Winecast 46: Richard Hemming, MW, and why wine writing isn’t necessarily objective

richard hemming

Richard Hemming, MW

“Why should [consumers] trust us? They shouldn’t, necessarily,” says Singapore-based wine writer

Richard Hemming, MW, a Singapore-based wine writer, wrote one of the most amazing blog posts I’ve ever read: Wine writers can’t be objective given the incestuous nature of the wine business, and consumers need to know that this prevents us from always being objective.

It’s one thing for me to write that, which I’ve been doing as long as there has been a blog. But if Hemming, firmly part of the Winestream Media — initials after his name, consulting work, and articles for important magazines and websites — writes this, it speaks to how messed up wine writing is.

Hemming doesn’t disagree. But he also doesn’t see a solution, since it’s difficult to make a living as a wine writer. So we have to depend on the kindness of strangers, with all of the compromises that entails. In this, Hemming notes, there’s a difference between a compromise, like not writing something that would offend a source, and corruption, such as taking money for a positive review.

Needless to say, I don’t agree. But Hemming’s point is well taken, and he hits on one of the key questions facing post-modern journalism, wine or otherwise: What’s going to replace the ad-supported model that paid for newspaper and magazine reporting in the second half of the 20th century? Because, so far, it isn’t the Internet.

The other thing worth noting? The post was easily the best read on Hemming’s blog, and most of the comments — from wine writers, of course — agreed with him.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 15 1/2 minutes long and takes up 9 megabytes. Quality is good to very good; I still haven’t figured out how to get the most out of Zoom.

6 thoughts on “Winecast 46: Richard Hemming, MW, and why wine writing isn’t necessarily objective

  • By eric - Reply

    thanks for the follow-up! glad you were able to interview Richard. I enjoyed listening to the podcast and thought Richard’s views were interesting. I have been a fan of his writing on Jancisrobinson.com for a while (now that’s one website that has likely maintained its editorial independence since it’s subscription based).

    so I guess this means we consumers will have to maintain our vigilance and keep an eye out for wine writers’ disclosures regarding their policies as far as accepting honoraria, travel, etc. from the industry players. if only every wine writer were upfront about their policies. this is from Jancis Robinson’s site – https://www.jancisrobinson.com/about/ethics-of-wine-writing

    way to go on the investigative work!

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words. I wish this wasn’t an issue, but that’s wine writing for you.

  • By Stephen Hoeft - Reply

    Hi,

    I was hoping that you would comment on this article.
    Ingredient Labeling: A Winemaker Strikes Back | Wine-Searcher News & Features
    https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2020/05/ingredient-labeling-a-winemaker-strikes-back

    I wonder about how labeling could damage small wineries?
    I am very happy with big wine…

    Steve…

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      I have long advocated ingredient and nutrition labels on wine — https://www.winecurmudgeon.com/the-final-nutrition-and-ingredient-labels-for-wine-are-a-good-thing-post/ . Anything that helps consumers figure out what to buy is a good thing. And the argument that small wineries would suffer is not good enough. How many small companies that make salsa or mustard have to have labels and still stay in business? The real reason the wine business is against labels is that you will find out there is something more than grapes and yeast in your wine.

  • By eric - Reply

    just saw this…podcast on journalistic integrity in wine which also references the original Hemming article
    https://winefornormalpeople.libsyn.com/ep-330-journalistic-integrity-in-wine-with-don-kavanaugh-of-wine-searcher?tdest_id=168938

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Thanks for this. If we keep making an issue of this, we might make a difference.

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