Should the personal preferences of wine critic influence his or her judgement of a wine? Is it even possible NOT to have a subjective opinion and have that view inform each of your reviews? This discussion first bubbled up on Twitter between James Molesworth of Wine Spectator and Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak. (View my recap.) Molesworth made no bones about it: "Personal preference not a factor."
Eric Asmiov of The New York Times, however, is in favor of critical judgement based on personal experience and aesthetic ideals. In other words, he sees himself not as "an impartial arbiter of bottles." And if you're a Yellow Tail Shiraz swiller rather than an imbiber of lean Loire Cab Franc? "Most Yellow Tail drinkers will continue to enjoy it regardless of what I say, and that’s fine"
So where do Asimov's readers stand on the role of the wine critics? Al in Mountain View, California dislikes how "objective" wine ratings "...have really changed how educated people describe wine, from useful prose into a weird and repetitive kind of haiku, this just makes wine more obscure, and really tell us nothing useful."
Here are 5 more of the best responses:
'If there were only one God-like reviewer, then maybe bland, flat, curatorial descriptions would be fitting. Fortunately, however, there are a multitude of wine writers and we consumers can choose to follow the one or two whose stylistic preferences most closely match our own. And I want pontification. I want passion. I want to know which wines really turn the writer on and which, stylistically, she wants to pour down the drain. Not computer-like descriptors from curators." --PRS,Ohio
"The reader needs to find a reviewer (and/or wine steward/salesman) that can refer you to something you will consistently like and if you are lucky you will find such a guide. To quote a favorite wine steward from Portland, 'The man's a genius, he agrees with me' :-)" --Levinth MTV
"If you have to devote two columns to defending your tastes, you've failed as a critic." --Princeton08540
"I think that James Molesworth's perspective--that a wine critic has to be able to say that X is 'a well-made wine in a style I don't personally favor'--is the more responsible and professional attitude. Every wine fancier has personal tastes and can inflict them on his guests, but anyone who aspires to instruct others needs to bring more than his whimsies to the party. Minimally, he needs to be forthright about his prejudices, including the fact that they are mere prejudices, to allow the reader to better form his own opinions." --David NY, NY
"Let me get this straight: Mr. Asimov is defending the right of a critic's opinions to color his...opinions? You get no argument from me." --FHL, California