Real power in today’s wine world is held in the hands of surprisingly few. So who are the forces shaping the type of wine in YOUR glass? We list the top 50 people influencing wine styles today.Contributors: Michael Aaron (Sherry-Lehmann); Piero Antinori; Hubert de Bouard de Laforest (Château Angelus); Jean-Marie Chadronnier (CVBG Dourthe-Kressman); Jon Fredrikson (Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates); Angelo Gaja; Jeffrey Grosset; Alun Griffiths MW (Berry Bros & Rudd); Aimé Guibert (Mas Daumas Gassac); Dan Jago and Michael Saunders (Bibendum); Hilary Lumsden (Mitchell Beazley); Mike Paul (Western Wines); Sebastian Payne MW (The Wine Society); Michel Rolland; Leslie Sbrocco; Charlie Trotter; Richard Baudains; Stephen Brook; Rosemary George MW; Howard G Goldberg; Andrew Jefford; Matthew Jukes; James Lawther MW; Giles MacDonogh; Ch’ng Poh Tiong; John Radford; Norm Roby; Anthony Rose; Hugo Rose MW; Steven Spurrier; John Stimpfig; Brian St-Pierre. additional research by Natasha Hughes.
21. Michael Broadbent
Wine writer, UK
With over 85,000 tasting notes, spanning over 50 years of wine tasting, Broadbent is the living reference tool to fine wines of the last century and beyond. His seminal Vintage Wine is the benchmark for fine wine buyers. He single-handedly invented structured wine tasting, re-created wine auctions at Christie’s, and remains the wine world’s greatest celebrity, giving tastings around the world. A member of the old guard, hisChâteau Pavie 2000 note reads: ‘For me [it rates] two stars; for wine competitions and our American cousins, five stars.’
22. Justice Anthony M Kennedy
US Supreme Court
Until May this year, state laws barred shipments of wine between many US states, keeping many wines from reaching the entire US market. Such laws were overturned by the Supreme Court (Justice Kennedy writing the verdict), promising to broaden US drinkers’ choices in favour of smaller producers. The move could widen interest in premium wines and indicate a wider relaxation on the stance to drinking in the US, where 43% of adults are teetotal and the average annual consumption is a mere 7.7 litres, compared with 58 litres in France.
23. Pierre Castel
President and directeur-général, Castel Frères, Fr
Pierre Castel and his family began trading wine to the African continent in 1949 – the company’s range of activities have since seen it become the leading wine producer and retailer in France, and the third-largest in the world. Castel owns 12 Bordeaux properties, 1,500 ha of Moroccan vineyards, Europe’s biggest barrel cellar, a Bordeaux négociant and the Nicolas and Oddbins chains of UK off-licences. As such, it is one of the first large companies to control the whole process of wine distribution – from vine to shop shelf.
24. Eduardo Guilisasti
CEO, Concha y Toro, Chl
Under Guilisasti’s management, Concha y Toro has seen huge growth, its market value rising 10-fold in the past decade alone. It became the first Chilean winery to sell its stock on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994. The $53 million raised was invested in new vineyards, cutting-edge technology and the development of new ranges. It now accounts for almost a quarter of total Chilean production, exports 10 million cases a year, and will invest $150 million over the next three years in further ‘organic growth’.
25. Joseph Helfrich
Founder and CEO, Les Grands Chais de France, Fr
At the butt of many of the recent French protests from struggling independent producers has been Les Grands Chais, owner of some of the country’s top-selling brands, and controller of 17% of total French wine exports. Its JP Chenet is the top-selling French brand in the world, selling a bottle every two seconds, while the group also controls a quarter of the Vin de Pays d’Oc market, and is a growing force in the south of France, through its Grand Sud label. In 2004, 80% of the group’s turnover came from exports.
26. Tony Laithwaite
Chairman, Direct Wines, UK
Laithwaite began selling wines out of a van in 1969. Today, he heads the world’s largest independent home-delivery merchant, with annual sales of £220 million. Direct Wines receives in excess of 2.3 million phone calls a year, and was one of the first wine companies to sell online. Laithwaite also invented the flying winemaker concept in 1987 when he flew Australian Nigel Seyd to Bergerac to make 5,000 cases of unoaked Semillon. He has championed regions such as the Midi, and continues to experiment relentlessly.
27. John Casella
Managing director and winemaker, Casella Wines, Aus
The phenomonal success of Casella’s [Yellow Tail] brand has ensured that its maker’s next move will be closely watched. In seizing over 10% of the US market in little over three years, Casella has already made his mark, notably through the high degree of residual sugar in the wine, which has played well to the American palate. The style looks set to define the market’s continued growth, and Casella can take the credit/blame (delete as appropriate to your tastes) for the spread of numerous copycat wines.
28. Brian Croser
Founder and winemaker, Petaluma, Aus
South Australia-based Croser is the godfather of Australian terroir, thanks to his insistence on marrying the ideal site to the right grape variety. He is also a prime driver in the move towards premium Aussie wines, notably at Petaluma – latterly taken over by drinks giant Lion-Nathan – which he has headed since 1976. He recently set up a ground-breaking joint venture near Coonawarra with Bollinger and JM Cazes to launch Tapanappa Wines. Its first wines – the 2003 Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc – are now in barrel.
29. Jean-Claude Rouzaud
President, Louis Roederer, Fr Age 63
Champagne’s premier statesman, Rouzaud is a beacon for quality, setting the gold standard with his non-vintage wines. Roederer sources a massive 78% of its grapes, and is still buying vineyards, a philosophy Rouzaud took to his Quartet venture in California, making one of the first great New World sparkling wines. He is still breaking new ground, moving into Provence (Domaines Ott), Bordeaux (de Pez and others, and set to be more of a focus), Champagne (Deutz), the Rhône (Delas Frères) and Portugal (Adriano Ramos Pinto). Others follow his lead.
30. Jean-Charles Boisset
Vice-president, Boisset Vins & Spiritueux, Fr
Jean-Claude Boisset founded his firm in 1961, at 18. Having built it up to be France’s third largest wine company, covering Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Rhône, his son, Jean-Charles, has been leading a move from quantity to quality, notably in California. Boisset is one of the few Burgundians to come out in favour of screwcaps, following the tasting of a screwcapped bottle of Mercurey 1966, superbly preserved, with magnificent aromas. Boisset put many of its top 2003s under screwcap. Expect others to follow.
31. Marcel Guigal
Chairman, E Guigal, Fr
The name Guigal is practically synonymous with the Rhône, both as a négociant and producer. Marcel Guigal, who took over the management of the business at the age of 17, put his stamp on the wines from the start, with his use of long oak ageing, no pesticides and minimal sulphur. Although the generic wines are very successful, it is Guigal’s top wines – notably the single-vineyard Côte-Rôties – that have made its reputation, and are influencing those Australian producers looking to make a more refined Shiraz.
32. Georges Duboeuf
Proprietor, Les Vins
Georges Duboeuf, Fr
Duboeuf is not only the most important producer of Beaujolais – he controls 15% of the wine (25 million bottles a year) made in the region – his firm is also the biggest single wine exporter in France. He almost single-handedly created the wordwide Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon of the 1970s – in addition to his promotional efforts, Nouveau’s popularity as an easy-drinking wine was in large part due to the technical innovations he implemented, notably the use of temperature-controlled stainless-steel fermentation tanks and early bottling.
33. Richard Smart
Viticulture consultant, Aus
One of the world’s foremost – and most experienced – vineyard consultants, Smart has four degrees, and has written some 220 technical theses, on subjects ranging from canopy management effects on vineyard yield and quality to grapevine whole-plant physiology and solar radiation effects. They may not be the sexiest topics, but Smart’s 200 global clients are doubtless happy to take his advice on best viticultural practices, which remains quintessentially New World in approach, from a contemporary, international perspective.
34. Baron Eric de Rothschild
President, Domaines Baron de Rothschild, Fr
One of the elder statesmen of the wine world, Eric de Rothschild has been the passionate head of Château Lafite Rothschild since 1975. His arrival at the Pauillac first growth gave a new impetus and injection of quality. He has since exported the family name across Europe and the southern hemisphere – Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild has vineyards in Chile (Los Vascos), Portugal (Quinta do Carmo) and Argentina (Caro). In Bordeaux, Rothschild also owns Sauternes’ Château Rieussec as well as Duhart-Milon and L’Evangile.
35. Daniele Cernili,
Editor, Gambero Rosso, It
Gambero Rosso’s monthly title is a mainly domestic affair but the guide is international, with tasting notes for some 150,000 Italian wines. A coveted tre bicchieri (three glasses) award (there were 264 in 2005) has the same effect in Italy as a 90-point Parker score in the US. So influential is the guide that some claim it turned Italian wines to new oak and back again, by moving from one camp to the other. Famed for his uncompromising editorial stance, Cernili has attacked such luminaries as Angelo Gaja, calling him ‘cold and soulless’.
36. Michel Laroche,
President, Domaine Laroche, Fr
Laroche is one of the foremost négociant-éléveurs in Chablis, with a range running from mass-market generic Chablis to top-of-the-range grands crus. From owning 6 hectares of vines in the late 1960s to over 130ha today, Laroche is nonetheless known for quality and innovation. He was the first producer to bottle grand cru Chablis under screwcap, while his Mas La Chevalière in the Midi has demonstrated how great-quality Midi wines are viable with good equipment and sensitive handling. He also has an estate in Chile.
37. Denis Dubourdieu
Consultant winemaker, Fr
Dubourdieu is to Bordeaux’s white wines what Michel Rolland is to its reds. Professor of oenology at Bordeaux University, he is also an influential consultant, respected as an authority on microbiology, as well as on the vinification and ageing of white wines. His own properties include Barsac’s Châteaux Doisy Daëne and Cantegril, Clos Floridène in the Graves and Cadillac’s Château Reynon, while he consults for the likes of Cheval Blanc, Haut-Bailly (for their reds), Vignobles André Lurton, plus Italy’s Zonin and Chivite in Spain.
38. Robert Mondavi
Chairman emeritus, Mondavi, US
Mondavi has done more than anyone to introduce the US public to wine drinking. He was one of the first to understand the importance of cultural events in building the reputation of a region. He was also among the first, with Ernest Gallo, to bottle varietal wines in California, and to establish joint ventures such as California’s Opus One (with Baron Philippe de Rothschild), Italy’s Luce (Frescobaldi) and Chile’s Seña (Eduardo Chadwick, see no 39). He would have been much further up the list but for the recent takeover by Constellation.
39. Eduardo Chadwick
President, Viña Errázuriz, Chl
Chadwick has been president of Errázuriz since 1993, and has significantly expanded its overseas activities and its commitment to innovation. Viña Errázuriz was one of the first Chilean companies to plant on the slopes of the Andes, to plant Syrah in Aconcagua, and to use screwcaps to seal its estate wines. Its pioneering joint venture Seña, with Mondavi, is now wholly owned by Errázuriz. Along with Concha y Toro, which dominates Chilean wine from a quantity perspective, Errazuriz provides a quality benchmark.
40. Michel Bettane
Wine writer and critic, Fr Age 53
Bettane studied at L’Académie du Vin in the late 1970s and quickly became its foremost lecturer. Until last year, he was the force behind France’s most influential yearly wine guide – Classement des Meilleurs Vins de France, published by Revue de Vin de France, France’s leading wine publication. Bettane had been at the revue over 20 years until its sale last year, after which he left, along with collaborator Thierry Desseauve. The pair are set to launch a new vehicle, and/or continue publication of the Classement under a new guise.
41. Bernard Arnault
President and chairman, LVMH, Fr
As head of luxury goods conglomerate, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, Arnault controls over 50 of the world’s most recognisable fashion brands. In addition, LVMH controls several of Champagne’s top names – among them Moët et Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Krug and Veuve Clicquot, as well as Bordeaux’s Châteaux d’Yquem, Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes, New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay, Australia’s Cape Mentelle, Napa’s Newton and various Chandon domaines in the New World. Oh, and he personally owns 50% of Château Cheval Blanc.
42. Ernst Loosen
Owner, Weingut Dr Loosen, Ger
If brand Germany has made great strides in recent years to reclaim its image as a source of quality wines it is, in large part, due to Loosen. An articulate and enthusiastic promoter of Riesling, Loosen first came to public notice with the wines he made in the Mosel. Since then, he has expanded his operations into Pfalz, where he makes wines under the JL Wolf label, and further afield, in a co-venture with Washington State’s Chateau Ste Michelle named Eroica, widely regarded as the US’s finest Riesling. Where he leads, others follow.
43. Nicolas Joly
Biodynamic winemaker, Coulée de Serrant, Fr
A decade ago, anyone managing their vineyards biodynamically would have been regarded as a bit of a crank. These days, many top wine growers follow such principles rigorously, claiming they produce better wines, in tune with their terroirs. The change has come about largely due to a handful of biodynamic winemakers, chief among them Joly in Savennières. His wines, together with those of Anne-Claude Leflaive’s Domaine Leflaive, provide the benchmark for others to follow. But it is Joly who acts as ambassador for the movement
44. Don Zacharia
CEO, Zachys, US
Don Zacharia took over his father’s wine and spirits store in suburban Scarsdale, NY, in 1961, and changed it into an upscale merchant, unearthing a new breed of wine consumers in the higher echelons of US society. Zachys is now arguably its most important fine wine retailer, with particular emphasis on Bordeaux and Italy and a growing portfolio of Burgundian and Spanish wines. The company not only holds auctions – arguably among the most important in the States – it also has a large slice of the US’s Bordeaux en primeur trade.
45. Jess Jackson
Founder and CEO,
Another former lawyer (are you spotting a theme here?), Jackson went on to found what is now Sonoma County’s largest wine company, which he actively headed for 20 years. KJ is now one of America’s – and the world’s – leading wine brands, and, as with Gallo and Mondavi, was built on clear, attractive marketing to establish the brand before introducing premium wines. A driver of the market for wines with a degree of residual sugar, Jackson is America’s 124th richest person, according to Forbes Magazine, worth around US$1,800m.
46. Pierre-Henry Gagey
President, Maison Louis Jadot, Fr
Jadot is one of Burgundy’s top négociant-éléveurs, and it is Gagey who has spearheaded its expansion to own 148ha of vineyards across 150 appellations. Of the 8.5 million bottles it makes each year, 85% are exported. As president of the négociants’ syndicate, the BIVB, Gagey campaigned for reform of the AC system, which he feels constrains producers, notably in Burgundy, from marketing their wines effectively overseas. He favours declassifying some wines so that they become brands, ‘which we sorely lack in France’.
47. James Halliday
Wine writer, Aus
Halliday is Australia’s most influential wine critic and writer. A wine judge across the world, author of 40-odd books, contributor to nearly every major wine publication, and, along with Len Evans, the man behind the recommendations-driven website Winepros, his yearly Wine Companion is the Australian equivalent of Parker’s Wine Advocate. Halliday also founded Coldstream Hills in Victoria (then acting as group winemaker for the regional wineries of Southcorp after it acquired Coldstream) and is co-founder of Hunter Valley’s Brokenwood.
48. Fred Franzia,
CFO, Bronco Wine
When Franzia launched the $1.99 Charles Shaw wine (commonly known as Two-Buck Chuck) in 2002, it became the fastest selling brand in US wine history, and caused a furore among the heavyweights of Californian wine. Even his uncle, Ernest Gallo, complained he was selling the wine too cheaply. Franzia was unrepentent: ‘If they sold wine cheaper, everyone’s food would taste better. Until they do, America is never going to be a wine-drinking nation,’ he said. With its launch of cheaper brands like Red Bicyclette, could it be that Gallo now agrees?
49. Jean-Luc Thunevin
Owner, Etablissements Thunevin, Fr
The main vehicle of St-Emilion’s garagiste par excellence is Château Valandraud. Alienated by traditionalists, he pioneered garage winemaking and has shown innovative PR skills. In 2000 he covered 2ha of vines in sheeting to protect them, ensuring declassification to vin de table, and high publicity. He called the resulting wine ‘L’Interdit de Valandraud’. Thunevin also operates Marojallia, in Margaux, under the same garagiste principles. Robert Parker rates it second only to Château Margaux, and its prices are similar.
50. Alexander Payne
Film director, US
Payne, who wrote (the screenplay) and directed the hit film Sideways, must have been taken aback by its unexpected success. Not only did the public flock to witness the adventures of wine enthusiast Miles and his amorously inclined friend Jack on a stag tour of wineries in Santa Barbara, but the film is also credited with provoking a surge in interest in Pinot Noir among US consumers. According to figures from ACNielsen, Pinot sales in early 2005 were up 16% on the previous year, with sales of Merlot – Miles’ least favourite variety – dropping.
Written by Researched by Natasha Hughes