When most people hear the word “wine critic,” there is only one name that automatically comes to mind. And while Robert Parker and his The Wine Advocate have, no doubt, been extremely influential in the world of wine – his 100-point system often directly affecting the price and recognition of a wine – there are certainly many other writers and critics whose opinions on a wine shape its reputation significantly. In the previous edition of our Millesima Tips series we covered the steps of tasting a wine. We will now discuss how the experts do the same. In the 12th edition of our Millesima Tips series, we will take a look at some of the most important wine critics around the world, discussing their backgrounds and their roles in the world of wine.
1. Jancis Robinson MW
Jancis Robinson is the best known British wine critic and the first person outside of the wine trade to become a Master of Wine. Bearing the prestigious title of Officer of the British Empire (OBE), Robinson is the appointed advisor of the royal wine cellar of Queen Elisabeth II. She manages a weekly wine column in The Financial Times and publishes daily on her personal blog (JancisRobinson.com), followed by wine lovers around the world. She is considered one of the world’s most influential writers of encyclopedic material on wine. Her ratings follow a 20-point scale and are second only to Robert Parker’s in influence. Her reviews, which often favor balance over mass, are a great counterpoint to those of Parker. She also discusses both how the wines shows at the time of tasting as well as its potential to age.
2. James Suckling
After spending 30 years as Senior Editor and European Bureau Chief of The Wine Spectator and European Editor of Cigar Aficionado, James Suckling left these magazines to embark on his personal journey, launching JamesSuckling.com with the aim of modernising the art of the wine review. His website has become known for his refreshing style, often including engaging multimedia content, such as high-definition videos of interviews conducted in vineyards and cellars around the world. He tends to focus on the best wines from Italy, Bordeaux, Spain, as well as Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Napa Valley. Suckling has also been particularly active in the organization of luxurious wine events, including his Great Wines events in Hong Kong, Thailand and the U.S.A. Throughout his career, this influential wine critic has tasted what he estimates to be around 200,000 wines!
3. Antoni Galloni
Atoni Galloni is the founder of Vinous, a wine website which went live in 2013 and has gained subscribers in 75 countries around the world. The site offers a great mix of professional reviews, wine stories, video interviews and photos. A year after the site’s launch, Galloni paired with Stephen Tanzer to add the International Wine Cellar publication to the site. Vinous follows a 100-point wine-scoring scale, with an average awarded score of 91.1 points. Galloni was also lead critic, covering wines from California, Burgundy, Champagne and Italy for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. During his time as a graduate student at MIT, Galloni founded the first English-language journal focused on Italian wine, called Piedmont Report.
4. Michael Broadbent MW
An internationally recognised authority on wine tasting and old wines, Broadbent began his wine career at Layton’s, West End Wine merchants, Saccone and Speed and Harvey’s of Bristol. He became a Master of Wine in 1960. In 1966 he started wine auctions at Christie’s auction house in London and, during this time, tasted a wide variety of rare wines. He served as Senior Director of Christie’s until 1992, often contributing to wine magazines, like Vinum and Falstaff. He still contributes on a monthly basis to Decanter. His The Great Vintage Wine Book is a reference work containing tasting notes for over 6,000 wines from the 17th century. Broadbent is known to have tasted over 90,000 wines, awarding each a score of up to five stars.
5. Jeannie Cho Lee MW
An award-winning author, television show host, wine critic and editor, Jeannie Cho Lee was also the first individual of Asian heritage to become a Master of Wine. She currently resides in Hong Kong. She teaches at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where she also helped to launch the Master of Science program in International Wine Management. Jeannie co-hosts a weekly wine program called In Vino Veritas and consults for Singapore Airlines. Having worked at Decanter as contributing editor for Asia, Jeannie Cho Lee is also an active writer and wine critic. Her first book, “Asian Palate” (2009) has served as a reference for Asian food and wine pairing, while her second book “Mastering Wine for the Asian palate” (2011) introduces an Asian way of describing major grape varieties and wine styles. She has also managed her popular website JeannieChoLee.com and a luxury lifestyle magazine Le Pan. Jeannie Cho Lee follows a 100-point wine scoring scale to rate wines.
6. Neal Martin
Neal Martin’s career in wine began in 1996, when he accepted a position at a Japanese export company. His exposure to some of the most prestigious wines in the world led him to take the WSET, whose level 4 he passed just four years later. During this time Martin spent a great deal of time in Bordeaux, frequently visiting the region’s major chateaux and collecting tasting notes. In 2003, he started his own website (wine-journal.com) and in 2006 he was offered a reviewer job by Robert Parker at The Wine Advocate. In 2012, Martin published a book entitled Pomerol, the first reference book for this (then) little known Bordeaux appellation. Based in the UK, Martin reviews wines from Burgundy, South Africa, Tokaj, Sauternes, Port and Madeira. In 2015, Neal Martin became Parker’s successor in reviewing the en primeur wines of Bordeaux for The Wine Advocate.
7. Eric Asimov
Formerly a writer at the The Chicago Sun Times, Eric Asimov first began his work at The New York Times in 1984 as an editor of national news. In 1992, Asimov created the successful “$25 and Under” column, which provided advise to diners about restaurants where people could “eat lavishly under $25.” Asimov co-authored the annual New York Times Guide to Restaurants in the City between 2000 and 2004, eventually becoming the chief wine critic of the prestigious publication in 2004. Today, he writes three columns – “The Pour,” “Wine School” and “Wines of the Times,” while also managing his own wine blog, “The Pour.”
8. Allen Meadows
After working in finance for 25 years, Allen Meadows chose to retire from his career to author a book on a subject about which he was truly passionate, Burgundy. This led him to create Burghound.com (along with its popular quarterly newsletter), the first site to offer specialised and in-depth coverage of this prestigious French wine region. Meadows currently spends around 5 months per year in Burgundy, visiting more than 300 estates at a time. While in Burgundy, he has admitted to tasting around 75 wines per day over a course of 10 hours with a 2-hour lunch break in the middle. Burghound.com has published more than 50,000 tasting notes.
9. James Halliday
James Halliday is considered Australia’s leading wine writer. Halliday began his career in wine as a partner at Clayton Utz. In 1970 he established Brokenwood winery in the Hunter Valley in collaboration with two colleagues. In 1985 he founded Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley and became Group Winemaker of Southcorp Wines, which acquired this property in 1996. Halliday is a prevalent writer, having authored several award-winning books on wine. These include Wine Atlas of Australia, Australian Wine Encylopedia and Varietal Wines. Overall, he has contributed to more than 70 books on wine, along with several wine columns in major publications.
10. Monica Larner
Monica Larner is an Italian author and wine critic based in Rome. In 2013, she was selected by Robert Parker to replace Antoni Galloni as the Italian Reviewer at The Wine Advocate. Larner began her wine career as a writer for a selection of publications, including La Repubblica and BusinessWeek, and covering Italian wine for Italy Daily. In 1997, her parents purchased a ranch in Santa Barbara, California, where Larner helped establish a vineyard. In 2003, she began her work at The Wine Advocate, where she added Etna, Friuli, Taurasi, Trentino-Alto Adige and Valpolicella to the publication’s “Vintage Chart,” which listed the world’s most cellar-worthy wines. In 2012, Larson won the Best International Journalist award at VinItaly. Her wine reviews are often cited in Forbes and Newsweek.
Of course, taste in wine is extremely subjective, varying greatly from one individual to another. You may find that your own preference aligns more closely with one critic or another. When selecting a wine based on its reviews, we recommend taking into account as many comments as possible. Observe what critics agree on and how their reviews differ. This will provide a deeper understanding of a wine, a well-rounded view of the winemaker’s message.