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Leading Women in the Wine Industry: Jancis Robinson

British wine critic and journalist Jancis Robinson has been dubbed by many prestigious domestic and international wine publications as “the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world.” Wow, what a title. I’m not even 100% sure I’m the most respected Brian in my own office… and I’m the ONLY ONE.

Jancis’s journey in wine started in 1975 with an assistant editor position for Wine & Spirit Magazine. From there, her climb to the top of the world of wine is impressive. Just nine years later she became the first person (male or female) outside of the wine trade to pass the incredibly grueling Master of Wine exams. That’s sort of like me getting a part-time trainer gig for a junior varsity basketball team, then 4 years later coaching the Denver Nuggets.

I first heard of Jancis back in 1996 when I picked up a copy of The Oxford Companion to Wine, which she edited. To this day, it’s still considered the most comprehensive wine encyclopedia ever published. Jancis went on to write The World Atlas of Wine (another amazing read) and was given the honorable title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. She is still charged today with being the primary advisor to the Queen’s personal wine cellar. Pretty hard to top, eh? Well, Jancis wasn’t done yet.

In 2016, she was awarded the Officier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole (think the French version of the Nobel Prize for contributions to agriculture); the Golden Pin, which is Germany’s highest wine honor; and a James Beard award here in the US—and she received them ALL IN A SINGLE WEEK. If I mow the lawn and make a sandwich in a single week, I feel like I’m crushing the game.

In a trade mostly dominated by men like Parker, Tanzer, Galloni and Suckling, Jancis has never failed to shine just as brightly and be taken equally as serious. What I think I find most impressive is that she has always been about helping the everyday consumer find and understand wine. In her reviews, you don’t see completely unrelatable and pretentious tasting notes like “essence of grilled watermelon”, “bruised rose hips” and “mangos that seem upset at something.” She emphasizes the simple aspects of what she senses and relays them in a way that’s much less intimidating and easy to understand.

Jancis has set a wonderful example for other women in the industry to follow. Over the last couple of decades, there’s been a welcome influx of women becoming Master Sommeliers, highly esteemed wine critics and winemakers, all of whom no doubt have looked to Jancis for inspiration.  

In my world, greatness is greatness. No matter whether you’re a man or woman, that greatness should be acknowledged—and Jancis Robinson embodies it. I can only aspire to achieve the heights in my own profession that she has achieved in hers.

Brian Price
Liquor Barn Wine Buyer

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