(Top left to right: James Molesworth, Philippe Dhalluin. Bottom left to right: Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Neal Martin)
This month Liv-ex has decided to look back on its past interviews with some of the most celebrated faces in the wine industry. We have had some fascinating conversations which have covered a range of topics including tasting and wine criticism, En Primeur and the Bordeaux market, and the region’s appeal to younger drinkers. All of these past interviews can be found on the blog here.
This year we have had the privilege of talking to Wine Spectator Senior Editor, James Molesworth as well as Mouton Rothschild’s Managing Director, Philippe Dhalluin. In 2015 we interviewed critic Neal Martin and Editor-in-Chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, both of the Wine Advocate. Each interview was unique and opinions varied, however there were several reoccurring topics of discussion.
Our interviewees were asked about scoring systems that have been adopted by wine critics. When asked about the difficulty of scoring impartially James Molesworth replied: “Sometimes the hardest part of the job is when I take the bag off a blind sample and find I wasn’t as enthused about a wine as I thought I would be, based on the producer”. However, he continued that despite these difficulties “blind tasting protects the fairness of the process”.
Neal Martin expressed similar views on the tension created due to building relationships with producers – he’d received “a couple of emails from people [he’s] known for years a bit miffed about their score”. However, he suggested that “the really good winemakers never take it too personally”.
Following discussions on scoring, we talked about the role of Bordeaux En Primeur. From a U.S. perspective, James Molesowrth suggested that “on the consumer level, it’s absolutely fading” due to it becoming more trade orientated. Lisa Perrotti-Brown agreed and said that in order “to reignite interest in the U.S., the  vintage would have to be superb […] and prices would have to be below perceived value”. Mouton Rothschild’s Philippe Dhalluin believes that “people are concentrating more on the top estates”. When asked if he thought more chateaux would be leaving the En Primeur system, Neal Martin said “It wouldn’t surprise me […] The wines that actually need En Primeur are not the wines that grab consumers’ attentions.”
Our conversations on Bordeaux continued onto the region’s appeal to younger wine drinkers. Molesworth suggested that “young people don’t have the discretionary income to spend on elite Bordeaux” and as a result are becoming more interested in the wines of the New World. We asked Neal Martin about an article he wrote in 2013. He had said “Like Dylan, jazz, golf and corduroy, wine is an occupation that should not be approached until you are in your thirties”. Martin claims he worries about “where the next generation of wine writers will come from”, which led us to discuss the changing role of the internet and its relation to wine writers and critics.
Molesworth highlighted that peer-to-peer sites like Cellar Tracker and Vivino do “allow for a greater range of discussion and opinion” but believes that “reviews from experienced professionals will always play a huge role in this business”. Martin agrees that “there’s a difference between giving an opinion on something and critiquing something”. Lisa Perroti-Brown sums up her opinion on online reviews:
“I love to read. I love to read all of the random reviews by consumers. Some of them you have to take with a pinch of salt and some of them are probably pretty accurate. We can’t taste all of the wines all of the time”.
We have more interviews lined up this autumn. Interviewees include a world renowned wine consultant, an acclaimed writer and critic, and a Californian producer. While waiting for these new interviews, feel free to look through some of our past ones below.
All interviews from this article:
- James Molesworth of Wine Spectator
- Philippe Dhalluin of Mouton Rothschild
- Neal Martin, part one
- Neal Martin, part two
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, part one
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, part two
Previous interviews from the archives:
- Jancis Robinson, part 1
- Jancis Robinson, part 2
- James Suckling, part one: Bordeaux 2011
- James Suckling, part two: Behind the scenes
- Robert Parker, part one: Bordeaux 2009
- Robert Parker, part two: Looking back and moving forward
- Antonio Galloni, part one
- Antonio Galloni, part two
- Joe Roseman, author of SWAG
- Jean-Marc Quarin