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A Wine Critic Shares Her Secrets

Asia's love of wine is more robust than ever, so guidance from an outspoken master includes the advice to simply enjoy the tipple. By CHRISTOPER KUCWAY.

Published on Feb 9, 2017


WINE CRITIC JANCIS ROBINSON is the first to admit that she's often—how to put this?—acidic in her comments about the latest labels. Yet, it's that commentary that has propelled her to the pinnacle of the world's wine commentators ( "My tasting notes are often unquotable," she tells oenophiles at a tasting in the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. "I hate that people think scores are the beginning and the end of a wine. A description is much more useful."

Jancis Robinson
A tipple with wine commentator Jancis Robinson. Courtesy of Jancis Robinson.

Now that Asian palettes are an integral stop on the global wine map—"Asia has become a driving force behind everything that happens with wine," the British master of wine tells me—those descriptions are ever more apt. This is no longer simply a world of red, white or rose. We've all heard of organic vintages, but what of biodynamic bottles or natural wines? In actual fact, biodynamic wines predate their organic cousins, though the distinctions are pretty fine. Organic wines are made from certified organically grown grapes, without synthetic pesticides, additives or added sulfites. Biodynamic labels also avoid synthetic chemicals while taking into account lunar cycles. A vineyard is treated as an entire ecosystem. "The whole thing sounds completely crazy but it does look different," Robinson says. "The vines look healthier." She points to a 2013 Felton Road Pinot Noir from New Zealand, with its red berry, cinnamon, and vanilla accents, as a solid biodynamic bottle.

Felton Road Pinot Noir
The 2013 Felton Road Pinot Noir, Robinson's pick of the day of a good biodynamic wine. John Hay/GettyImages.

As for natural wines, she admits they're a work in progress. Strictly, speaking, nothing is added or subtracted to a natural wine: no sulphites, no synthetic chemicals. "It can result in some pretty weird wines, but the proportion of good natural wines is increasing." She cites the rich textured 2014 William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir as one example. "I'm not prepared to drink a wine just because it's natural," Robinson says.

Yet, she insists that the gap between the worst and the best wines is narrow. "You no longer have to spend a fortune to get a great wine." Remember, Robinson stresses, "wine's first duty is to refresh rather than knock you over the head."


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Felton Road Vineyard on the South Island, New Zealand. Danita Delimont/GettyImages.
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