When, in 1920, Professor George Saintsbury's Notes on a Cellar Book was first published, the 75‐year‐old author could have had no idea that sharing his opinions of wines he had drunk over more than half a century would have such an impact upon wine lovers. Redding detailed vinous facts (as then perceived), and basic tastes and perceptions. Notes on a Cellar Book was perhaps the beginning of a new school of art, and the precursor of a new science, of the assessment of the tastes and quality of wines, at times looking beyond simplistic descriptors. Saintsbury was to become an icon to the oenophile, having both a prestigious wine and dining club and a flagship Californian winery named in his honour. The clarets of 1888 and 1889 were, to Saintsbury, reminiscent of Browning's A Pretty Woman and the red wines of the south of France 'Hugonic in character'.
Today', most writers would not dream of using such analogies, and if they did, the copy is unlikely to pass the publisher's editorial gaze. Today's wine writer/critic is, rightly or wrongly, usually more concerned with the awarding of points than allusions to Browning or Hugo. Today, the professional writer also strives to be objective in the assessments made, something that Saintsbury would never claim to be.
Two year's ago a writer colleague penned an article defending the use of terms such as 'feminine' to describe a wine. Such was the publisher's angst that the article was put before the management committee, who pulled the piece on the grounds that it was sexist. A year earlier the world of a well-know whisky writer, Jim Murray, fell apart when he was cancelled following an Instagram post by rival writer Beck Paskin. To quote from the Daily Mail 'Her allegation was that because 34 of Jim's 4,300-plus tasting notes in the 2021 edition of his Whisky Bible referred to whisky being 'sexy' and that also, in a few more, he 'objectifies women', by comparing drinking whisky to having sex, both he and his bible were sexist and a disgrace to the industry. s published an article: Sexism In Whisky: Why You Shouldn't Read The Whisky Bible. The conglomerates owning numerous distilleries quickly cancelled Mr Murray. He soldiers on, still self-publishing the book every year. For reviews, and observations on his cancellation see: Jim Murray
Edmund Penning-Rowsell, wrote about wine for over 40 years. He had lengthy tenures as the correspondent for County Life and Financial Times. His seminal work The Wine of Bordeaux, first published in 1969, went into six editions. Edmund, painted a picture and was unafraid to expound his scholarly knowledge, giving the reader a deep understanding.
Other passionate and writers of the era included André Simon and Cyril Ray. Both Penning-Rowsell and Ray were socialists, and it is interesting to note that their political opinions never tarnished their works, unlike many of todays writers (perhaps including yours truly).