Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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The grand flea circus of wine journalism

This is not recent news – it is now 4 years old, but I think I have to take my stand after reading a comment about us wine critics (even if I consider myself as a wine journalist, not a critic).

The comment (on Jamie Goode’s wine blog) is related to what is called the Budd-Kissack/Huet controversy (the new owner of the Huet estate having banned two wine writers from tasting her wines).

In this comment, US producer cum wine blogger John Kelly makes his point about wine critics: “Critics are like fleas – unavoidable but generally tolerable, occasionally in need of being washed away. “Critics need producers more than producers need critics” should be forcibly tattooed backwards on the forehead of anyone who seeks to enrich themselves by criticizing the productive work of others, so the critics are reminded of it every time they look in a mirror. As Mick Thomas from the band Weddings, Parties, Anything wrote: “Critics do as critics will, but did you ever hear one sing?”



This is all very nice, but I think Mr Kelly misses some context. Here is what happened with Chris Kissack and with Jim

Mr Kelly concludes: « I just think it’s funny that wine critics get all huffy when wineries have the temerity to criticize their work output. Also, reading around I see a lot about Kissack and Budd’s versions of events but Where is Ms. Hwang’s side of the story? Has she refused to discuss? Or are all the wine “journalists” out there too busy cycling their outrage through their human centipede that they can’t be bothered to ask? »

I think it is funny that Mr Kelly seems to be able to memorize only part of what he reads. Neither Budd nor Kissack denied Mrs Hwang the right to criticise their work – in fact, Dr Kissack did try to have a frank explanation with her, but received a dressing-down and was refused a tasting.

And yes, Mrs Hwang’s side of the story is known; yes, she was asked: Florence Kennel published Mrs Hwang’s statement in the RVF: « Pour être claire, ni M. Kissack ni M. Budd n’ont été interdits de visite au domaine, et j’ai invité chacun à acheter des bouteilles du millésime 2013 lorsqu’il sera commercialisé. Après deux années où la situation du domaine a été parfois présentée de manière trompeuse, où nous avons parfois senti un manque de respect envers le domaine et un manque de soutien pour l’appellation Vouvray, j’ai fait le choix de ne plus me taire pour défendre le domaine, notre équipe, et Vouvray. »

So, Jim and Chris can go to the estate and buy bottles, she says. I suppose she cannot say otherwise, because it would be refus de vente (refusal to deal). But never did she deny the accounts that both writers made of their respective encounters with her.

Ah, and just for the record: if we wine critics and journalists are fleas, what are wine bloggers, Mr. Kelly? Especially those who wear blinkers but pretend to see the broader picture in the wine circus…

Hervé Lalau