The decision by Lisa Perotti-Brown MW to leave the Wine Advocate after 13 years with the publication and eight as editor-in-chief, will not come as a major shock to the wine world. It is a long time since two individuals – Robert Parker Jnr at the Wine Advocate and James Suckling at the Wine Spectator – were seen as a near-duopoly of US rainmakers by the global wine trade.
Parker may have formally retired in 2019 from the newsletter he launched in 1978, but he had stepped down as editor seven years earlier when he sold it to a group of Singapore-based investors. Indeed, it was that move that led to Perotti-Brown who was based in Singapore taking over the reins of the WA.
Throughout her time at the WA, Perotti-Brown has quietly gained a large measure of respect across the wine world, particularly in Australia and New Zealand whose wines she tasted and whose producers had often felt under-appreciated by Parker himself.
Her own background as a wine critic began while living in London after finishing literature and drama studies in her native US. Her initial ambition had been to become a playwright, but in order to pay for rent and food, she found work in a wine bar, signed up for WSET courses and then took a job with a UK fine wine merchant. This was followed by a buying role with a leading wine importer in Tokyo, before she relocated to Singapore in 2008 where she passed her MW exams, won the Madame Bollinger Medal for excellence in wine tasting and joined robertparker.com as a contributor. Combining her experience as a wine educator in Singapore and as a professional reviewer, in 2015, she published her first book, Taste Like a Wine Critic: A Guide to Understanding Wine Quality.
Perotti-Brown has yet to reveal what she will be doing after leaving the WA, but she is joining a long list of successfully relocated critics. As the range of wines that have to be tasted has grown immeasurably, so has the number of people reviewing them, both within existing publications and on their own platforms.
This process arguably began in 2004 when France’s top critic, Michel Bettane left the Revue du Vin de France to create his own publication with his RVF colleague, Thierry Desseauve. Six years later, fans of James Suckling’s contributions to the Wine Spectator had to follow him to his new home at jamessuckling.com. This year, lovers of Bordeaux and other fine wines who used to follow Jane Anson’s reviews in Decanter on paper or online, now access them on janeanson.com. Former newspaper critic, Tim Atkin not only shares his views on his own timatkin.com site, but also through highly respected regional reports.
Many will know Perotti-Brown’s associates, Joe Czerwinski, who is to take over her role as WA editor-in-chief, and William Kelley who will become deputy editor. But they will also be familiar with former WA reviewers, Antonio Galloni, Neal Martin, Jeb Dunnock and Monica Larner, all of whom share their knowledge and opinions elsewhere.
Likewise, wine professionals and enthusiasts will not only pay close attention to Jancis Robinson MW, but also her team of colleagues such as fellow Masters of Wine, Julia Harding and Richard Hemming. Like Parker, Robinson has now sold her platform. For the moment, she is still editing it but, one day, another set of taste buds will be in charge.
And whoever takes on that role will be competing for attention with whatever Lisa Perotti-Brown MW is about to bring to the table.