Thursday, 23 June 2011

Open letter to the Guardian

Dear Editor

Please can we discuss wine?
At present the coverage that your paper devotes to wine and drink pales in the anaemic slightly bulimic self-hating shadow of your exemplary food coverage.
With the formation of the creative locus that is the Word of Mouth blog space the Guardian has placed itself firmly at the forefront of the extremely fruitful movement that is food writing in Britain at the moment.
By comparison the coverage given to wine and beverage related journalism is curiously (willfully?) sparse to non-existent.
Whilst I appreciate that this can be attributed to a more general malaise in the field of wine related print journalism. I still can’t help but cringe when I see how sparse the space given to Fiona Beckett is every Saturday.
If this wasn’t quite enough, there is the issue of the wine related articles that receive main billing, either on the front page of the print edition or on the opening page of the website. It seems that it is here that underlying prejudices come to the fore.
In the last few months the articles that have caught my (admittedly slightly limited, I read the paper on line every day and buy it about 3 times a week) attention as being promoted by the editorship have been quite saddening.
Malcolm Gluck’s recent diatribe against English wines was one such example. I understand that you were once at the forefront of supermarket recommendations with his Super Plonk column, but times have changed. His piece came loaded with half with slander and half with unattributed quotes from ‘New Zealand wine making friends’ who tried growing Pinot Noir only to reckon it was only good for vinegar. This might pass muster in investigative journalism as protection of a source, but in wine writing it comes across as hearsay. That, the rest of the article was bare faced self-promotion of his tired brand of ‘wine radical’ almost slipped by such was the saddening sight of his despairing attempts to remain relevant as an anti-critic.
We move to the highly placed reportage of the Edinburgh university study that demonstrated how a limited sample of people preferred the taste of one or other cheap wine over another less cheap wine.
The Guardian newspaper employs the services of the esteemed Dr Ben Goldacre (for which I am most grateful). It is this sort of uncritical parroting of jumped to conclusions that are unsupported by the evidence that I expect to see him eviscerating, though not usually in the Guardian’s own coverage.
Finally, and most recently, there was a fluff piece on the recovery of the global market for cork that read like a barely edited PR mailshot from Amorim. I’m sure you’ll agree that the hard work the moderator had to do on the comments was testament to at least some latent desire for wine related reporting that matches the high standard set elsewhere in the paper.
I’ve long wondered whether the refusal to engage with wine and drink issues in a serious fashion was born out of the papers leftist values, which, I am proud to share.
I feel that a renewed focus on wine is not necessarily in conflict with these, as, save for the richest and most prestigious of appellations, wine is one of the few products were it is incredibly easy to track the path of one’s money right back to the end producer. Who, in many cases are still to be found with hands dirty from their own vineyards. However, in the absence of a guide of where to find these wines, we are left with an increasingly homogenized market selection of major corporations’ offerings.
I am certain that it wouldn’t be too far from the paper’s current editorial remit to increase the scope of the Word of Mouth blog space to include a few of the younger wine blogger and wine writers to contribute to what is already the preeminent space for discussion of food in the UK media.
Yours Sincerely

Donald Edwards

p.s Hoping for the best.