The UK wine communicators

The demise of the wine critic has been over-reported, in the UK at least, where wine communicators are still influential. James Lawrence names the important names.

Aktin, Austin, Beckett, Fattorini, McGinn, Moore, Parkinson
Aktin, Austin, Beckett, Fattorini, McGinn, Moore, Parkinson

What is the truth about our relationship with experts — whether they be economists, scientists or even wine critics? Was British politician Michael Gove really correct when he claimed that “the British have had enough of experts”, thus rejecting the notion that people with years of accumulated specialist knowledge are worth listening to?

In the context of wine education, it is undeniable that the meteoric rise of consumer-led review sites, apps and, of course, social media have had a strong influence in the way consumers share and access information. Some major national newspapers have cut their wine coverage significantly. “Twenty years ago, wine enthusiasts lived in an era of top-down information, displaying a level of unwavering trust in what they were told from experts such as Jancis Robinson MW,” observes Wine Intelligence analyst Lulie Halstead. “But today, there are an awful lot of ways to source opinions, most notably from your peers. I would argue that for Millennials in particular, a friend’s recommendation counts for far more than a critical endorsement.”

Critics still play a part in influencing consumer choices — it’s just that the definition of a critic has changed. For most consumers in the UK, a critic is now simply a trusted source of information; younger consumers may make little distinction between “traditional'' wine critics and anyone else who recommends a wine. Yet the baby boomer generation may be far more likely to seek the advice of Tim Atkin MW than an iPhone app.

Nevertheless, online information proliferates. Many influential communicators skilfully interweave wine knowledge into lifestyle essays designed to educate the reader, without them even realising. Indeed, as wine remains an intensely complicated and intimidating subject, serious enthusiasts will always look to experienced critics for help in navigating the wine category. Professional Instagrammers may play an important, and expanding role, but reports of the death of UK wine critics have been grossly exaggerated.

Tim Atkin MW

An award-winning columnist, judge, author and online communicator, Tim Atkin MW continues to be one of the most respected and widely known critics in the UK. While it is undeniable that industry stalwarts like Atkin have faced increased competition due to the ongoing democratisation of information, he remains a source of trusted information for wine lovers and professionals. His annual South Africa report, to cite one example, is widely regarded as the definitive guide to the country’s wine industry. Adopting the standard 100-point wine-scoring system, Atkin produces regular reports on regions such as Burgundy, Rioja and Argentina. He is also a member of the Three Wine Men — whose members include Oz Clarke and Olly Smith — who run consumer wine tasting events across the UK.

Christine Austin

Christine Austin has revolutionised wine communication in the north of England. A former buyer, Austin has been writing about wine for The Yorkshire Post Magazine for more than a decade and has been awarded both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing. A prolific blogger on her own website, Yorkshire Food & Drink, Austin is a formidable presence in a region sometimes unwisely overlooked by leading brands.

Fiona Beckett

Fiona Beckett is a familiar face in British newspaper The Guardian, celebrated for her witty, informative essays on the opportunities — and pratfalls — of matching wine with food. A prolific blogger, columnist and author, Beckett has written more than 20 books on the subject of food and wine, including Cooking with Wine, The Frugal Cook and Wine by Style. She also frequently appears in leading wine publication Decanter and at consumer events across the UK. Often eschewing the fine and rare, Beckett prefers instead to focus on wines readily available in supermarkets, making her the darling of major brands looking to expand consumer awareness in the UK.

Joe Fattorini

Described by a leading British journalist as “the Attenborough of Oddbins”, Fattorini is undoubtedly the most potent — and charismatic — force in the wine media today. Presenting The Wine Show on a major terrestrial TV channel in 2016, Fattorini returned to British screens in January 2018 for a second series. His task, in collaboration with the other presenters — who include Jancis Robinson MW — is to achieve the (allegedly) impossible: making wine accessible and fun to a wider audience. 

In one of the first episodes, Fattorini drives around Santa Barbara, California, with comedian Gina Yashere, whom he tries to convert to wine. A bit like Sideways? Actually, it’s more entertaining, largely because of Yashere and Fattorini’s chemistry on screen. Later she returns the favour, coaching Joe as a stand-up comedian. Proof indeed that any conversation about wine must, paradoxically, largely avoid the topic or at least dull technicalities. Awarded both the IWC Personality of the Year and IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year accolade in 2017, Fattorini moonlights as a columnist for Harpers Wine & Spirit and The Buyer.

Dr Jamie Goode

Jamie Goode has long been celebrated for his award-winning website (and parallel blog) The Wine Anorak as much for his literature on the subject of wine. Blogging about all things grape-related since 2001, Goode’s influence is international in reach, with a global audience of wine enthusiasts. A qualified scientist, Goode has not only written for specialist trade publications, consumer magazines and broadsheet newspapers, but is also the author of influential books such as Authentic Wine, The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass and I Taste Red. Goode also has a weekly column in The Sunday Express.

Matthew Jukes

The author of 14 wine books, Matthew Jukes writes a widely read column for the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine, as well as a weekly column for MoneyWeek. Jukes also writes in-depth regional reports and is particularly well known for his annual 100 Best Australian Wines — so much so that he was named Honorary Australian of the Year in 2012.

Helen McGinn

A former Tesco wine buyer turned educator/author, Helen McGinn’s blog is one of the most popular sources of wine information in the UK today. Fun, colourful and easy to navigate, her website appeals to a large swathe of young professionals by skilfully demystifying the subject, offering wine advice/recommendations often “hidden” among her entertaining personal accounts and lifestyle entries. McGinn is also a respected wine judge and has been the resident wine expert on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show. Her latest book, Teetotal Tipples, was published in December 2016.

Victoria Moore

One of the UK's leading wine columnists, Victoria Moore is an influential voice found throughout a variety of media, including broadsheet newspaper the Daily Telegraph, Olive Magazine, Radio 4 and Luxury, the Telegraph’s digital channel. Indeed, premium brands would do well to court Moore, a critic of many years experience whose recommendations are eagerly anticipated by her (generally) middle class audience in the Daily Telegraph and BBC Good Food magazine. Author of the entertaining How to Drink, Moore’s prose is engaging and informative. 

Jane Parkinson

Passionate and charismatic, Jane Parkinson can justifiably claim to be all things to all people. After several years writing for the trade publication, The Drinks Business, Parkinson decided to go it alone, quickly earning a formidable reputation for the quality of both her online writing and television work. Awarded the title of International Wine & Spirit Competition Communicator of the Year 2014, Parkinson continues to be a regular guest on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen Live, in addition to writing columns for several magazines, including Stylist and Market Life. Effortlessly moving between the more traditional forms of wine media and her online/televisual work, Parkinson is proof that the two media can coexist as equals, rather than awkward bedfellows.

Jancis Robinson MW

Despite earlier claims about the expanding role of peer-to-peer recommendations on social media, Jancis Robinson MW remains a powerful force in the world of both online and traditional print wine communication. The author of numerous classic wine books, including the Oxford Companion to Wine, she also writes a weekly column for the Financial Times and is the publisher of, a subscription-based website featuring work by numerous writers and experts. Robinson’s reach is truly global and in Robert Parker’s heyday she was considered his closest competitor in terms of influence and power. 


Founded in Copenhagen by entrepreneurs Heini Zachariassen and Theis Sondergaard in 2009, Vivino nevertheless deserves a mention as the most important and popular wine app in the UK. As of January 2018, no British developer has managed to match the app’s incredible reach — a database containing more than 3.5m different wines and over 7m users — nor its ability to engage and enthuse casual wine drinkers. More than 25,000 wine photos are uploaded daily, making it a formidable presence in the world of digital wine media.


Other wine communicators of note

Jane Anson
A respected professional journalist, Jane Anson is Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent. She has written a number of books on Bordeaux and writes a monthly wine column for the South China Morning Post. Her most recent book is Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wines.

Oz Clarke
Acknowledge as one of the world’s greatest wine experts, Oz Clarke has a formidable list of books to his credit, as well as multiple awards. He appears frequently on both television and radio in the UK.

Jane MacQuitty
Author, wine judge and writer Jane MacQuitty has written for the august The Times of London since the 1980s.

Anthony Rose
A member of The Wine Gang, which runs consumer tastings and events, Anthony Rose teaches and judges, as well as writing for publications such as Decanter and The World of Fine Wine.

Olly Smith
The ebullient Olly Smith is multi-talented, appearing on radio, television, in print and at consumer events. He presents Jeni & Olly’s West Coast Wine Adventure for the Food Network and Travel Channel, now in its second series, and in 2017 launched the A Glass With podcast. As well as three books to his credit, he is the wine columnist for The Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine, which reaches 5m readers a week.

David Williams
The wine columnist for The Observer newspaper, David Williams also writes for The World of Fine Wine and is another member The Wine Gang.

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