so have other critics in other times and other countries. The question is how fairly (or, in regard to this thread, ethically) those critics relate to and use that power.

One can, of course, agree or disagree with Parker's tastes and wine crits. I will, however, admit that I perceive Parker pretty much as one of the "suntouchable". If, after all, he is as powerful as some think he is, he does not need any outside influences in making his decisions. True, in a sense it might be said that I am here "not to bury but to praise Robert Parker" but that largely because regardless of whether I agree or disagree with his palate, I find a very high sense of ethical responsibility when it comes to his wine criticism.

As all interpretations of course, mine is open to debate.

Best
Rogov

P.S. How I love that American expression "in full disclosure", but in that sense, let it be known that I am not a friend of Mr. Parker's, have met him only on two occasions, and was one of three Israelis who selected the wines for the first tasting done by Parker and Mark Squires as reported in the Wine Advocate this January and now followed up in the latest edition of the Advocate.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Thomas » Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:25 am

Daniel,

While I might agree with your assessment of the development of the Parker phenomenon, you seem to have forgotten that old saying about power.

Essentially, I believe that the powerful, critics or otherwise, generally become good at gaming their followers, which in turn creates a cycle of dependence. Just human nature: the leaders take the liberties that the followers overlook.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 30, 2008 10:28 am

Daniel,

All you have to do is read some of Parker's responses to honest questions to see that he has jumped the critical shark so to speak. If you go back to a debate on the merits of Edmunds St. John his responses to criticism were (paraphrased) as follow:

1. I (Parker) am me & that's the value of my work (this was met with cries of Bravo! from the human shields)
2. Hey everyone I'm drinking all these great wines tonight that I donated for a charity dinner!

Just do a search on Edmunds St. John over on eBob to see the actual responses. You will find I am not off the mark.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 30, 2008 11:11 am

Thomas and David, Hi.....


I'll yield on the question of Parker, that largely because other than his books and the Wine Advocate, I only rarely read his/Mark Squires forum and have never heard him hold forth in front of his accolytes. Your points may have more validity than my own. Perhaps in another time we can re-enter that debate.

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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Stuart Yaniger » Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:51 pm

from the human shields


Hey, that's MY trademark! (see "The Emperor of Wine")
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Greg Piatigorski » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:20 pm

Daniel,

Interesting topic and views. And responses as well. As one who has to deal with point scores I may have a bit different view of some names mentioned in the thread. Although I do agree with most points you and Thomas made, I also disagree with some, not in the way where I feel they are wrong, but while they may be correct in general, there are exceptions to the rules, IMO.

I'll be happy to talk Gary V. and Parker with you later on having up close and personal experience with both, but let me give you a different kind of an example that may go against the grain with one of Thomas' points.

My tasting group is pretty well known in SF Bay Area and we do some serious lineups. Always blind and as double blind as we can get when we do our annual Pinot Noir roundup (which fills up in a matter of minutes). Earlier this year we assembled the usual suspects, many of the Pinot makers wine geeks talk about and follow, plus a crowd of serious wine geeks many of whom work as cellar rats during harvest or part time during the year (and as you can imagine they know way more than a typical Pinot consumer). I was asked to extend an invite to a pretty well known wine reviewer and I did so. All the wines were served in flights of 3 to keep it simple and easy to taste and take notes. I got an earful after the tasting from someone sitting at the table with the reviewer and was told that they guy wasn't able to even keep track of what's in his glasses. Worst yet were his tasting notes (we tabulate the results). When a particular flight was poured and pretty much everyone agreed this is the worst one yet (and the worst of the night as it turned out, BY FAR), the reviewer scored it as one of his top flights. Another flight, easily judged by most to be Top 3 (out of 13), was judged the worst by the reviewer with a note attached stating he really disliked it.

This goes back to the notion that reviewers should have some training and experience with wine, a point I fully agree on with Thomas, yet my experience above is not unique. Time and again, I see professional reviewers completely miss the boat with a good number of wines. And as much as I would be the first one to state that wine taste is a personal preference I also should point out that a reviewer should at least be able to tell wine faults with ease. Anyone NOT tasting blind and scoring BEFORE a wine is unveiled (without adjusting the score afterwards) is not a professional, by any means, and I don't care what excuse they come up with.

I've tasted with one of CA state wine competition judges where even pointing out a seriously tainted bottle (blind setup again with raging TCA taking place), she still picked it as her number 1 of the flight and night. I see notes on some seriously bretty wines in one of the premier wine magazines where wines are scored in low to mid 90s and no mention of brett ever appears. And truth be told, I cannot explain any of this save to point out that Thomas' call for a wine education is right on even though I think it is just a pipe dream, IMO.

When a professional such as Parker has absolutely no understanding about brett, VA and filtration (just a few subjects), why do we expect anything better from others who are as clueless? When he tells consumers that brett is great while filtration is bad while giving out 100 point scores to obviously sterile filtered wines (can you say Sauterne?) we have an entire wine drinking populace who are clueless and scarier still, they don't want to get educated.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by AlexR » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:56 am

Greg,

>>>This goes back to the notion that reviewers should have some training and experience with wine,

I agree too, but I think experience is far more important than training.
A hard-working, intelligent, and organoleptically-gifted person basically trains himself.
Sure, we all can gain from reading and listening to others.
However, the core of a person's tasting background is due to his own experience and the way he compartmentalizes it and remembers it.

Scientific training is of secondary importance IMHO because the whys and wherefores of
winemaking, and the exact nature of flaws is generally irrelevant to consumers.
It's the taste, and only the taste that counts.
OK, brett or TCA need to be explained as such. Agreed. But learned discussions about
oenology will just put people off and/or bore them. They are largely irrelevant to most of us, except along the broadest lines.

Going back to education, a "trained" person can pale in comparison to someone who is rigorous and gifted.
I'm talking about intrinsic abilities.

Please allow me to draw a couple of parallels.
A friend of mine has a daughter who wants to go into "international commerce". The girl is very good at
her studies, but personality-wise, she no more has the profile of a sales manager than the man in the moon.
Likewise, my profession involves translating and interpreting. I have seen "uneducated" people run rings around people who have been trained for years, particularly
with regard to simultaneous interpreting.
This is because there are such things as natural "bents" and proclivities.
Winetasting is no different.

Why is a Parker so listened to? He formed his own system and sticks to it. He works hard, tastes a lot.
And he was never trained by anyone other than himself.

>>>while giving out 100 point scores to obviously sterile filtered wines (can you say Sauterne?)

Could you please elucidate"? Were you referring to California "Sauterne" or the real McCoy (Sauternes)?

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Alex R.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Stuart Yaniger » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:25 am

I've tasted with one of CA state wine competition judges where even pointing out a seriously tainted bottle (blind setup again with raging TCA taking place), she still picked it as her number 1 of the flight and night.


TCA sensitivity is quite variable and doesn't necessarily correlate to other tasting abilities. I have a friend who's an MW, clearly quite able to repeatably and accurately taste and judge, but he just cannot get TCA.
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Re: The Ethics of Wine Critics

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:01 am

Stuart Yaniger wrote:TCA sensitivity is quite variable and doesn't necessarily correlate to other tasting abilities. I have a friend who's an MW, clearly quite able to repeatably and accurately taste and judge, but he just cannot get TCA.



Stuart, Hi....

Agreed that there is a tremendous range of sensitivity to TCA, some people identifying its presence at a mere 3 parts per trillion and others only when it approaches 700 parts per trillion. Also in agreement with the findings of University of California at Davis to the effect that one can have normal or even high general olfactory sensitivity and still show a specific insensitivity, even meeting the definition of anosmia, with regard to specific odors or a group of closely related chemicals such as those involved in TCA.

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