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Michel Bettane: ‘We are not gurus’

Michel Bettane, one of France’s most influential wine writers, says critics are not gurus - and Jonathan Nossiter's criticisms are ‘infantile’.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Bettane said that the role of the wine critic is to act as interface between the producer and the public, to be constructive and to guide the consumer.

‘While he has a role as a judge, his judgement must not be brutal,’ said Bettane. ‘He also has the role of an educator. But we must not tell people what they should like. We are not gurus.’

Bettane takes particular issue with the position taken by Mondovino director Nossiter in his new book Le Goût et le Pouvoir, when he attacks ‘all the critics and arbiters of taste who, in imposing their opinions, spoil the pleasure and culture of wine’.

Bettane defended the role and importance of the wine critic.

‘Would you eliminate the criticism of film, theatre, art and literature? This is infantile,’ he said. ‘I know Jonathan Nossiter personally. He’s a nice man, his film did a lot of good for the cause of wine. He succeeded in attracting thousands of people to wine. But he mustn’t consider himself the great wine thinker of the 21st century.’

Bettane worked for 20 years for French consumer wine publication La Revue du Vin de France, and with colleague Thierry Desseauve, launched the magazine’s wine guides. Both critics went solo last year and have since launched their own website, magazine and guide book.

In the Le Temps interview, Bettane begrudgingly defends the applying a point system to the qualitative classification of wines.

‘I have always hated this, but it’s difficult to avoid,’ he said. ‘Let’s just say the points are a kind of Richter Scale of pleasure.’

Written by Maggie Rosen

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