Meet the Judges: James Cluer MW

  • Thursday 7 February 2013

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts choosing this year's best wines.

James Cluer MW DWWA Judge 2013

James Cluer MW has worked in wine for 25 years with part of his multi-faceted wine business seeing him educating North American wine lovers. In this interview, read about some of the things he's learned throughout his career, as welll as what he's looking forward to at this year's awards.

Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?

I am based in Napa Valley, and Vancouver, Canada. I work for myself at Fine Vintage Ltd.

Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I got into wine at 18-years-old (I’m 43) working for an importer in Hong Kong. I have been a Master of Wine since 2008 and my expertise is in tasting and the business of wine.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as President of Fine Vintage?
You have to take risks. Calculated risks, but all the same, you have to take chances. And when you find great people and trust is established, let them run with it.

Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
Jancis Robinson MW, the most productive woman in wine.

What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
Passing the MW, working vintages in Napa and Barossa, listening to Paul Pontallier speak, and too many memorable bottles to mention.

Which region do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
Alsace.

Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
California wines because we are in Napa.

What’s your desert island wine?
Krug Clos de Mesnil. It would be hot on a desert island and so you’d need something white and refreshing. Plus if I was Tarzan and Jane was around she’d need something nice too.

What single piece of advice do you have for new people just starting out in wine?
Take a WSET course and visit some wineries. That should give them the bug. Or, buy a corkscrew and keep it sharp.

When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Complexity and length above all. The other elements, such as balance, intensity and concentration, can be present in many wines, but great wines have complexity and amazing length.

Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
Being part of such a prestigious competition, learning from the other tasters, and discovering new wines.

The Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 is now open for entries. Click here for more information and to enter wines into this year's competition.

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