From December 2002 to December 2004 I worked on the other side of St James’s Street. The side that traffic now goes up on. I learned a great deal about Burgundy, the Upper Classes and, ironically enough, how to speak corporate lingo (park up those ideas; let me show you the organogram). At the same time I developed a very strong view on men who wear red cords and, more to the point, I met/discovered Neal Martin, both the man and the nascent wine-journal.
Critics, journos, whatever you want to call them, tend to provoke fairly strong comments from those in the trade. Mister Parker is the most obvious: regaled and derided in equal measure (I’m not on the fence here; I’m in the former camp). Jancis the same. James Suckling: Marmite. And Neal too, though not quite so in extremis as Mr Suckling. But how many ENGLISH people can you name who review serious wine? Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin are the only two English names that customers mention at en-primeur time.
I’m asked at least once a month: “what happens when Parker retires?”. The long answer is simply too long. The short answer is the answer to the short question: “Who’s next?”. And I’d have some money on Neal.
So, the answers:
1) What was the first wine that got you into it?
Chateau Montrose 1982 at a lunch at Corney & Barrow. That is the wine when I thought: “Hmm…this beats insurance as a career.”
2) What was the first wine that took you closer to your maker?
I have had a few obvious ones, but perhaps the Grands Echezeaux 1962 from DRC. Severely ullaged so bought with a nice discount, opened with Mrs. M and a friend who was doing the design for my old website in the kitchen of my rabbit hutch/flat in West Norwood. No expectations and it was just mind-blowing.
3) What’s the best wine you’ve had this year?
There’s two wines that bought to mind the word: “Perfection”, namely the Hermitage La Chapelle 1949 from Jaboulet, which is probably the best Rhône I have ever tasted. Secondly, a magnum of Château l’Eglise-Clinet 1955, the last remaining bottle that was in Denis Durantou’s family cellar. The Château Gruaud Larose 1831 was a bit nifty as well given its age and the VCC 1948 last Thursday once again, reminded me that this beats insurance as a career.
I thank Neal for his answers. The current incarnation of Wine Journal is here.