Food & Wine Thursdays: On the Biases of Critics

I was looking for a topic for this week and, for mystical reasons that are far too complex to explain, I decided that I’d go and see what Steve Heimoff was up to.

Heimoff is a freelance wine writer who has worked or written for Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and many other publications. I used to find him one of the more tolerable old-guard California wine writers, but then he veered off a cliff and revealed himself to be just another (metaphorically) goateed reactionary middle-aged wine scribe.

So, on his blog, I read a recent article regarding how much easier it was to find great Cabernet Sauvignon in California than great Pinot Noir. He gives plenty of reasons, all of them well-founded: Pinot is a more temperamental grape, it’s more transparent, and less likely to be made in an international style. He pointed out that among the wines he’d given scores of 95 or above, Cabs outnumbered Pinots significantly and it wasn’t until his scores moved into the low 90s that the ratio began to even out.

Now, to my eye, this means that Steve Heimoff prefers Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir. That’s fine. Plenty of people do. But he makes a point of denying that and, instead, blames the grape for not meeting up to his expectations as much as it should. It’s a sort of “I love all women equally but all five of my wives have been Korean, they’re just better at marriage” reasoning used to mask what is, in fact, the critic’s own preference for one style over another.

Which rather concisely illustrates the source of my frustration with mainstream wine criticism (the 100 point crowd). They so very clearly have a bias in favor of dense, full-bodied red wines and yet they refuse to recognize that bias, instead creating a world in which, for all practical purposes, very few wines that aren’t dense, full-bodied reds can crack that 95 point barrier.

And while these writers are expert tasters with years of experience who have tasted thousands of wines, they’re still playing catch-up ball in the current wine world, clinging to the wines they cut their teeth on like wet, inky blankies.

I don’t really have anything more to say about that, it’s just always refreshing/disappointing when your lowest expectations are met.

About David D.

I'm a wine professional. Like a real one who makes most of his living in wine and have for most of my adult life. I also write, but you can see that.
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1 Response to Food & Wine Thursdays: On the Biases of Critics

  1. Justin says:

    At least he doesn’t have the haircut. Yet.

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