Jamie Goode's first article for Tim Atkin's site is essentially a hand-wringing pean to the cult of the gentleman amateur in wine-writing against a rising tide of professional critics.
Gentlemen amateurs, in the British tradition, think broadly and tell stories - about wines, wine-makers and regions. They are caught up in the mystique of wine - perhaps even a little in the mystery.
By contrast, professionals take a rigorous, fact-based, traditionally transatlantic / New World approach, eschewing visits to wineries and dinners with the producers to concentrate solely on what is in the glass and to give it an objective score.
Both approaches are valid and there is clearly a market for both - some people want to buy into the Romance of wine, to hear the stories that go into the glass.
Others are less sentimental and seek an objective, reliable, measurable assessment of which wines they should buy and which to avoid.
Neither is correct to the exclusion of the other - it's that old chestnut of horses for courses.
I know which type of person I'd rather have round for dinner - and also which person I'd rather do business with.
Jamie's article misses the point in several areas, I feel:
- it posits the subjective / objective approach to wine assessment as a false conflict; there is no conflict, just two different, but equally valid, approaches
- he damns the points-based system as fundamentally flawed on the basis of grade inflation, ignoring the fact that subjective wine writers can equally wax overly lyrical about undeserving examples
- there is an unhelpful, somewhat sneering attitude towards the points-based approach
- at the same time, there is a self-righteous inverted snobbery about the cult of the gentleman amateur that I find rather unconvincing
The article also fails to consider a middle way of telling stories about wine, but also assessing them objectively.
Interestingly, the MW's blind tasting exam forces its students to focus solely on what is in the glass - it is, I believe, a good discipline to learn and one I try to apply when assessing wines myself.
But I also like the stories, the human side of wine and its Romance.
To my mind, Jancis Robinson (an MW, unlike Jamie) is the person who best embodies this approach - read one of her FT Weekend articles and there's usually a narrative followed by points-based recommendations.
So I see no conflict - just a chippy, Canute-like false provocation in the tabloid style that takes the debate backwards rather than forwards.