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.
Caroline Gilby MW is a wine writer and will be the Regional Chair for Hungary and Slovenia at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards. Read about her memorable wine moments, what she’s looking forward to at judging week and how she got into wine…
Where are you based and where do you work?
I’m a freelance wine writer based in Bedfordshire.
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I specialise in Central and Eastern Europe.
This is an area I’ve been interested in since first travelling to the region in the early 1990s, when working as Junior Buyer for Augustus Barnett. I fell in love with wine while studying for my PhD in Plant Sciences at the University of Bath, where I joined the student wine society for social reasons and caught the wine bug. I even won Decanter/Macallan Malt Whisky Taster of the Year when I was there, so wine was an obvious career switch and one I’ve never regretted.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
That you never stop learning about wine.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
Keith Garrard and Peter Carr MW, my bosses at Augustus Barnett who gave me that first job as Junior Buyer and supported my ambitions to become an MW (which I passed in 1992).
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
A number of amazing trips to fascinating wine regions, including Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary. Highlights include: the amazing green hills around Jeruzalem-Ormoz in Slovenia and the stunning Vipava valley; sitting in Istvan Sezpsy’s wine cellar in Tokaji talking and tasting for hours; visiting the oldest winery ever discovered in Armenia; rediscovering Bulgaria in 2003 after a 12 year break; Georgia’s amazing food and wine culture – where soviet legacy meets ancient history; surreal moonscape vineyards in Turkey’s Cappadocia region, and many more. No doubt I’ve been incredibly lucky in my career in wine.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
Wines that show balance and give pleasure when drunk, rather than showing sheer power.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
Quite a lot of Slovenian wine at present, but I’m always exploring and trying new things. I’ve got a few mature Bulgarian wines from Maxxima (2000 and 2001) to check out.
What’s your ‘desert island’ wine?
It’s a hard choice here between great Vintage Port, really good Blanc de Blancs Champagne or a glass or two of luscious Tokaji Aszu.
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Remember to enjoy it and don’t worry about how much you know, or whether you are drinking the ‘right’ wine.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Balance, finesse, a sense of place and something I can imagine people enjoying more than one glass of.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about taking on the role of Regional Chair for both Slovenia and Hungary at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards?
It’s always exciting to judge at the DWWAs and see how winemakers have progressed in this fast moving corner of the wine world, and perhaps discover some new star producers. It’s worth mentioning that both countries may be geographically close but they are quite different in terms of wine styles, grapes and wine culture.
Written by Decanter.com