The critics: who’s who, who’s new and who should you listen to?
Author: Tom Cave
Some established, some new, for many collectors it is the journals and those who fill their pages to whom they turn first, eagerly anticipating each new issue, whether it is landing on the doormat or – as is more common now – in our email inboxes.
- The Wine Advocate: originally run by Robert Parker, he sold his share in December 2012 and stepped back, now only responsible for reviewing Napa and Sonoma. Neal Martin is the new “poster boy” and has just taken over all Bordeaux-related responsibilities, as well as covering Burgundy, South Africa and Oregon.
- Vinous: a relatively new publication, headed by Antonio Galloni, formerly of The Wine Advocate and supported by the highly respected Stephen Tanzer, Josh Raynolds, Ian d’Agata and David Schildknecht all of whom have written for the top journals and more local publications.
- Burghound: a stalwart for those enamoured by all things concerning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Allen Meadows forged his passion for wine as a consumer and has become one of the foremost Burgundy authorities. Spending five months per year touring, visiting and tasting gives Meadows a superb insight, although this is not restricted to Burgundy alone – Champagne, Oregon and California all feature strongly.
A multitude of names appear in our weekend supplements (or screens), many of whom are thoroughly serious Masters of Wine. As some of the most respected “wine people” in the UK, their comments garner both respect and equally can drive merchants’ Monday morning sales figures.
- Tim Atkin MW: perhaps best known for his role on Saturday Kitchen, his extensive website is a treasure trove of information on the offering from across the UK trade. Tim really hits his stride with his series of Special Reports, in depth studies of Argentina, South Africa and Rioja, in addition to more traditional works on Rhône and Burgundy.
- Jancis Robinson MW: a veritable force to be reckoned with and, although unlikely to find a wine to review from her home county of Cumbria, Jancis has made it her mission to document virtually every angle, corner and dimension of the wine world. With 11 staff behind jancisrobinson.com, her empire makes for a huge, wonderful resource with its compact and clear tasting notes. The Oxford Companion to Wine is a set text of the WSET Diploma and is obligatory if you have ever wondered, “Just where is Samur-Champigny?” The whole trade and clients’ weekend reading would be far poorer were it not for her authoritative FT Weekend columns.
While their careers may not have started in the newsroom, these predominantly online authors hold no less value or importance than their partners in print. Many are stalwarts of the UK trade scene, travelling extensively to wine regions around the world and often to be seen at our en primeur tastings.
- Jamie Goode: writing as The Wine Anorak, he provides the full weight of experience from his PhD in Plant Biology to bring an interesting and often scientific angle, along with a great deal of informative photographs.
- Tom Cannavan: his Wine Pages site has been in existence since the internet itself almost (1995) and has consistently provided a great overview along with regional reports and a popular message board forum.
- Liv-ex: the London International Vintners Exchange is largely the realm of the trade, brokering fine wines online; however, its blog provides fascinating market insight for private clients and the trade alike. Early with en primeur price-based critical opinion and a strong international outlook, this is an increasingly important source of information.
The worth of the enthusiast
Sites such as Cellar Tracker or The Vintage Port blog offer peer-to- peer recommendations, so while it’s not possible to categorise these and similar sites as true “expert” opinion, they can often offer insight as to how a wine is drinking at that very moment.
One of the joys of the internet over printed media is that the cost of production is truly minimal, which has given added impetus to many in the trade who are already keen to share their wines and can now share their views on the wines with us. While we are certain there are many untapped sources on the web, we are fond of Vinolent, born in 2009 and best, if not most diplomatically, described as “personality-filled posts”. The writer gives the inside track on life in the wine trade from someone who despite or perhaps due to supporting Crystal Palace, “tastes wine, drinks wine and loves wine”.