Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Why Malcolm Gluck is wrong

When he wrote for wine trade mag Harpers many moons ago, Malcolm Gluck was one of those people I loved to hate. Harpers probably realised that there were many people like me who used to tear open the plastic around the magazine, plop it open, flick past the news, the serious columns and read Malcolm's, expecting, nay knowing, I would find something to be annoyed about. It was like purposefully going out to buy the Daily Mail in order to read Amanda Platell's column, purely for the purpose of working oneself up into a fury. Funnily enough, Malcolm has got himself into the Mail too.

He has joined the Hanni crowd, saying, among other things, that wine critics talk rubbish. I can understand this but I have my reservations too. Like I said in yesterday's news blog, the wine talk is the mystique is the 'crap' is the enjoyment of reading about wine. What role would Malcom have critics take? Just publish a list of scores like Robert Parker's latest Wine Guide? What would that reduce critics to?

And why the bloody hell is it that Hanni and Gluck, two people so immersed in the wine trade, feel they represent and understand the perception of the general public? Of course some wine writing is going to represent gobbledy-gook to some people - so would a Brian Sewell column. And Sewell gets on TV.

And of all the quotes Gluck uses to criticise critics, we get this: 'strange hermaphrodite sherry' for Palo Cortado. Which is exactly what it is - a Fino with the added organs of an Oloroso. I admit this needs explanation, but it makes sense.

But then to quote himself saying a wine is 'reminiscent of a sumo-wrestler's jockstrap' and say that he was merely illustrating that it wasn't worth drinking destroys his argument. It shows that being frivolous in a tasting note is what it's all about. How can Gluck not see this?

And then we get onto the additives question. As I have said before, there are issues here, but I think we're trying too hard to find many of them.

As part of this he mentions Bentonite, and makes the link with cat litter.

Malcolm, FFS. Bentonite is a fining agent used in wine. I've used it in my wine. It's clay. White wine that hasn't been Bentonite-filtered looks more like the actual product of a cat than bentonite looks like kitty litter. The most galling thing is that you know this, Malcolm.

There are greater debates, such as the notion of Terroir that Malcolm also looks at - and rightly so. I am also more than prepared to admit that there is huge snobbery and obfuscation and fraud and backhanders in the wine world - there is a lot that needs to be changed.

I am not arguing that this should be witheld from wine's wider audience - it's important that much of this is addressed.

But, like I said, I think that when wine professionals criticise wine writing, they are fundamentally (or deliberately - ask yourself why Hanni is promoting the 'listen to your own taste' line...something to do with his 'budometer', perhaps?) being short-sighted. Would anyone read a film critic who simply said: 'go and see this film, it's very good'? Of course not, as a reader we are implicitly demanding to be entertained.

There are many 'unpalatable' things in the wine world, and I'm sure Gluck's book will expose many of them. But deliberately using short-sighted, shock doctrine to sell a wine book is also one of them.

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At 12 February 2010 00:20 , Anonymous Jim Budd said...

This is just a rehash of Malcolm's book The Great Wine Swindle published in 2008 as was the Mail article. The book was littered with errors.

More relevant today is that the Facebook group – Save the wine column – already has 448 members after three days.


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