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Remembering Clive Coates MW, an authority on Burgundy and Bordeaux

Charles Curtis MW looks back at the life of Burgundy and Bordeaux expert and long-time Decanter contributor Clive Coates MW, who has died aged 81.

The world of fine wine was saddened this weekend at the news of the passing of the widely loved wine authority Clive Coates MW.

Few, if any, Masters of Wine exhibited the spontaneous generosity and amiable disposition that Clive Coates displayed throughout his long and illustrious career.

His generosity with his time was remarkable given the breadth of his activities. Personally, I will always be grateful for his encouragement while I was preparing for the MW exam and again when publishing my first book. His many friends, colleagues and admirers likewise mourn his loss.

Coates was born in 1941, and he initially set out to become a chef. Following hotel school, however, he was inspired by a trip to Bordeaux to return for an internship at the Bordeaux négociant house Calvet.

His time there was followed by a stint at Hedges and Butler, and by 1967 Coates had taken a position at The Wine Society. He published his first article in the same year, and passed the daunting Master of Wine exam in 1971.

In 1975 accepted the role of the head of the wine department for British Transport Hotels, which included all of the properties owned by the British Railways.   

Initially, Coates focused on Bordeaux. His first book, Claret, was published in 1982. He followed this success with a more general topic in Wines of France, which appeared in 1990, and Grands Vins, The Finest Châteaux of Bordeaux and Their Wines, which appeared in 1995.

Latterly, he was considered one of the pre-eminent experts on Burgundy. 

His work Côte d’Or (1997) was showered with prizes: the André Simon award, the Veuve Clicquot prize, a James Beard award, and the Prix des Arts et des Lettres from the Confrérie du Tastevin.

He continued to work at a rapid pace, publishing his Encyclopaedia of the Wines and Domaines of France in 2000, The Wines of Bordeaux in 2004, The Great Wines of France in 2005, and The Wines of Burgundy in 2008. 

Although he is thought of as an expert in Bordeaux and Burgundy, Coates’ enthusiasms ran far afield, to Bellet, Bugey, the Côte Roannaise, and the wines of the Orléannais. 

In addition to his work as an author, Coates was a prolific journalist. He published 241 issues of The Vine, his magazine devoted to fine wines, between 1984 and 2005. 

He also appeared in nearly every major wine publication. His profiles of Bordeaux châteaux and top Burgundy domaines for Decanter are references to this day skillfully written and a joy to read.

Coates was widely recognised during his career.  He was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French government, and Wine Writer of the Year by the Champagne Lanson Awards.

In recent years, he ‘semi-retired’ to St-Bonnet-de-Vieille-Vigne, west of Mâcon, although he continued to write about wine through the harvest of 2021. He passed away in Lyon on 26 July 2022 after a long illness.   


Burgundy profiles by Clive Coates MW

Published on Decanter Premium in 2018

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Dujac

Domaine Leroy

Domaine Georges Roumier

Domaine Jean Grivot 


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