Wine Talk: The communicators

Who are the lucky few who have wine tasting as their job description?

April 13, 2011 22:19
4 minute read.
A wine critic is someone who is wine knowledgeable

wine tasters_521. (photo credit: MCT)

The wine critic is someone who is wine knowledgeable. His job is to taste wine on our behalf and write about in a way that is informative and helpful.

A critic will gain a guru-like following of people who follow every word. He quantifies his opinions exactly, often with a score out of 100 or 20, depending on the points system used. His readers will know that the difference of one point in a score is a precise statement, and the score overrides any text or explanation about the wine.

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The critic who tastes wine for a living should be distinguished from the wine writer. The writer is someone who is caught up with the magic of wine.

He is more interested in all that surrounds a wine. He sees the romance in the people that made the wine, the place where it comes from, the particular year it was made, and all this is before getting to the wine itself. Wine is a subject that lends itself to literature. It is a fact that people like to talk about wine and read about it, as well as drink it.

Wine critics and wine writers are both educators and translators. Their job is to absorb information, evaluate it and present it in a way that is useful to their readers.

The most powerful, famous and influential wine critic in the world is an ex-lawyer from Maryland called Robert Parker. His judgments can make or break any winery. A score of 90+ points from Parker, and a wine will be sold out immediately, whereas an 89 may scarcely cause a ripple. He has made the scoring system out of 100 a new fashion in wine and here critics have copied him too. His Wine Buyer’s Guide No. 7 is generous to Israel, giving us no fewer than nine pages. His main medium for transmitting his message is the highly influential Wine Advocate newsletter, which publishes tastings of Israeli wines twice a year.

Hugh Johnson would see himself as a wine writer rather than a wine critic. He is from England and has written many of the standard books of wine that are in every wine lover’s library. These include The World Atlas of Wine, The Story of Wine and The Wine Companion. His wonderful prose and sheer enthusiasm for wine has nurtured many new wine lovers over the years. Johnson does not believe in wine scores out of 100, believing that one does not give scores in art, music or gastronomy. He instead gives ratings to wineries. His Pocket Wine Book lists no fewer than 30 Israeli wineries.

Though the wine trade is a very masculine environment, many women are better tasters than men. Jancis Robinson is a Master of Wine from England who ticks all the boxes. She has the ability to write for wine academics but also for the person who does not yet know how to open a bottle. Her pioneering television programs were classics in their own way. She writes for the Financial Times and has her own flourishing website. She is the editor of The Oxford Companion To Wine, the most comprehensive encyclopedia on wine that there is, which features an explanation on Israel and kosher wines.

The main international expert on kosher wine is Howard Goldberg from New York. For years he worked as the wine correspondent of The New York Times, and also writes for the Wine News and Decanter magazines. He was the first international wine writer to detect the wine revolution in Israel over 25 years ago.

Arguably the most up-to-date international expert on Israeli wines today is American Mark Squires, who works in Robert Parker’s elite wine-tasting team. He specializes in the wines of Portugal, Greece, Lebanon and Israel. He does two major tastings of Israeli wines a year which are published in the Wine Advocate.

Apart from this there are wine magazines like the Wine Spectator in the US, Decanter from England and Wine, Gourmet & Alcohol in Israel. They all offer scores and reviews and have earned credibility according to their reputations.

The main wine communicator in Israel is Daniel Rogov, who writes an annual guide on both Israeli and kosher wines, and there is much discussion in Rogov’s Wine Forum, which has an international following.

He tastes more Israeli and kosher wines than anyone in a year. The main Israeli wine website in English is It was created and is maintained by Israel Preker, and it remains a good way to keep in touch with Israeli wine.

Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in both international and Israeli publications. [email protected]

Wine of the week

Tabor Adama II Petite Sirah 2008

This is a 100% Petite Sirah grown in Kfar Tavor and produced by the Tabor Winery. It is a very dark-colored, full-bodied red wine which has an aroma of violets and black fruits with a backdrop of mocha. Petite Sirah is a little-known variety which is perfect for our climate, and it produces big wines suitable for meat dishes. Adama II is a new series of special-edition wines primarily for restaurants. The attractive label has a Japanese look – black brush strokes on a white background. – A.M.

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