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You Just Don't Understand: Do Wine Critics Need to Soak Up Culture?

Does a critic need to live in and around a place, soaking up the area's culture, to be able to effectively write about its wines? Nick Goldschmidt of Goldschmidt Vineyards answers this question in the affirmative on Steve Heimoff's blog. "So what about traveling writers, like Jancis, Parker, Galloni?" Heimoff asks. "They don’t live in the wine regions they write about but they seem to do a pretty good job."

Good point there. A critic can evaluate a wine--solely based on what's in the glass--and write tasting notes/score it from anywhere in the world. Practically and financially speaking, there's not a lot of writing jobs out there for a critic to be ensconced in one region. (For the record, if this changes, I have dibs on Tasmania.)

Or is a matter of when you do visit places to, as Goldschmidt does, stay with winemakers and interact with their families rather than kick it poolside at the Ritz Carlton and order French fries and a bucket of Budweisers? (Note: I have zero experience with the latter and you cannot prove otherwise. Also, winemakers, can I crash at your pad? Do you have wi-fi? Do you have a 95 point couch?)

Every bottle of wine does become much more compelling when you know the story, circumstances, and context that exist outside the bottle and sometimes, when you're lucky, are seemingly imbued in the liquid itself

The world "culture" is a vague one and is often deployed in ways that make me uneasy. But that's my legacy of heavy doses of grad school postmodernism, which I'm guessing is of zero interest. In this case, wine (and everything, really) has a lot more perspective when, instead of a close-up focus, you back up the camera and absorb everything, and everyone, around you.

So what about traveling writers, like Jancis, Parker, Galloni? I asked. They don’t live in the wine regions they write about but they seem to do a pretty good job. - See more at:

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