A Case For The Wine Expert: Jancis Robinson Speaks Out


It's no secret that the new generation of wine drinkers is clamoring for the ratings and reviews of their peers. 
This movement toward the “social sommelier” is the logical outcome of a world long enamored with social networking. 
Yet this past week, famed Master of Wine Jancis Robinson made a passionate defense of the position of the wine expert (not wine “critic), and how her years of knowledge of market trends, harvests and regions is a set of skills not quickly replaced by Facebook. 
Her article was published in the Financial Times.
Robinson began her story with acknowledging that it's impossible to know everything about the wine world, but at the same time wine lovers are using the Internet and the valuable resources therein to gather as much information as possible about the wine world. 
“My point is that I have gone from being a unique provider of information to having to fight for attention,” she wrote. “What is the role of those of us who make our living giving out expert advice in this new, democratic, much more populated landscape of opinion?”
Art critics these days aren't too happy about the crop of amateurs who are popping up and handing out their opinions as if they were seasoned critics. 
Yet Robinson points out that she and her colleagues can't take the same stance because she's been working her whole life to arm consumers with the right information about wine.
Like Robinson, winemakers are struggling to be heard. With so many wines flooding the market these days, even the best producers are having to up their marketing game in order to stand out against better publicized (albeit lower quality) wines. 
So what becomes of a world where the experts and the producers are fighting for the affections of wine drinkers who are turning away from the gatekeepers in favor of crowdsourced reviews and wines?
The onus of responsibility, Robinson said, is on the wine critic. They must continue their devotion to wine, “working hard and accurately enough” to earn the trust of readers. 
Robinson offered a more subtle admonition to wine experts who like to use a plethora of tasting notes (grilled watermelon and fennel seed, for example) – leave the extravagance for your own time and help consumers find wines they'll love.
In the end, the matter of tasting and evaluating should be based on the consumer's need for reliable information upon which to be confident enough to choose their own wines. 
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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