In the large market of wine there is so much to choose from it can be down- right confusing. Where do we start? What do we buy and how do we know if it’s any good? Do we follow our own judgement or listen to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about?
So in this large market of wine there is a large amount of wine critics, who are there to gently guide us towards the good and away from the bad and the ugly. It could be said that in these hard times when everyone is more tempted to eat at home than go out and pay for meal, these people in the know are more needed than ever.
Wine blogger and critic Richard ‘Graped Crusader’ Saxton says, ‘It pays to listen to wine critics when choosing a wine. For the most part wine critics taste an awful lot of wines and don’t want to be seen to be recommending rubbish. Whilst it takes little skill to recommend a very expensive bottle of wine, any decent wine critic recommending something in the affordable £7 to £15 category should be listened to! It’s a great way to uncover some real hidden gems’.
Speaking of blogging, this is one medium of wine critique that has recently risen to the surface. Looking at the recent articles ‘Best of British wine bloggers’ and ’25 must-follow wine people on Twitter’ just shows how much the wine industry is connected with social media and the internet.
Coming from the days of wine publications when we would reach for the guide books, (Malcolm Gluck’s ‘Superplonk’ was the market leader for many years), this has lead on to the popularity of newspaper columns in The Guardian and The Telegraph for example featuring handy slurps of info from their resident critics such as Tim Atkin and Fiona Beckett. Now wine people like this have Twitter and Facebook accounts, plus their own blogs to share their thoughts and knowledge. Consumers are even buying wine online now, more than ever. This just shows how wine and the online world are merging so successfully.
Just as you would trust Stephen Spielberg’s advice on whether a film is rubbish or not, why not take note of Oz Clarke’s thoughts on the bottle of Bordeaux you are about to purchase? It could save you spending £10 on a bottle of could-be vinegar and as wine blogger Tom ‘Old Parn’ Parnell says, they’re nothing to be scared of. ‘In my experience, the best critics don't declaim from the pulpit, but speak to us like normal people. Normal people who happen to know a lot about wine, but wear that learning lightly. Jancis Robinson (for me) epitomises this all too rare combination of modesty, intelligence and expertise’.
If we are not experts ourselves, it gives a warm, fuzzy feeling to know there are people like this to turn to – it can save your hard earned cash and give you a better drinking experience. So why not sit back and let the adept do all the work.
Wine expert and regular on BBC1’s ‘Saturday Kitchen’ Peter Richards MW says, ‘ I think the first and most important person to listen to is yourself – do I think this wine is right for me/what I’m eating etc, given my personal preferences? Listening to critics becomes useful when you want a short-cut to quality and great value – after all, we taste thousands of bottles a year, many with food, to sift out the dross and highlight the stars.’
Wine is more complex than just what you put in your glass, it involves more science that an A-level textbook would care to mention, but if these critics can help us find some of the lushious liquids we actually like then that’s doing a great thing.
So here, in no particular order, is our list of the most popular wine critics in the UK, who they are and why they’re great . Next time you’re trying to decide, seeing what these guys have to say could change your wine world.
1 Fiona Beckett
Who: Fiona is an award-winning food and wine writer, wine columnist for The Guardian and the author of 22 books on food, wine and beer, including Fiona Beckett's Cheese Course (2009), Food, Wine & Friends, An Appetite for Ale (2007) and Cooking with Wine (2005). She has been a contributor with weekly columns for The Times and the Daily Mail, plus she is currently a contributing editor to Decanter and writes for Jamie magazine. In 2002 she was voted Food Journalist of the Year by the British Guild of Food Writers.
What else: She blogs on cheese (a particular passion!) at The Cheeselover and on natural, organic and biodynamic wines at Wine Naturally.
2. Oz Clarke
Who: Oz Clarke is one of the world’s leading wine experts, whose current best selling books include his two annuals (Pocket Wine Book and 250 Best Wines Wine Buying Guide), Let me tell you about wine, Bordeaux, Wine Atlas and Grapes & Wines (with Margaret Rand). Oz’s frequent BBC TV and radio appearances are broadcast around the world, including a series with ‘Top Gear’ co-presenter James May was ‘Oz and James Drink to Britain’
What else: Before wine took over his life in 1984, Oz was a full-time actor and singer, appearing in West End hit shows such as ‘Evita’, ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘The Mitford Girls’
3. Susie Barrie
Who: Susie is an award-winning wine writer, broadcaster and Master of Wine and regularly appears on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Susie is also the author of two books: Champagne and Sparkling Wines and Discovering Wine Country – Northern Spain, the second of which picked up a Gourmand World Award in 2006. She has also written for Decanter, Wine and Spirit, Harpers, Drinks International, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine.
What else: Susie is an accomplished singer, piano player and actress.
4 Jancis Robinson OBE, MW
Who: Jancis is a British wine critic, journalist and editor of wine literature. She currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times and writes for her website JancisRobinson.com. Jancis has written a number of books, including the best selling ‘World Atlas of Wine’ along with Hugh Johnson, ‘How to taste wine’ 2008, ‘The Oxford companion to wine’ 2006 amongst many, many others. She has also been given countless awards, the most recent of which being 2012 Honorary President of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
What else: She provides advice for the Queen’s wine cellar.
5. Peter Richards
Who: Peter is a writer, broadcaster and Master of Wine. He has published two books and contributed to many more, earning a Gourmand World Award and an Andre Simon short-listing. Newspaper credits include The Guardian, Sunday Times, London Lite and Daily Mail and magazine credits include Decanter, Food & Wine, The Liberal, The World of Fine Wine, The Drinks Business, Holiday, harpers, Imbibe and BA Highlife. He is also one of the regular wine experts featured on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen.
What else: Peter served boiled pasta, a bumper pack of fish fingers and a side dish of tinned plum tomatoes at his first ever dinner party.
6. Tim Atkin
Who: Tim is an award-winning wine writer and Master of Wine. Publications he writes for include The World of Fine Wine, OLN, Intelligent Life, Gourmet Traveller Wine, Imbibe and Woman and Home. He appears regularly on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen and runs his own wine school in London. He has also won over 20 awards for his journalism. He has written two of his own books - Chardonnay and Vins de Pays d’Oc. He was also the co-author with Anthony Rose of five editions of the annual consumer guide, Grapevine.
What else: He is a Caballero del Vino, a Chevalier du Tastevin and a member of the Ordre du Bontemps.
7. Susy Atkins
Who: Susy Atkins is a popular, award-winning wine writer and broadcaster. She writes the weekly wine column for the Sunday Telegraph magazine, and is wine editor for Delicious magazine, as well as appearing frequently as TV wine expert on shows including BBC1's flagship cookery show 'Saturday Kitchen' for the past five years. Susy is the author of ten books about wine and drinks, two have won major awards. Her new book, 'How To Make Your Own Drinks', has just been published to high acclaim.
What else: Susy also runs hugely popular wine tastings at various venues all around the UK
8. Olly Smith
Who: Olly is a uniquely enthusiastic British TV presenter, wine expert, foodie and writer. He is presenter of The Secret Supper Club for Channel 4 (2011) and Iron Chef UK (C4) and has also appeared regularly as a wine expert on BBC1′s Saturday Kitchen for over five years. Olly is Wine Editor of The Mail on Sunday’s Live Magazine with his weekly wine column reaching 5.3 million readers each week. His book ‘Eat & Drink: Good Food That’s Great to Drink With‘was released in 2010. Olly’s must-have App for iPhone was featured in the Sunday Times World’s Best App list 2011 and 2012 It features a Wine Guide, Wines of the Week, food matching tips, videos and much more.
What else: Olly has launched his very own wine glass made by world class manufacturers Zalto to use for red and white wine. He can also name all four Ghostbusters. Can you?
9. Hugh Johnson OBE
Who: Hugh is a British author and expert on wine. He is considered the world's best-selling wine writer. The first publication in 1971 of ‘The World Atlas of Wine’, was described as a major event in wine literature. Since its launch in 1973 Johnson has been President of The Sunday Times Wine Club.. He was selected Decanter Man of the Year in 1995. Since 1977 he has compiled his annual Pocket Wine Book, selling many million copies in up to 14 languages.
What else: In a parallel career, in 1973 Johnson wrote ‘The International Book of Trees’
10. Victoria Moore
Who: Victoria Moore has been writing about wine and all other kinds of drinks since 1998 and joined the Telegraph as wine correspondent in October 2010. She's the author of ‘How to Drink’ (Granta), writes a monthly wine column for BBC Olive Magazine. She also has a very popular blog called Planet Victoria. Victoria received the Louis Roederer award last year for best wine columnist 2011.
What else: Partial to a g&t and has a special interest in Italian wines.
11. Malcolm Gluck
Who: Gluck was for sixteen years the wine correspondent of The Guardian with the column "Superplonk". In addition to contributing articles for other publications, including Harpers Magazine he was a wine critic of The Oldie until 2011, and the author of 36 books about wine. Among his titles are Superplonk, Streetplonk, Brave New World and The Great Wine Swindle. He also featured in the BBC programme Gluck, Gluck, Gluck. In a 2008 poll according to the wine industry consultancy firm Wine Intelligence results show that Gluck was the fifth most recognised wine critic in the UK.
What else: Gluck has been described as a "self-styled champion of the ordinary wine drinker, fighting against the perceived snobbery and stuffiness of the wine world”.
12. Anthony Rose
Who: Anthony writes a weekly column for The Independent and teaches wine in schools for the Leiths School of Food & Wine. Publications he writes for include Decanter and The World of Fine Wine. For Decanter Magazine, he chairs the Australian panel at their annual World Wine Awards and their Wine Retailer Awards panel.
What else: Anthony and four wine writers have launched thewinegang.com which is a subscription website featuring a newsletter and 200 new wine notes each month.
13. Joanna Simon
Who: Joanna has 22 years experience as the Sunday Times wine critic and is now the Wine & Food Editor of House & Garden magazine. She also writes for Classic FM and Decanter and her books have been published all over the world, including The Sunday Times Book of Wine, Wine: An Introduction, '‘Discovering Wine'’ and '‘Wine with Food'’. She has also presented the BBC Radio 4 series The Bottle Uncorked and is a co-founder of thewinegang.com along with Anthony Rose and Olly Smith.
What else: She has written many cookery features for the Sunday Times and gives tastings, talks and presentations to groups and individuals
14. Tom Cannavan
Who: Wine writer Tom was a pioneer of wine on the Internet when he launched wine-pages.com in 1995. In 2008 he was awarded the trophy as Louis Roederer International Online Wine Writer of the Year. Tom is also a popular and accomplished broadcaster on TV and radio, with his weekly wine slot on Scottish TV between 2009 and 2011 and frequent appearances on BBC Radio Scotland. He is also a founder member of thewinegang.com.
What else: In 2004 Tom launched sister title beer-pages.com and in 2006 he launched whisky-pages.com
15. Jane Parkinson
Who: In 2009, Jane was given the Chairman’s Award at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards for “rising rocket-like” through the world of wine writing (for articles on Champagne). Jane is currently wine Editor at Large for Restaurant magazine, the regular wine expert for Stylist magazine and writes for various magazines and is also a member of thewinegang.com. Before going freelance, she spent three months working in a winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia.
What else: Jane doesn’t like smoking, rain or dill.
16. Margaret Rand
Who: Margaret Rand is a previous editor of Wine Magazine, Wine & Spirit International and Whisky Magazine and she now writes for Decanter. She is general editor of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book, and her latest book, Grapes & Wines (with Oz Clarke), has just been updated.
What else: As well as her first love Decanter, Margaret is also close to The World of Fine Wine and has wild flings with Imbibe and the drinks business, and the occasional flirtation with the FT
17. Michael Schuster
Who: Michael is acknowledged internationally as an expert wine taster, wine writer and wine teacher with over 25 years experience. He is a regular contributor to The World of Fine Wine and occasionally Decanter. His highly praised book, Essential Winetasting (Mitchell Beazley), won all three major wine book prizes in the UK in 2001. It was described by Bill Nesto MW (Beverage Business USA) as “The most effective winetasting manual ever written.”
What else: Michael also teaches courses for both beginners and advanced wine buffs, based at the offices of fine wine merchants Bordeaux Index.
18. Simon Woods
Who: Simon has been co-coordinator of the annual International Wine Challenge, a columnist for The Financial Times ‘The Business’ magazine, editor of the award-winning annual Which? Wine Guide and a contributor to numerous magazines. He was voted International Online Wine Columnist of the Year prize at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2010. Launched in June 2009, is books include ‘I don’t know much about wine but I know what I like’, which received the Gold Label Award for Wine Book of the Year at the Prix du Champagne Lanson, and ‘Vine to Bottle’, which was chosen as the Best Book on Wine in English at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
What else: Jamie Goode of ‘Wineanorak’ says, ‘Simon’s writing style is lively, interesting and balanced. He’s jokey without being forced, and critical without being an iconoclast. Best of all, he talks good sense”
19. Clive Coates
Who: Coates published The Vine, his independent fine wine magazine, from 1984 to 2005 which received numerous awards and has written for nearly all the world's foremost wine publications. Coates' books are widely considered the classic works, they include: 'Cote D'or', A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy (1997), which won the André Simon Award (UK) and the Champagne Veuve Clicquot prize (USA). Since then he has published 'An Encyclopaedia to the Wines and Domaines of France' (2000); The Wines of Bordeaux (2004) and The Great Wines of France (2005).
What else: Prior to his career as an author, Coates spent twenty years as a professional wine merchant, during which he served as Executive Director of the wines division of British Transport Hotels and established the legendary Malmaison Wine Club.
20. Chris Kissack
Who: Chris Kissack is the author of Winedoctor (www.thewinedoctor.com), which he has been publishing for more than 10 years, and is now visited by more than 15,000 readers every day and is one of the world’s most useful individual web resources. It is full of his winemaker and domaine profiles, thousands of his tasting notes, detailed regional guides, maps and more.
What else: Chris frequently visits Bordeaux and the Loire and is a judge in the Loire category of the Decanter World Wine Awards
21. Jamie Goode
Who: Jamie is currently wine columnist for The Sunday Express. He won the 2007 Glenfiddich Wine Writer of the year award, and contributes regularly to a range of publications including The World of Fine Wine, Wine Business International, Wines and Vines, Sommelier Journal, The Drinks Business and Imbibe. His first book, Wine Science, won the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Book in 2006. He now publishes wineanorak.com which is one of the leading wine websites.
What else: Jamie came to writing on wine via a PhD in plant biology and several years of working as a book editor.
22. Matthew Jukes
Who: In a Harpers survey, retailers were asked which wine writer has the most influence over their customers. The answer was, unanimously, Matthew Jukes. In another list compiled by OLN, in May 2011, Matthew was voted the most influential wine writer in the UK. With over 9 million Daily Mail readers a week, Matthew has the most keenly followed wine column in the UK. He also writes a weekly piece for MoneyWeek and occasional features for Decanter.
What else: Matthew is the creator of a handful of ground-breaking initiatives – he invented One Day Wine School over ten years ago
23. David Williams
Who: David combines roles as wine correspondent of The Observer newspaper and deputy editor of The World of Fine Wine magazine. David has been writing about wine for more than 10 years, and began his career as a staff writer on the trade magazine Harpers, before becoming editor of consumer title Wine & Spirit. His freelance work appears in many publications including Harpers Wine & Spirit, Restaurant Magazine, Imbibe, Destination France and Meininger's Wine Business International and he is a member of thewinegang.com. He is also an editor on the new wine reference book, The Wine Opus
What else: If David wasn’t a wine writer, he would be a conceptual artist, making weird, incomprehensible art and installations with gnomic titles out of enormous pieces of metal and bits of old rubbish
24. Tom Stevenson
Who: Tom is a British writer who has been writing about wine for over 30 years and is considered one of today’s most prolific wine authors. Tom’s first writings on wine were published in Decanter, who he still writes for. He has also been a contributor to ‘Wine magazine’ and ‘Wine and Spirit International’. His books include Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine which became the only wine book to warrant a leader in a UK national newspaper (The Guardian) in 1998, ‘The Wines of Alsace’ which won the Veuve Cliquot Book of the Year award.
What else: Malcolm Gluck, then wine correspondent of The Guardian, said of ‘The Wines of Alsace’, “It is not simply the best book about Alsace wines ever written, or the most penetrating book about a French wine region ever written; it is the greatest wine book ever written, period”
25. Robert Joseph
Who: Joseph was the wine correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for sixteen years, until 2001, and is the author of more than 28 books, twice winning the Glenfiddich award for wine writing. He wrote an annual Robert Joseph Good Wine Guide (published by Dorling Kindersley) which in 2004 was named as best Wine Guide in the world by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
What else: In 1997, he was named by Decanter as one of the 50 people who would be influencing the way people would drink in the 21st century.