Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dueling doctrines: Antonio Galloni versus Tom Stevenson

In a recent post, I coined the term "Galloni Doctrine" as a descriptor for his perspective on the role of a wine critic. Galloni's thoughts on the matter were shared in a Liv-ex interview wherein, in responding to a question on the impact of wine critics on markets and growers, he stated (in relation to the grower part of the question): "I firmly believe that it is not a critic's role to tell growers -- or even suggest by way of commentary/criticism -- how to make wine. Any sense of giving direction to growers is completely antithetical to my philosophy."

I used the Galloni doctrine as a filter through which to view Tom Stevenson's (one of the leading authorities on Champagne and sparkling wines) longstanding critiques of the champagnes of Domaine Jacques Selosse. As I said in the post, my writing the piece was in no way an endorsement of the Galloni doctrine, or advancement of the approach as a "framework" or guiding principle for all wine critics. I juxtaposed his thoughts and Stevenson's actions as a way to generate some dialogue on the matter."

And boy did I get some dialogue. From the man himself. In a lengthy comment on my article, Tom dispatched what he viewed as an erroneous observation made by one of the authors I had cited in my post, pushed back heavily on the Galloni doctrine, and shared his mystification as to why folks would endeavor to drink faulty (read oxidized) champagnes. I thought that Tom's comments were too important to remain buried in the comments of the article so I present them to you herein. In this particular post I present his take on the Galloni Doctrine (And please remember, Galloni does not have a doctrine. I gave him one because I slept at a Holiday Inn last night.). I will examine the issue of consumption of oxidized champagne in a subsequent post.

In ruminating on the role of a wine critic, Stevenson wondered whether they should mention wine faults when encountered and, if they do, should they just mention them without any further discussion. Or, would discussion of the problem be more constructive in the long term. It is this dilemma which informs his doctrine: (i) He believes that he has a fundamental right to examine and discuss elements of how specific producers make wine (and based on his years in the business, he is eminently qualified to do so); and (ii) in the cases where he encounters wine faults, he discusses the problem in a constructive way. Matter-of-factly, "others can do what they want but I have always taken this approach in my writing."

These two gentlemen approach wine criticism from two separate perspectives and, as a result, may be playing to different aspects of the value chain. I posit that Antonio sees himself as helping consumers make better decisions between the wines available on the market where, while Tom may see himself in that space to some extent, he sees his mandate as also encompassing assisting winemakers in making better wine. They, in his view, will make better wine if they are aware of the faults in their wine. And even moreso if consumers, based on reading his comments, mention the issue to the winemakers or their representatives. In this approach he is not committing the Galloni sin of telling winemakers how to make wine; he is telling them what is wrong with the wine that they are making.

The market seems to be signaling that both approaches are meritorious as both of these gentlemen are enjoying success, each in his own right. But I would suspect that most people would take the position that Adam Chilvers (Owner of took when we were discussing this post: "I think that a critic should point out flaws in wine. Why are they a "critic" if they don't voice their honest opinions which are based on their experiences and expertise? Isn't that what a critic is?"

Wine -- Mise en abyme

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