There’s a very good reason why China is not a democracy, why Putin rules Russia with an iron fist – sorry, “hand” –  and why India still favours arranged marriages. Left to their own devices, people simply get it wrong. They choose the wrong husbands and wives; they read the wrong books; watch the wrong movies and TV shows; drink the wrong wines and eat the wrong foods.

It’s simply infuriating to watch them queuing up for their Big Macs, with copies of 50 Shades of Grey (or the Daily Mail) under their arms, chatting to their friends about a crap TV show they enjoyed, about how they’re going to vote for the Tea Party, and how much they love drinking Apothic. 

The role of a critic is, of course, to try to halt this tide. To cry out with a lonely voice: “you stupid idiots, can’t you see how you’re wasting your potential. If only you’d listen to me, your lives could be so much finer. A bit of Proust here; a couple of hours of subtitled Ingmar Bergman there; a glass of Old Vine Carignan from Corbières… With just a bit of effort, you could improve yourself, and almost become a really fine human being… like me.

“What do you mean, you can’t hear what I’m saying, you stupid savages? I’m speaking very slowly and clearly from my room here on the top floor of my Ivory Tower of Excellence. You’re simply choosing not to listen to me. It’s almost as though you feel insulted by my saying that you have crap tastes. YOU MUST NOT LIKE Coca Cola, McDonalds, Apothic – or Pinot Grigio, now I come to think of it.

“DON’T WALK AWAY WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!… I only want the best for you… Oh, the hell with it, I’m moving to China…”

  1. Writing this in Shanghai on my second trip here in not many months, it sometimes feels as though I\ve already moved here… But no, it's my fictional voice that's packing his/her bags.

  2. Dear Robert – Would it be fair to summarise the above as 'ignorance is bliss'. I believe in the past you have championed the fact that the people who consume the vinous equivalent of Coke and Big Macs (and enjoy it) aren't the ones reading the likes of Mr Atkins' missives, so therefore are unaffected by his anti-Apothic stance. Mr A is quite right to warn people about it, and I expect his readers/followers/worshippers thank him.

  3. Tim may well be 'pissing into the wind', but you could say the same about any critic – food, wine, movies…. If he influences just one person, however, and shows them an alternative option that may well improve their life, then surely it is mission accomplished?

  4. Yes, but my bigger point is that most consumers, including some very sophisticated people in other respects are daunted by wine writers (and experts in general). Tim is right to express his opinion, but I'm not sure that he benefits by setting himself above a popular class of wine. My difference with Tim is that he did not say that Apothic was a bad wine; he said that sweet red per se was undrinkable.

  5. We all set our own goals. The reason I gave up consumer wine writing was the frustration I felt at the limited numbers of people who read wine columns in general. I'm sure I influenced “just one person” – and maybe more than a handful. but I wanted more than that…

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