When it comes to writing about wine, I try to avoid hyperbole and wanton exaggeration. And yet these are the tools of the modern wine critic it seems, strident praise and high scores being necessary to remain relevant. The more hyper-excitable comments you make about a domaine and its wines, and the closer your scores to the ‘magic’ 100 points, the more likely you are to be quoted on shelf talkers, in sales catalogues, and in marketing emails. After all, the aim of such activities is to sell wine, and nothing helps sales like an association of alliterative adjectives and a big number.
Despite my efforts I am aware, being ‘only human’, that I have on occasion slipped into something resembling sensationalism. I once, for example, likened a particular St Nicolas de Bourgueil from the 2005 vintage to Château Cheval Blanc. Now, to be clear, I wasn’t saying that such wine tasted literally and exactly like the wine of this St Emilion premier grand cru classé estate, I was merely trying to communicate just how much I had enjoyed the wine (and appreciated its good value – something that is increasingly hard to find in St Emilion these days). Subsequently, I learnt of buyers turning up at the estate and driving away with two or three cases in the boot, based mainly on my review (and surely their own tasting experience as well), which was (and possibly still is) pinned up in the domaine’s tasting room.
These days I try to be a little more measured in my assessment; nevertheless, it is important to recognise that there were no losers in the above scenario. The domaine sold a lot of high-quality stock, deservedly so, and the buyers ended up with case-loads of delicious wine for drinking, rather than for hoarding (although the wine, more than ten years on, is still drinking well) or as part of an investment portfolio.