Jancis Robinson

I think John Gilman is the most impressive all-rounder (i.e. someone who covers the whole world of wine). I find he combines clear - and usually unequivocal - opinion with passionate and zealous dedication to the cause of celebrating great wine: take his 70-page piece on Madeira in his latest issue of View from the Cellar. It’s his first visit to Madeira, so we get 30 pages of detailed background on the history, grape varieties, styles - and then 40 pages of reviews by producer and other criteria. Never less than interesting, always enthusiastic - even when disliking a wine; he usually wants to find a good reason for disliking a wine. As he does with the wines he reviews, so he tends to polarise those who read him. You either love him… or you don’t:~)

I’ve subscribed on and off over the past few years. I agree with David and GregT. Jancis is an exceptional wine writer and great for wine info but her tasting notes on particular wines are of little value. Her overall views on a vintage or region are very informative though. She also has a bunch of people working for her so coverage is variable and I haven’t gotten much out of there reviews. They do cover all The European regions with a softer touch in new world.

I second Galloni for Italy and he covers some other regions as well but Italy is his forte. I think Tanzer is quite good as well. For France I look to Meadows & Tanzer for Burgundy and John Livingstone-Learmonth for Rhone.

I’m looking for someone for Bordeaux myself and would like to hear recommendations for Spain.

I agree with what has been said above about John Gilman. He’s terrific, straightforward, critical, and not trying to be all things to all people.

I agree that John Gilman is an excellent read, and useful in that he extensively reviews older wines and does excellent articles on producers and reassessments of past vintages. After subscribing to Tanzer since the days of the New York Wine Cellar, I am finding it less useful. Partly because I have for some time been buying almost entirely Burgundy, and no white Burgs since the premox plague, so subscribing for one issue a year is a bit of a waste…and the absence of reviews of older wines and vintages is disappointing. Also, I do not trust their reviews of domestic pinots whatsoever, since pinots with a nice burn still get high scores. I think after 20-some years I may not be continuing for long.

I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but I signed up for a month to eYouKnowWho to check out Neal Martin after he took over the Burgundy region. I have to say that I am enjoying his writing, he does not seem to be afraid to give wines of high pedigree scores in the 80’s, and I also appreciate his Up From The Cellar features on older wines. I extended my subscription, gingerly, and I sneak in to read his articles and race out!

I tried Galloni’s Vinous just for kicks, but honestly the scoring all seems so high that I just can’t tell much from it. It is almost as if every wine, domestic or old world, is just so appreciated that it is too much of a love fest. Perhaps I am being harsh and have not read enough, but that has been my impression.

Have followed Burghound since its (not his!) inception, and I find it useful. But since I am probably at the end of my socking away new vintages and more interested in backfilling and reading about older vintages, it is the online database of recent tasting notes on older wines that keeps me signing up.

I read Jancis on a semi-regular basis.
Mostly same as others - I find the articles quite interesting and informative, but not so much the scores and tasting notes.

One issue with the tasting notes is that they are quite inconsistent. Both because different reviewers sometimes score different vintages (making the scores not directly comparable) and because even the scores from the same reviewer are not consistent across time (the score can easily vary by 2-2.5 points out of 20 for the same wine in subsequent tastings). Also, there is normally a lack of notes to accompany the scores. Either the note is just a few words or it is describing impressions that have little to do with the wine itself.

One thing I find useful is when they publish batches of reviews (say, en primeur tastings) - it is useful to compare wines relative to each other - same reviewer, same setting, etc.

Just my impressions.

[quote]One issue with the tasting notes is that they are quite inconsistent. Both because different reviewers sometimes score different vintages (making the scores not directly comparable) and because even the scores from the same reviewer are not consistent across time (the score can easily vary by 2-2.5 points out of 20 for the same wine in subsequent tastings). Also, there is normally a lack of notes to accompany the scores. Either the note is just a few words or it is describing impressions that have little to do with the wine itself. /quote]

I am a long term subscriber to JR and a fan. She has also been here this week (Yes they are all coming at once) and she is always thoughtful and honest in her opinions. I think the relative inconsistency of notes is a reflection of the honesty and integrity of her and her teams writing- they say it how it is even if it contradicts a previous note- I think there is a humility in that approach which I value. The 20 point scoring system they use may seem a bit alien to US readers but once you become accustomed to it, it works. Regional reviews and daily updates are great and the quality of writing second to none in the world of wine. The content can be very Euro-centric and the US coverage is quite limited, the forum is relatively quiet but if you want hubbub go Berserkers! I subscribe to WA, Burghound and JR and for me that portfolio of opinions is broad enough to feel like I am in touch with most things that interest me in the world of wine.

I’ve been a subscriber to Jancis Robinson’s site for years and it’s the only one I regularly read.

Pros: Daily articles, lots of interesting background info, good columns by e.g. Alex Hunt, Alder Yarrow, not so focused on ultra-premium wines.
Cons: the tasting notes, some reviewers strongly advocate wines from their own country, tendency for just issuing TONS of tasting notes from public events without painting a bigger picture.

As to that “consistency/inconsistency” thing: I feel that everyone who praises Parker’s or Tanzer’s “consistency” is overlooking that consistency can very well be managed. Bordeaux notes may be the best example. Parker reviews Bordeaux in barrel, upon release and at some point later (e.g. 10 years after). He never seems to participate in blind tastings. I’d bet that he looks at his earlier notes also in the 10 years after tastings and makes sure that he doesn’t contradict his earlier reviews too much. Jancis Robinson’s Bordeaux notes look very inconsistent. It’s not rare to see five or six reviews on one wine in ten years and a point range looking like 16.5, 15.5+, 14.5-, 16.5, 17.5, 14.5-. That is certainly “inconsistent”, but in my experience it’s also the result of tasting a wine in certain stages (out of barrel, fruit phase upon release, shut down phase, reopening, bad bottle or bad day for the reviewer). Jancis Robinson’s notes to me look fairly spontaneous, she doesn’t seem to think much and just write down short impressions. To me personally, that’s not very useful. But it’s not less useful than reviews engineered to look consistent.

My problem with consistency in JR’s tasting notes is not just scores from tasting to tasting or vintage to vintage, it’s with the internal inconsistency of notes like this one on the 2010 Latour:

Very dark indeed. Concentrated black-fruit essence plus terroir. Round and supple. Lots of angularity. Latour? Great refreshment factor and lots of minerality. Very clean finish. Thick and admirable.

She picked it as Latour in a blind tasting. That’s nice, but is it round and supple or angular?

If she also has different individuals writing under her name that’s an additional problem.

Love her books, not so much her wine reviews.

She doesn’t have people writing under her name. Everything is clearly marked as to who the reviewer is. It’s just not helpful when she reviews one vintage, and somebody else reviews the next - how do you compare? everyone has their own preferences & styles, so continuity would be nice.

Also, it may just be me, but I expect a professional wine critic/reviewer with a vast experience of wines at different stages to be able to extrapolate and not to reflect the immediate rough edges which could/would be contributable to a stage in development in the score they give a wine. Notes, yes, but a score should be with a long term view, not immediate.

My impression is that the first new critic he adds will be for Bordeaux, and he is actively looking for the right person. I think he discusses it a bit in the video that Kenney linked to.

I subscribe to both John Gilman and Antonio Galloni. Very different, both in taste and presentation. John has very specific ideas about what a wine should taste like and has no problem saying that a particular style is wrong to his taste. So if you don’t agree with his taste, I’m not sure there is much value there. Antonio’s palate is much broader, but at times that makes it hard to read his review and know if you’d like the wine. John is also fairly traditional in his presentation, sending out a huge pdf every 2 months (usually well more than 100 pages). While Antonio’s new site has something new every weekday, sometimes a big article on a region, sometimes a recommendation of one good wine. Also, as exhibited in the video that Kenney linked to, Antonio is using technology to do new things like the interactive map. Also, his site is designed to work on mobile devices just as easily as on a regular computer.

Thanks, Ken. I’ll check it out.

Good summary.
I am also one of those who appreciate her “inconsistency” as a sign of honesty.
And I never get the impression she is trying to convince me to buy some wines (well, with some exceptions, the latest being Vintage Porto 2011, but when she does she does it very openly).
Also, nobody mentioned Italy’s coverage by Walter Speller, which I find excellent. He’s been writing some very interesting and informative articles, often on less well known wines and wine regions. I have learned quite a bit from them. He is the tighter scorer of the team, so to my taste errs on the right side (and who needs scores anyway)…

I subscribe to eRP for Neal Martin’s notes. I find him bang on for older Bordeaux, which as a great tool for me, as I purchase mostly older bottles from the secondary market. He also does a fair bit of blind tasting in context, which I find very valuable. That being said, I find him hit or miss outside of Bordeaux.

John Gilman is next on my list to subscribe to. I have enjoyed reading his posts here, and from the limited notes I have read, I have aligned quite well with where he was at.