Should we listen to wine critics?

Research claiming that experts can’t judge wine accurately will have some people sneering at the critics – yet again. One wine expert defends her trade.

There’s nothing the Great British Public likes better than a bit of research revealing that wine critics and sommeliers can make mistakes. No matter that chefs might fail to detect the spicing in a dish or cheese experts to identify the origin of an obscure goat’s cheese, there’s something about wine that brings out the inverse snob in everyone. The “Ha! Told you it wasn’t worth paying more than £3.49 a bottle” moment seems to appeal to us all.

So why bother? And, in particular, why take anyone’s view – mine for instance – on wine seriously? After all, I freely confess, I’ve made mistakes myself in blind tastings (though not to the extent of confusing red with white). At the risk of what sounds like special pleading, I would argue that these tastings are not the ideal basis on which to judge wine. It is far more useful, for example, to try them with food or against a lineup of wines of the same type, as I’ve just done with half a dozen rosés this morning, to see which tastes best. “Best”, of course being subjective, just as it would be if I were assessing lipliners, like my colleague Sali Hughes. Most fit for purpose, maybe. If you like this kind of wine and want to pay x amount, this should do the job. I would hope people who read my column enjoy the wines I recommend. From the feedback I get, some at least do.

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