The Power List

  • Monday 8 June 2009

The third version of our bi-annual Power List brings together the wine world’s most important movers and shakers – the people influencing what’s in your glass today

Jancis Robinson

Compiled every two years, the requisites for Power List entry remain the same: each entrant must have a direct influence over the style of wine we are drinking today, and are likely to be drinking tomorrow. These could be winemakers who are influencing wine styles in a hands-on way; lawmakers and politicians who impact the way we drink wine or the way it is allowed to be made; corporate giants who influence what’s on the shelves when you buy a bottle on the way home from work; or media figures, who influence what we are drinking via their recommendations.

We aim to take in the broad church of the global wine world, but make no apology for reflecting the realities of the market. The UK and US remain our focal reference points, and the world’s broadest markets, though the importance of emerging markets – particularly in the Far East – continues to grow. The way wine is sold is also changing, and the rise of brokers and wine funds has also made its mark this year.

Some entries are nominated as figureheads of particular movements as much as for their own personal influence. Equally, there are leading names in the wine world who are less active than in previous years but who continue to influence the winemakers of today through their pioneering efforts.

To avoid any potential conflict of interest, our staff are, as ever, absent from the line-up – the exception is Steven Spurrier, our consultant editor, who merits inclusion in his own right, in addition to representing Decanter.

As ever, we value your input, so do let us know your opinion – vote in the Readers’ Power List at decanter.com or email your feedback to editor@decanter.com

1 Richard Sands

Chairman, Constellation Brands. Age: 58

Back up to pole position, as he was in 2005, following a dip to third last year. At a time when wine companies are facing huge challenges, the direction taken by the world’s biggest will go a long way to dictating whether the average consumer is led down the mass market or quality path. The past two years for Constellation has seen major upheaval, with many high-profile sales and acquisitions. Beam Wine Estates was bought for US$885m, then all but the Clos du Bois and Wild Horse brands sold six months later. It has also ditched Inglenook and Paul Masson in the US, the Leasingham, Goundrey and Stonehaven wineries in Australia (while retaining the brands) and, significantly, a large chunk of its spirits business, leaving wine as its main focus. Times are tough, and the firm has just announced that up to 450 jobs – 5% of its workforce – are at risk. But it still has five of the top 10 wine brands in the UK, including top performer Hardy’s, and accounts for one in eight of all bottles sold in Britain. Increased emphasis on its premium brands (Houghton, Kim Crawford, Ravenswood, Robert Mondavi, Inniskillin and Flagstone, from whom it has added winemaker Bruce Jack to its mass-market South African brand Kumala, signifying potential bar raising) suggest a genuine bid to lead consumers towards quality over quantity. Rumours also abound that Sands and his brother Robert, the CEO, are eager to acquire more top-end wineries, with Ste Michelle Wine Estates (co-owner of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars with Antinori) thought to be a top target.

2 Robert Parker

Publisher, Wine Advocate. Age: 61

Down from the top spot in 2007, there are signs that the über-critic’s omnipotence is waning ever so slightly. As consumer taste continues to shy away from the big, ripe, high-alcohol wines Parker so enjoys, his verdicts are slowly becoming less relevant for non-US wine lovers. Even in his homeland, competition from online critics has crowded the market, while he was on the receiving end of sharp criticism recently over the perceived questionable ethics of two of his contributors, who look less strong than three years ago, his Spanish taster Jay Miller, for one, often totally at odds with common opinion. Cracks are starting to show, with Parker taking to his own website to defend himself, and going on the attack against other media. His mood can’t have been helped when the Bordelais dared to launch their 2008s on the market in April, prior to the release of his scores. That said, the impact of his remarkably positive verdict was immediate, with many merchants slavishly trotting out his scores to their customers in the form of a cast-iron guarantee (often in preference to and at odds with their own verdicts). Prices rocketed (some doubling overnight) leaving no one in any doubt that the man can still move markets.

3 Mariann Fischer Boel

European Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. Age: 66

A newcomer in 2007 at no42, Boel (who has been EU commisisoner since 2004) is our biggest mover. The EU’s wine reforms may have been diluted but Europe’s winemakers are still wary of Brussels’ interference. The EU’s clinical approach to wine legislation is at odds with many Old World producers who feel they should be left to make wine how they wish, without bureaucratic meddling. Original proposals would have allowed blended wines made from the same grape grown in different EU countries; a ban on chaptalisation (adding sugar); and uprooting 200,000ha of vines, with a block on planting until 2013. The latter ended up as a voluntary scheme when reforms were ratified last year and no chaptalisation ban has appeared, but crisis distillation subsidies have been phased out. And winemakers now have two more serious EU-inspired issues: drastic reforms to standardise European appellations that could see famous AC and DOC names disappear, and a plan to allow rosés made from blended red and white wines. Boel says the reforms ‘make our winegrowers more competitive’, yet many say the EU hinders, not helps.

4 Mel Dick

Senior vice-president and wine division president, Southern Wine & Spirits of America. Age: 73

No wonder Dick (third in this list in 2005 and second in 2007) says: ‘I never plan to retire.’ Southern, in Miami, is the largest wine and liquor distributor in the US. He has 10,500 employees dealing with 15,000 different wines, distributing 44 million cases to 220,000 retailers and restaurants in 29 states, and generating $3.3 billion in revenue. If a planned joint venture between Southern and Glazer’s Family of Companies, of Texas, works out, eight more states may expand the customer base to 300,000-plus. Southern’s staff includes 10 Master Sommeliers and more than 250 certified wine educators.

‘We have been training our people since 1969, at a time when there was very little emphasis on the total wine business, especially the fine-wine business,’ Dick says. ‘More and more consumers are eager to explore different wines of the world.’ With 311 million cases sold in America in 2008, the US is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest wine-consuming nation.

5 Annette Alvarez-Peters

Wine buying director, Costco Wholesale Corporation. Age: 47

With wine departments in 333 warehouse stores in 34 states, Costco is the largest wine-retail operation in the US. Last year, its wine sales totalled $1.1 billion, 4% above the previous year. That said, Alvarez-Peters, (a newcomer on this list in 2007 at no10), who is studying for her MW, says that over the past six months consumers have traded down in price points, especially in the $8 to $12 range. Despite that, ‘Costco’s wine business continues to grow in dollar volume,’ she says. ‘Bottle sales are growing at a higher rate.’ By comparison, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club warehouse stores, a major competitor, seem not to be matching Costco’s growth.

In the US, Costco’s main category is California wines (Washington is second) and Californians form the biggest customer base. Most imports come from Italy, followed by Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Chile, Spain and Bordeaux. Wisely, Costco didn’t buy any 2007 Bordeaux en primeur but, amid a sizing down of US visitors at the tastings this year, it was a notable presence.

Costco’s branded wines are sourced from Fonseca in Portugal, Domaine de Nalys in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Roland de Bruyne in Champagne while the retailer works with several branded Californian wineries, which remain confidential, in order ‘to create the style of wine we seek’.

6 Dan Jago

Director of beers, wines and spirits, Tesco. Age: 49

‘We are here to supply what the customer wants – across the price range.’ So said Dan Jago just a month after he was appointed in 2006. When Tesco introduced nearly 400 new wines to its UK range a year later, the praise was nigh on universal. Out went some of the poor performers and in came varieties such as Fiano, Arneis and Durif, and respected producers like Planeta, Montes and Bisol. That more than half the new arrivals retailed at £6.99 or more was taken as a bold bid to persuade the UK wine drinker to ‘trade up’. Alas in the past year, Tesco has returned to the days of discounted, mass-market wines, with suppliers squeezed to provide the same wine for less, a policy likely to lead swathes of drinkers to more basic wines. Today, Tesco’s average bottle price languishes at £3.82, below the national average of £4.01, with any push on fine wines stalled. Tesco sold nearly 320m bottles last year: around one in every four drunk in the UK. The supermarket is now the second-biggest global retailer, in profit terms, after Wal-Mart in the US. US success is proving more difficult, however, with its Fresh & Easy venture making a £142m loss, and new stores on hold.

7 Jean-Christophe Deslarzes

President and CEO, Alcan Packaging. Age: 45

Canada-based Alcan is the company behind screwcap’s star: Stelvin, a brand so big that it has become a generic term for the closure itself. Alcan, which was bought by mining giant Rio Tinto in the autumn of 2007, has just appointed Deslarzes as CEO and president. His ability to grow the firm further will have a notable effect on the style of wines on the shelves in the coming years. It seems incredible that only a few years ago, screwcaps were seen as a closure only fit for cheap plonk. Now, with 15% of the wine closure market, it is becoming a serious threat to cork. As a consequence, more and more producers are making wines designed for screwcap, delivering fresher wines to consumers. In 2008, 2.5 billion screwcaps were sold worldwide, and experts predict this will increase to three billion in 2009. Alcan’s latest innovation is the Maestro, a metallic Champagne stopper created for Duval-Leroy that still delivers the trademark ‘pop’.

8 Jancis Robinson OBE MW

Author, journalist, broadcaster and consultant Age: 59

Parkerites may still not have forgiven her for her run-in with Robert Parker over Château Pavie 2003, but Jancis Robinson MW remains the wine writer that UK and Europen consumers listen to. Proudly academic, and a self-confessed workaholic, Robinson serves a committed and growing band of subscribers to her website, with frequent updates on wine trade news, tasting notes, and online versions of her highly successful Oxford Companion to Wine and World Atlas of Wine, as well as a members’ forum. Seen in many quarters as an antidote to the now-fading fashion for high alcohol ‘blockbuster’ wines, she is also involved with the Wine Relief charity, which raised nearly £1m this year, and was founding patron of Women of Wine UK. Since the 2007 Power List, she has been inducted into the Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame; voted Best Wine Journalist ‘by a landslide’ by the US wine trade for Wine Business International magazine; and was recipient of the Meininger Outstanding Achievement Award at last year’s Prowein trade fair. That her assistant is an MW says it all.

9 Nicolas Sarkozy

French President. Age: 54

How ironic that a teetotaller should be running a country in which wine plays such a major economic and cultural part. Before being elected, Sarkozy promised to consider easing the ban on wine advertising introduced in 1991. However, since he came to power, France’s attitude to alcohol consumption has tightened – Bordeaux police now carry out spot-checks on cyclists, for example, while there is talk of banning free wine tastings for the public. Controls on advertising have also tightened, and even articles on wine must now carry health warnings.

Sarkozy’s stance is beginning to influence other European governments (notably the UK), which have been accused of demonising alcohol. But his biggest move has been a five-year modernisation plan, which will see the phasing out of vin de table and vin de pays (in favour of Vignobles de France and Indication Géographique Protégée) and the permitted use of oak chips, tannins and concentrated grape juice must in a bid to compete with the New World. Sarkozy is keen to say the right things – he has promised to make wine a ‘product of terroir, not the guilty party’ – but French winemakers convened an enormous protest in more than a dozen towns and cities across France last October, including Bordeaux, Sancerre and Epernay.

10 Pierre Pringuet

CEO, Pernod Ricard. Age: 58

Currently the world’s fourth-largest wine producer, Pernod’s portfolio includes some of the most trusted wine brands. Montana put Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the map, and Jacob’s Creek winemaker Phil Laffer continues to show that commercial wines can also be good wines. The company also owns the equally well regarded Campo Viejo, and Mumm and Perrier-Jouët Champagnes.

New chief executive Pierre Pringuet, who succeeded Patrick Ricard in 2008, is seen as a safe pair of hands. Managing director for eight years, and with 21 years at the group in total, Pringuet guided Pernod through the carve-up of Allied Domecq in 2005, and led the acquisition of Swedish group Vin & Sprit, which saw Pernod land Absolut vodka for £4.4 billion.

11 Joseph Gallo

President and CEO, E&J Gallo. Age: 68

California’s E&J Gallo, the world’s largest privately owned producer, marked its 75th year in 2008. Zealously cost-conscious, and notoriously secretive about market share, it seems robust and aggressively competitive despite the wine industry’s downturn. Outsiders estimate that under Joseph Gallo, son of Ernest (founder with his brother Julio), annual sales reach $3.5 billion and 70 million cases. The company owns some 60 labels and sells its products in over 90 countries. Joseph is emphasising Gallo’s premium portfolio, but its Carlo Rossi jug red remains a bestseller.

12 Eduardo Guilisasti

CEO, Concha y Toro. Age: 57

In quality terms, Concha y Toro is this decade’s Penfolds, and for consistency, is the leading New World producer. At the top end it has Almaviva (a collaboration with Baron Philippe de Rothschild) and Ocio, a Pinot Noir from Cono Sur. Guilisasti was appointed CEO in 1989 and under his tenure Concha y Toro was the first Chilean winery listed on the New York Stock Exchange (1994). Two years later it bought Argentina’s Trivento. With overall sales of $590m (26.6m cases worldwide), Concha y Toro has cemented its position as the largest producer and exporter in Chile. This year it announced increased profits of 37%, and a 12% rise in consolidated sales, with the UK and Japan enjoying most growth. In 2008 it opened offices in Brazil and Scandinavia.

13 Bernard Arnault

Chairman and CEO, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. Age: 60

He may be the richest man in France (and 15th richest in the world, says Forbes magazine), but Arnault has lost $9bn since 2008 as shares in LVMH – whose wine portfolio includes Yquem, Krug, Dom Pérignon, Moët and Veuve Cliquot – fell by nearly 30%. Now rumours are intensifying that a bid for LVMH from UK drinks giant Diageo (which already owns a 34% share) would give teetotaller Arnault the £10bn he would need to go after fashion labels such as Armani, Gucci and Hermès. But he does have a 50% (personal) stake in Cheval Blanc to fall back on.

14 Ian Johnston

CEO, Foster’s Group. Age: 62

Ian joins a company that is recovering after an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to integrate its wine, spirits and beer categories, and the departure of its chief strategy officer. Foster’s has also announced its intention to sell off 4,000 hectares of Australian vineyard (and a further 1,000ha in the US), as well as closing wineries and making redundancies, prompting speculation that it may even be considering pulling out of wine altogether. Against that, the strong Penfold’s portfolio continues to perform well, with the 2004 vintage of Grange, made by winemaker Peter Gago, set to be its most expensive to date. Elsewhere, the company’s Wolf Blass label continues to be the group’s high profile flagship brand.

15 Steven Spurrier

Consultant editor, Decanter; chairman, Decanter World Wine Awards. Age: 67 Hs

In the world of fine wine, few names are held in as high regard as Steven Spurrier’s. He gained fame in 1976 when he organised the famous Paris tasting, immortalised last year in Hollywood movie Bottle Shock, where Spurrier is played by British actor Alan Rickman. In the course of his career to date, Steven has founded l’Academie du Vin and the Christie’s Wine Course. Besides being consultant editor for Decanter, Spurrier chairs the Decanter World Wine Awards – the biggest wine competition in the world – and is also a founding partner of The Wine Society of India.

16 Don St Pierre Jr

CEO, ASC Fine Wines. Age: 41

China’s biggest wine importer, ASC has bought more bottles of 2007 Latour than anyone, and opened a Hong Kong office just months after duty on wine was scrapped in the territory last year. Don St Pierre Jr founded ASC with his father in 1996. The company now employs 700, and its portfolio of 1,000+ wines includes Bollinger, Penfolds and Petaluma. Last year St Pierre Jr was detained for three weeks, along with other wine importers, as part of an inquiry by Chinese Customs, and ASC fined £180,000.

17 Michel Rolland

Winemaking consultant. Age: 61

The most influential winemaker in the world? Almost certainly. The Mondovino-induced heat placed upon Michel Rolland may have eased, but some still accuse him of creating wave upon wave of overripe, overly fruity wines that forsake credibility for commercial appeal. But his CV, which includes Angélus, Ornellaia and Harlan Estate, is unparalleled – even Steven Spurrier describes him as his ‘hero’ (see p21). Rolland also owns several properties that he markets under The Rolland Collection, including Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol. He still consults for some 100 properties worldwide, with clients as far afield as India, Bulgaria and Brazil, though he has dropped some consultancy projects in Bordeaux to ease his workload.

18 Miguel Torres

President, Torres. Age: 67

Spanish producer Torres, Decanter Man of the Year in 2002, has achieved the enviable task of making wines at the lower end of the scale (Viña Sol, Sangre de Toro) that are just as respected as its more premium offerings (Gran Muralles, Mas La Plana). More importantly, it has managed to become the best-known Spanish wine brand globally – Torres exports to more than 140 countries, and has made successful inroads into Russia, India and Japan. The family firm has expanded outside its Penedès home with interests in Ribera del Duero and Rioja in Spain, and further afield in California (run by Miguel’s sister, Marimar), Chile and a joint venture in China. It has also unveiled a number of green projects, such as electric-powered vehicles and E4 million investment in solar power at its Penedès winery. A proud proponent of Catalan grapes, Miguel Torres has a relentless desire for his business to grow, and now has a number of Torres wine restaurants in cities such as Santiago and Shanghai.

19 Marvin Shanken

Editor and Publisher,Wine Spectator Age: 65

The US market leading wine publication continues to exert huge influence over US consumers’ tastes, with its website now particularly active, and its Wine Experience events hitting thousands of consumers. The magazine’s reputation took a dive last year, though, when it was duped into giving an Award of Excellence to a non-existent restaurant, whose wine list featured several wines panned by the magazine in recent tastings.

20 Eric de Rothschild

President, Domaines Barons de Rothschild. Age: 68

Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR) has ventured outside Europe before, with Los Vascos in Chile and Caro in Argentina, but the news this year that Lafite (DBR is its parent company) is developing a vineyard in China created major headlines. Lafite has teamed up with Chinese investment company CITIC to develop 25ha of vines in Shandong province, about 800km north of Shanghai. Eric de Rothschild, who told Decanter this year that he ‘learnt to love Lafite at minus six months, in the womb’, has headed up DBR since 1974, and has led the Bordelais into China, generating enormous interest from the Asian market, in which Lafite is top of the tree, with its second wine Carruades de Lafite selling for first-growth prices.

21 Hugh Johnson OBE

Wine writer. Age: 70

Decanter’s Man of the Year in 1995 is the world’s best-selling author on wine, having sold more than 15m books worldwide. His Pocket Wine Book is now in its 32nd edition, while new editions of The World Atlas of Wine, released every few years, are eagerly anticipated. He has been president of the Sunday Times Wine Club since 1973, and is co-founder of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, and a former director of Château Latour. People took notice when Johnson said last year that ‘vintages matter less than they did’, and his 70th birthday in March was celebrated with a star-studded lunch at the Hotel Georges V in Paris hosted by Gérard Perse of Château Pavie, a further sign of Johnson’s unparalleled reputation. His influence among wine lovers globally is unsurpassed.

22 Piero Antinori

Director, Antinori. Age: 70

With more than 600 years of winemaking history, the Antinori family is the most famous name in Italian wine. Piero Antinori has been at the helm since the mid-1960s, and changed the winemaking landscape in Chianti with Tignanello, one of the first ‘supertuscans’. In 2007, the company teamed up with Ste Michelle Wine Estates to buy top Napa winery Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, while last year, Antinori bought a £10m wine-processing facility in Puglia. The company already has wine estates in Chile, Hungary and Malta. The Marchese is, to many, Mr Italy.

23 Pierre Castel

President and founder, Groupe Castel. Age: 82

It may have got burnt with UK chain Oddbins (sold in 2008) but Castel, which also owns the Nicolas chain, is still looking abroad. It was formed by Pierre Castel and his eight siblings 60 years ago, and is now France’s largest wine producer (and top Bordeaux landowner: 14 châteaux, 2,500ha of vineyard) with a turnover of more than E1bn. China is a key export market, with 11m bottles set to be sold there this year, double that of 2008. The group has bottling lines in China and Russia, vineyards in Morocco and Tunisia, and plans to make wine even in Ethiopia.

24 Tony Laithwaite

Chairman, Direct Wines. Age: 63

Forty years on from his first trip to Bordeaux to pick up wine, Tony Laithwaite is now in charge of the world’s largest home-delivery business specialising in wine. Owned wholly by him and his wife Barbara, the company, which owns Virgin Wines, Averys and the Sunday Times Wine Club, sells 4.5m cases a year, and turns over more than £250m, dwarfing UK retailers Oddbins and Majestic. But Direct Wines had a number of high-profile departures in 2008, including CEO Oliver Garland and Virgin Wines’ founder Rowan Gormley, who left to set up Naked Wines. Laithwaite’s next goal is to crack foreign markets, which has led to the creation of Direct Wines International.

25 Simon Berry Chairman, Berry Bros & Rudd.

Age: 51

Despite a website that puts its rivals’ efforts to shame, Berry Bros retains its image as the quintessential British merchant. Simon Berry, the seventh generation of the family to run the company, was named clerk of the Royal Cellars in 2008, drawing up the royal wine list. Berrys sells 5m bottles of wine annually, and has offices in Japan and Shanghai, as well as a retail outlet in Hong Kong. Don’t be fooled by his PG Wodehouse demeanour: he’s a canny businessman with a sharp brain whose wine school is the induction into fine wine for affluent city traders.

26 Daniele Cernilli

Director, Gambero Rosso. Age: 54

Following the abrupt, as-yet-unexplained sacking of Gambero Rosso founder Stefano Bonilli last year, editor Daniele Cernilli found himself director of Italy’s most highly regarded wine guide (circulation 48,000; website membership 200,000). He is not afraid of controversy: he criticised Barolo producer Angelo Gaja’s wines as ‘like him: technically perfect, but without soul’. Gambero Rosso also produces an annual guide, Vini d’Italia, rating more than 18,000 wines, which it claims has a circulation of 120,000. It has now started taking its roadshow of tre bicchieri wines worldwide.

27 Ghislain de Montgolfier

President, Union des Maisons de Champagne. Age: 66

‘If we add nothing, it would be crazy,’ said Ghislain de Montgolfier, who stepped down as Bollinger president in 2008 (he is a family member) to oversee the expansion of the Champagne region. But with exports to the US falling by 17% last year (and 8% in the UK), plans to increase vineyard area that were once cynically viewed as an attempt to cash in on demand by promoting sub-standard land have since been questioned in terms of the viability of that demand. Either way, he faces the issue of promoting a luxury drink at a time of economic gloom.

28 Robert Shen

Founder, Aussino World Wines. Age: 46

As the largest wine retailer in China, it is appropriate that Aussino’s name translates as ‘Rich Prosperity Wine Business’. Shen founded the company in 1995 as a food and wine and importer, but switched exclusively to wine in 1997. It offers more than 1,000 wines from 200 producers, and acts as importer, distributor and retailer. Shen expects to have more than 50,000 Wine Club members by 2012 and 400 retail outlets split between the Aussino Cellar, Wine Shop and Wine Corner concepts.

The increasingly vibrant Chinese retail scene is reflected in the recent launch of the ground-breaking Shanghai wine destination Pu Dao – a fusion of wine school, bar and retail space, backed by rival Summergate. But it was Shen that led the way.

29 Bernard Magrez

Owner, Bernard Magrez Grands Vignobles. Age: 73

He may be 73, but French wine magnate Bernard Magrez does not appear to be slowing down. He owns Château Pape-Clément, one of his 35-strong global wine portfolio, worth a total of E40m. In the past year, he has expressed his desire to acquire a first growth; caused controversy by gifting Cartier watches worth £1,300 to a group of French journalists; and claimed that Spain has more potential, wine-wise, than France. He has also released the first vintage from his joint venture with a Japanese winery.

30 Denis Dubourdieu

Consultant winemaker and professor at University of Oenology, Bdx. Age: 58

Dubourdieu is one of the most respected winemakers and consultants in the world. Not only does he specialise in white wine but he has influenced its production and quality globally. He owns a number of Bordeaux châteaux, including Doisy- Daëne in Barsac and Clos Floridène in Graves. He has also made a Japanese white wine, Shizen, for the Asagiri Wine Company, from the indigenous Koshu grape, which bears his name on the label.

31 John Kapon

President and auction director, Acker Merrall & Condit. Age: 37

Kapon’s gavel has had global clout since his first independent auction in 1998: it sold 32,703 lots last year. His New York store dates to 1820 and claims to be America’s oldest wine merchant. The company has been US market leader for wine auctions five out of the past six years, including in 2008, and is now leading the way in Hong Kong’s nascent market. In 2008, revenues, including buyers’ fees, were almost $60m while monthly internet auctions generated $6,142,976. The number of auctions set for 2009, though (seven in Manhattan and four in Hong Kong) is down from last year, a nod to the economic crisis.

32 Jean-Charles Boisset

President, Boisset Famille des Grands Vins. Age: 39

Boisset has led the move into new packaging with his wines. He raised eyebrows putting wine in Tetra-Pak (the French Rabbit range), and recent innovations include bottles made from Plactis (Yellow Jersey) and aluminium (Mommessin). Last year, Boisset launched a wine range with Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd through its Sonoma producer DeLoach, and the group acquired Société Gabriel Meffre in March, owner of La Chasse du Pape and the Fat Bastard brand. Boisset is in the top five French premium wine companies; it turned over E227m in 2007.

33 Greg Jones

Research climatologist, South Oregon University. Age: 49

As the world heats up, producers will be looking to Greg Jones for guidance; he specialises in how climate variability and change impact agriculture. Armed with a dissertation in the climatology of Bordeaux viticulture and author of many books on the subject, Jones conducts research for the Oregon wine industry and gives international presentations on his wine-related research, charting the average temperature increase in vines’ growing seasons around the world.

34 Stéphane Derenoncourt

Consultant winemaker. Age: 46

Born in Normandy, now based in Pomerol, the heir apparent to Michel Rolland is taking on more consultancies, and not just in France: last summer, he was hired by film director Francis Ford Coppola to work at his Rubicon Estate in Napa. Closer to home, Derenoncourt offers his services at Crushpad in St-Emilion, a company that lets wine lovers make their own wine. He continues to consult for Bordeaux châteaux such as Domaine de Chevalier and Château Pavie-Macquin, as well as properties in China, India and Lebanon.

35 Emilio Pedron

MD, Gruppo Italiano Vini. Age: 64

GIV was taken over by Riunite & CIV last year, creating one of the world’s largest wine groups, with an annual turnover of $600m. Emilio Pedron has stayed on in the role he has held since 1985, as head of GIV, among the largest wine companies in Italy, with a portfolio including Tuscan brands Melini, Machiavelli and Serristori. Turnover in 2007 was E294m, with total production of 85m bottles. It bought the Italian brands Bolla and Fontana Candida from US firm Brown-Forman in 2008.

36 Eric Boissenot

Consultant winemaker

Eric Boissenot’s client list is impressive: Châteaux Lafite, Margaux, both Pichons, Léoville-Barton, and Palmer. Recently, Boissenot has agreed to consult for Castel, Château Tour-Prignac, and Crushpad in St-Emilion. He also consults for Concha y Toro (Chile) and Quintessa (California).

37 Gary Boom

MD, Bordeaux Index Age: 50

Bordeaux Index launched Live Trade this year, an online marketplace trading 60 of the world’s top wines. In its first week, more than £1.5m was traded. Gary Boom set up Bordeaux Index in 1997 because he was fed up with the ‘shoddy’ service from fine wine suppliers. It now turns over £75m a year, vying with Farr Vintners as the UK’s top Bordeaux broker. Boom is also advisor for The Vintage Wine Fund, a Cayman-based investment company.

38 Michael Hill Smith MW

Winemaker. Age: 54

The first Australian Master of Wine, Hill Smith put the Adelaide Hills on the map with his Shaw & Smith wines. But he has enhanced the reputation of the Australian wine industry far more through his ambassadorial work, travelling the globe to educate drinkers. Hill Smith, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia last year for his services to the industry, will be a key player in Australia’s bid to pursue a more premium agenda.

39 Nicolás Catena

Owner, Catena Zapata. Age: 68

Decanter’s Man of the Year for 2009 has transformed the perception of Argentina as a bulk-wine producer to a country capable of world-class wines. Catena’s time in California in the 1980s inspired him, and he returned to his homeland to plant vineyards higher than anyone had before, at 1,400m. His risk paid off, and by 2001 his Nicolás Catena Zapata Cabernet-Malbec blend was beating the best of Bordeaux and Napa in blind tastings. Catena also has a joint venture with Eric de Rothschild, resulting in Caro, another Cabernet-Malbec blend; it won the International Red Blend Over £10 Trophy at the 2008 Decanter World Wine Awards.

40 Gary Vaynerchuk

Wine retailer and internet video blogger. Age: 33

New Jersey-based Gary Vaynerchuk is the enthusiastic host of Wine Library TV, a daily video podcast filmed since 2006 at the wine shop he co-owns. He now generates 80,000 downloads a day and has 250,000 followers on Twitter. Vaynerchuk represents the power of blogging and is far more corporate than he may first appear. He understands the world of the web and has carefully moulded his public image. He has signed a book deal worth more than $1m, and is in demand as much as a business guru as a wine critic.

41 Hubert de Boüard

Owner, Château Angélus; INAO regional president (Bordeaux). Age: 52

As owner of one of the most high-profile Bordeaux châteaux, it’s strange Hubert de Bouärd chose to get involved with the INAO, the regulatory appellations body. After all, in 2008, he stepped down after nine years as president of the St-Emilion Syndicat, a region dogged by endless legal and bureaucratic battles regarding its classification. Despite this, he still finds time to act as consultant for a number of Bordeaux properties, including Château Pichon Lalande in Pauillac, and Châteaux La Commanderie and Clos la Madeleine in St-Emilion. De Boüard’s statesmanlike reputation was confirmed this year when he chose to release 2008 Angélus at a price 40% lower than the ’07 – causing many Bordeaux colleagues to follow suit.

42 Pierre-Antoine Casteja

Merchant, négociant, château owner, lobbyist. Age: 58

A major player in Bordeaux, Philippe Casteja’s businesses turn over E125 million a year. He runs the Joanne négociant, which comprises six million bottles of stock made up of 4,000 labels, and was formed in 1862. His in depth knowledge of emerging markets such as Asia, Russia, Israel and Brazil means he is an expert position to advise châteaux on the best pricing strategy, making him Bordeaux’s most respected négociant.

43 Sanjay Menon

CEO, Sonary’s. Age: 44

Set up in 1974 in Bombay, Sonary’s is the widest-reaching distributor in India, a wine market that has grown more than 25% annually for the past 10 years. Selling 25,000 cases a year, CEO Sanjay Menon imports leading names such as Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Antinori and Hugel – 350 labels from 50 wineries, despite India’s exorbitant import duties. Menon is India’s foremost WSET wine educator and also plans to make his own wine.

44 Alvario Palacios

Winemaker. Age: 43

One of the first winemakers to recognise Priorat’s potential, Alvario Palacios chose not to stay with his family’s Rioja winery, Palacios Remondo, and instead had an ambitious plan to create a wine that was a cross between Pétrus and Grange. In 1993, he did it: L’Ermita, a Garnacha-dominant wine from ultra-low-yielding vines between 60–100 years old. Beyond his work in Priorat, Palacios’ pioneering efforts and enthusiasm has influenced winemakers across Spain and the world.

45 Yasuhisa Hirose

President, Enoteca. Age: 59

By far Japan’s biggest player in Bordeaux’s en primeur market, Enoteca has 31 stores in Japan and three in Hong Kong, as well as a wholesale outlet. Clos des Papes, Vieux-Télégraphe and Sassicaia are among Enoteca’s impressive list of agencies, and draw many high-profile winemakers to Japan for dinners and tastings. Bordeaux accounts for a third of sales, but Enoteca’s range totals more than 1,000 bins. And while the economy may be affecting fine wine sales, the strength of the yen against the euro makes buying top claret (for the Japanese, at least) an attractive option.

46 Allen Meadows

Writer, www.burghound.com Age: 55

In 2000, after 25 years in finance and then a book on Burgundy, Californian Allen Meadows founded burghound.com, a website now seen as the most comprehensive guide to Burgundy and which saw him replace Clive Coates MW as the region’s leading authority. Meadows first visited the region in 1979, and now spends four months a year there, visiting more than 300 domaines. A annual subscription, priced at £125 for four electronic issues, includes 150-page quarterly reports and access to a tasting-note database of 40,000 wines. Burghound.com also covers Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon and he hopes to soon extend coverage to New Zealand and Australia.

47 Angelo Gaja

President, Gaja, Piedmont. Age: 69

Angelo Gaja joined his family’s wine business in Barbaresco aged 21. He reduced yields and brought in stainless-steel tanks and the desire to make single-vineyard wines. Then he announced he would plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. His first single-vineyard wine, Sorì San Lorenzo in 1967, put Barbaresco on the map. He has since bought vineyards and estates in Tuscany, Montalcino and the Maremma, and makes 30,000 cases a year. He is also an outspoken critic of Italy’s wine scene, and has called on the industry to rip out vineyards responsible for sub-standard wine, and for Brunello to allow non-Sangiovese grapes. Decanter’s Man of the Year 2001 also made the surprise decision to remove the names Barbaresco and Barolo from his single-vineyard wines.

48 Frédéric Rouzaud

MD, Champagne Louis Roederer. Age: 41

Rows over Cristal with hip-hop artist Jay-Z aside (see our interview with Rouzaud on p56 for more), in taking over from his father Jean-Claude in 2006, Rouzaud inherited not just Champagne Roederer but also Deutz (Champagne), Châteaux de Pez and Haut-Beauséjour (Médoc), Maison Delas (Rhône), Ramos Pinto (Douro), Roederer Estate (California) and 66% of Domaine Ott in Provence. In January 2007 the company took a majority stake in Château Pichon-Lalande in Pauillac as well as a 15% stake in South Africa’s Glenelly. Future acquisitions seem likely.

49 Paul Walsh

CEO, Diageo. Age: 54

The one criticism levelled against Diageo is always how inferior its wine portfolio looks compared with the rest of its line-up. Napa’s Beaulieu and Sterling Vineyards are well regarded, but after that, we’re into Piat d’Or and Blossom Hill territory, while the spirits side boasts Gordon’s, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker. But there is strong speculation it will buy Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) and pick up some of the world’s most premium Champagnes: Krug, Dom Pérignon andVeuve Cliquot. Diageo has had a 34% stake in LVMH since the mid-1990s, and Paul Walsh, CEO for nine years, is said to be keen to add Champagne and Cognac to the range. A buyout has been estimated at £10bn, but even in the midst of a recession, Diageo is still posting decent figures: in February, organic net sales growth was up 3%.

50 Shin & Yoko Kibayashi

Artists/writers, The Drops of God.

Ages: 47 (Shin) and 50 (Yuko)

The brother and sister team behind this famous Japanese wine manga comic work under the pen-name of Tadashi Agi. Their series, which follows the quest of Shizuku Kanzaki to uncover 12 great wines in order to inherit his late father’s wine collection, is arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years. The airline, All Nippon, had to change its wine list to deal with requests from fans. A Korean translation resulted in one importer selling 50 cases of Château Mont Pérat in two days.

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