Tuesday 5 April 2011

And James Suckling kicks over the hornet’s nest…

Back to Suckling, who would be twirling his moustache, if he had one, and chuckling evilly. He’s the villain of the piece - he broke the Union des Grands Crus embargo and published his notes early.

Michel Bettane, France’s eminence grise and general grand fromage, threatened to boycott en primeur if the UGC didn’t put a stop to riffraff like Suckling refusing to play the game.

Others weighed in. There were murmurs of ‘ce n’est pas le cricket’. He’s abused the trust of the chateaux, someone said.

Suckling of course is delighted by all this, and came out fighting. ‘I don't see the problem,’ he told Decanter.com. ‘Does TF1 bitch to the BBC or CNN when they get scooped? The 2010 vintage is a great one. The weather has been fabulous. I hope it's the same next week for the others.'

To say he’s opened up a can of worms is an understatement. There are over 30 comments on Decanter.com’s article, posted last week –  and they’re not talking about the morality of breaking embargoes.

No – the comments are all about the point of scoring wines in the first place, the validity of those scores on wines tasted so young, and how the perfidious wine trade stitches up the press.

As Christie’s wine consultant Anthony Hanson MW writes, ‘Is there any other field of activity in the worlds of commerce or art where the producers, traders or artists have so successfully manipulated the media to pump up prices ahead of the products being put on the market?’

I don’t think it’s that naïve to think that the chateaux are quite within their rights to use critics’ scores as they see fit. It’s really no more immoral than a film distributor using favourable quotes on a poster, a good few weeks before the film is released.

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