My piece on the RAW Wine Fair has aroused a lot of interest and some good, thoughtful responses. Some of those responses have also illustrated the gulf that lies between what I think of as "journalism" - an attempt to cover the facts of a story - and the way of thinking of some "natural" wine fans. To put the story in a nutshell, I wrote that I had found the fair interesting and worth attending, that I had tasted some very good wines, and had found some that were - in my opinion, and that of others who were there - horribly faulty.
Several respondents objected to my focusing on the faulty wines rather than the good ones, preferring Simon Woolf's approach - on Timatkin.com - which was to talk almost exclusively about the wines he enjoyed
Woolf admits to having "skipped most of France" at RAW despite - or perhaps because of - having "tasted more French "natural" wines that I have intensely disliked, than in most other countries"
This meant that Woolf sidestepped over 50 of the 180 producers present at RAW, but even so, he he still encountered some questionable bottles:
" Inevitably, with so much diversity and experimentation not everything was successful. There were wines being shown that I found challenging, if not downright faulty. But they were in the minority"
But that was as much of a mention as the "challenging" wines received. Applause for this strategy came from the US blogger - and "natural-wine" fan, Arnold Waldstein:
-Focusing on the positive and what you found interesting is so much more interesting and valuable than being polarizing, which while it affords the great writer the opportunity to exercise word smarts is really boring as it accentuates the negative. Who cares about people [sic] don't like really."
Unlike Mr Waldstein, I for one, certainly care about what critics - restaurant, movie, theatre, literary and wine critics - don't like. I find little interest in a critical column that simply includes recommendations without any context.
Would Mr Waldstein apply the same logic to literary and movie criticism? If there was a movie that included some very good parts as well as some horribly unpleasant scenes of gratuitous violence, would a critic be wrong in drawing attention to the latter as well as the former? Should a restaurant critic skim over the badly cooked vegetables and stale prawns in a review of a restaurant that serves great steak?
If Simon Woolf as a fan of "natural-wine" found some wines "challenging, if not downright faulty", doesn't he have a responsibility to offer some kind of warning about these to his readers, many of whom might be less prepared for the "challenges" they are going to encounter?
Like Woolf, I applaud any wine producer who wants to try to do something different, but unlike him, I see no reason to turn a blind eye to the experimenter's failures - especially when I find them, in Woolf's own words, "intensely dislikable".