For most of us, a critic is an annoying nitpicker who finds fault with everything. But the truth remains that good criticism, while forever a thankless task, is a useful tool. This article will introduce you to the most prominent wine critics.
If a winemaker feels they have produced a truly exceptional wine, and they are ready to announce it to the world, they have many ways to do so. For example, a sample can be sent to one of a number of institutes run by distinguished wine experts for analysis by many knowledgeable taste buds. The wine can then enter public competitions and try to win awards. However, some vintners have little faith in the independence of these institutes and may not bother to submit their wines. Below is a list of the world’s most prominent wine-ranking institutions, including magazines and websites.
This well-respected British monthly has found ample readership around the world. It helps that it is published in nearly ninety countries and has been around since 1975. It specializes in wines available on the British market, and although it might seem geared towards wine consumers, it contains abundant material useful for winemakers and distributors. The event of the highest stature for Decanter is the Panel Tasting—an annual meeting of three experts associated with the magazine, who put together a list of the most interesting wines of the past year. The wines are rated on a scale from 1 to 100, where 100 is a mark no wine has yet achieved.
An American critic who has devoted his life to wine, currently specializing in Asian markets. A former editor-in-chief of the famous Wine Spectator, he and his team fill his website with the best of what he encounters on his frequent travels. He will tell you which are the most popular wines in South Korea, which Bordeaux is currently worth your while, and what events are not to be missed. Like many others, he uses a 100-point rating scale, and there are actually wines in this world that have received the magical 100 points.
Another American critic and a well-established figure in the world of wine. His wine-critiquing project, “The Wine Advocate,” stands out especially for its unique rating scale. He adds a letter to the standard 100-point scale, to indicate the wine’s maturity. This helps you decide whether you want to let your wine sit for a while longer, or go ahead and pop it. He is also unique in his focus on non-traditional markets including Russia, Taiwan and Mexico. In addition to wine, he is also a restaurant and gastronomy critic.
This magazine, originating from sunny Italy, is considered one of the leading trendsetters in the European wine sector. This particularly applies to countries in which the general knowledge of wine is still limited and consumers depend on the advice of major wine guides. One such guide is Guida Vini d’Italia, the “wine bible” published annually by Gambero Rosso, featuring a list of the best Italian wines of the past year. Gambero Rosso is more creative than other wine-oriented magazines in their rating method, which uses the symbol of a glass: good wine gets one glass, very good wine gets two glasses, and three glasses go to excellent wine. Wines that receive the highest rating—“Tre Bicchieri”—should find their way to every gourmet’s table.
Gilbert & Gaillard
When Messrs. Philippe Gaillard and François Gilbert founded their company in 1989, little did they know that in less than thirty years they would be running a wine and food magazine with correspondents stationed across the globe. With a graceful and charming style the French are so well known for, Gilbert & Gaillard write about virtually everything that might interest any flavor enthusiasts, using a traditional 100-point rating scale. Their wine guides are published in nine languages and distributed to twenty-five countries. They place great emphasis—they are French, after all—on proper wine and food pairings, so you no longer need to be in doubt as to which bottle to open with your dinner.
A note in conclusion: in your search for that ‘perfect wine,’ follow your instincts. There is no need to agree with everything a wine critic says.