In a move which has shocked the wine world, James Suckling has left the Wine Spectator.
The departure of the respected wine critic, who joined the US magazine in 1981, was announced yesterday, setting bulletin boards and blogs buzzing with rumour and speculation.
Wine Spectator itself has offered little comment. Managing editor Thomas Matthews wrote on the magazine’s comment board, ‘James played a key role as Wine Spectator became the most widely-read wine publication in the world. He has decided to take a different path. We wish him well.’
According to Spectator, Suckling’s tasting responsibilities will be taken over by senior editor Bruce Sanderson, who will oversee coverage of Italy, and James Molesworth, currently responsible for the Rhône and the Loire, who will add Bordeaux to his portfolio. All tastings will be moved to New York.
Marvin Shanken, the magazine’s publisher, said, ‘James Suckling has been a significant contributor to the success of Wine Spectator. He will be missed.’
He added – to the open astonishment of many – ‘We are very fortunate to have significant depth in our editorial team. In fact, moving these tastings to New York, where we have a larger staff and better logistical control, will allow us to strengthen our coverage of these important wine regions.’
Bloggers and bulletin-board posters said they were amazed at such a comment.
One said it was ‘frankly rude’ to suggest coverage of Suckling’s areas could improve if covered from New York.
Another, Paul Heagen, wrote, ‘Shame on Wine Spectator for such a clumsy announcement. Did you really think you were making the issue go away by avoiding it?
‘I read Suckling’s columns not just for the “tastings” but for the way he brought the people and texture of Italy come to life. You can’t do that from New York, WS. and stop pretending you can.’
Many expressed dismay at the ‘poor handling’ of the announcement.
‘I expect much better from a publication that has a track record of higher standards than this’, was one comment.
Suckling joined the magazine in 1981 and was assigned to Europe in 1985. He lived in Paris for two years and then moved to London, where he lived for 11 years. He now lives in Tuscany, Italy.
He is regarded as one of the world’s most experienced critics of Bordeaux, Port, Italy and vintage cigars. He was the magazine’s European bureau chief since 1988.
Suckling is not currently available for comment.
Written by Adam Lechmere