Wine Power List 2011 | 0 Comments


Decanter 2011 power list


The fourth edition of our biennial Power List brings together the wine world’s 50 most important movers and shakers - the people influencing what’s in your glass today.

‘Each entrant must have a direct influence over the style of wine we are drinking’

Power is not something that can easily be measured. In compiling this list, we have purposely avoided merely trotting out the world’s biggest wine companies. This is not a scientific list. Rather it is a subjective list of the figures we feel hold the most influence over the direction of the wine world today, and how that affects the wine in your glass.

Compiled every two years, the requisites for the Power List remain the same: each entrant must have a direct influence over the style of wine we are drinking. These could be winemakers influencing wine styles in a hands-on way, lawmakers and politicians who impact the way we drink wine or the way it is allowed to be made, corporate giants who influence what’s on the shelves, or media figures who influence what we are drinking via their recommendations.

We aim to take in the broad church of the global wine world, but make no apology for reflecting the realities of the market. The UK and US remain our focal reference points, and the world’s broadest markets, though the importance of emerging markets — particularly China — continues to grow.

Some entries are nominated as figureheads of particular movements as much as for their own personal influence. Equally, there are leading names in the wine world who are less active than in previous years but who continue to influence the winemakers of today through their pioneering efforts. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, our staff are, as ever, absent from the line-up — the exception is Steven Spurrier, our consultant editor, who merits inclusion in his own right, in addition to representing Decanter.

As ever, we value your input, so let us know your opinion as to who should have been in and who should be out. Vote in the Readers’ Power List at or email

1 - Pierre Pringuet (position 10 in 2009)


CEO, Pernod Ricard; age 60

It’s not the biggest, or the richest, but Pernod Ricard is arguably today’s most diverse, far-reaching major wine producer. With brands including Mumm, Perrier-Jouët, Campo Viejo,  Jacob’s Creek and Brancott Estate (previously Montana), it remains the world’s fourth biggest wine company (22m cases), and the fourth biggest Champagne operator (800,000 cases). Its spread — both in terms of high- end and mass market brands, New and Old World, sparkling and still wine — and its global customer base means it has an enviable perspective on the rate of change currently affecting the wine world.

Pringuet seems to have sacrificed chasing volume as part of a move upmarket, creating Premium Wine Brands, an Australia-based business, and launching Jacob’s Creek’s Regional Reserves range. Likewise, the rebranding of Montana to Brancott Estate comes in the midst of its Icon Project, a three-year programme driven by winemaker Patrick Materman and consultant Denis Dubourdieu, focusing on driving up standards of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc through viticultural and vinification trials. At the same time, the launch this summer of a sparkling Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc promises to introduce a whole new category.

Pernod’s fight against floods of fake Jacob’s Creek in China and the UK will be closely followed by other producers, notably in the Asian market, where counterfeiting remains a major concern. Pernod is well placed, though, as a shareholder in Chinese domestic producer Helan Mountain.

2 - Eric de Rothschild (20)


President, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite); 70

Eric De Rothschild has been at the helm of DBR for 37 years, overseeing Bordeaux estates such as Duhart-Milon, Rieussec and l’Evangile, d’Aussières in the Languedoc, Viña Los Vascos in Chile and Caro in Argentina. But recent history is all about Lafite, particularly in China. Fervour there for the Pauillac estate has seen prices rocket past the other first growths, with even second wine Carruades de Lafite earning the price status of a super-second. Lafite fever was further stoked by the inclusion of the Chinese symbol for eight on the 2008 bottle (prices shot up 20% overnight), while a Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale of wines direct from the château saw the unbottled 2009 going for £43,120 a case, three times market value. Other producers may roll their eyes,  and critics describe the prices as ‘insane’, but Lafite’s success is having a wide, potentially long-lasting effect on Chinese consumers’ aspiration for fine wine beyond the Médoc.

As the world’s premium producers blaze a trail east, it is in Lafite’s footsteps they tread. And with the price of Bordeaux classed growths already rocketing, China’s thirst for fine wine could have a seismic effect on prices across the globe.  Expect a similar effect in China’s domestic market when Lafite’s Chinese vineyards yield their first wine.

3 - Robert Parker (2)


Publisher, The Wine Advocate; 63

That Parker remains the world’s most influential wine critic is surely beyond doubt, but several factors suggest that his power is continuing, slowly,  to diminish.

The first is age: at 63, Parker’s workload is slowly being reduced, with the news in February that protégé Antonio Galloni is taking over Wine Advocate responsibility for tasting new wines from California. This created a major stir in the US, but is simply a continuation of the farming out of various winemaking regions to members of the Parker team — the great man himself is now responsible only for Bordeaux, the Rhône, plus older vintages of both regions and California.

As others take care of the rest, producers and consumers alike wonder whether their stylistic preferences will mirror those of Parker himself. Galloni in particular has hinted at favouring a more restrained style of wine, which, if played out in print, could further persuade winemakers to rein back from the big, blockbuster style of wine that is already starting to lose favour with consumers worldwide.

Whoever the taster is, Wine Advocate ratings are routinely referred to as ‘Parker scores’, reflecting the gradual transformation of the Parker name into the brand rather than the man. His influence is also under siege from a growing army of online critics and bloggers, who have created a crowded, noisy conversation about wine which is less prepared to blindly accept one man’s views as gospel. With the introduction of a paywall to his lively online forum, it’s a conversation that is less likely to be happening on Parker’s own patch. And as the US continues to mature as a wine market, so younger consumers show signs of having more confidence in their own palates, and less reliance on the verdict of critics.

4 - Mel Dick (4)


Senior vice-president, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, and president of its wine division; 75

The US is now the world’s largest wine-drinking country (as gauged by volume, not per capita consumption) and, fuelled by millennials’ rising interest ‘will continue and continue and continue to grow’ as a market ‘forever,’ Dick predicts with brimming confidence. As America’s biggest wine distributor, Miami-based Southern has a goliath- size stake in ‘forever’. Operating in 33 of 50 states, in 2010 it generated more than $3.5bn from wine sales. This year, Southern held its first ‘fine-wine summit’ to address ‘how we take our fine-wine business to new heights in the years ahead’. In 2010, the company added Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington DC to its portfolio. Its 11,000 staff, handling 15,000 wine brands, distributed 49 million cases to more than 175,000 retail, bar and restaurant customers last year.

This leviathan, like other distributors, faces widespread hostility from producers and wine trade associations, however, who resent wholesalers’ promotion of federal legislation that limits their power in the three-tier distribution system. Producers continue to seek revenue-heightening direct-to-customer sales.

5 - Robert Sands (1)


President and CEO, Constellation Brands; 53

Four years after he took over as president and CEO from brother Richard (who topped the Power List in 2009), Rob Sands no longer runs the world’s biggest wine company. After the sale of most of its wine business in the UK, Australia and South Africa, it has ceded that status to Gallo — although it claims still to sell more wine above US$5 than anyone else. Though its total production is now down from 100m cases to 60m, Constellation has a more diverse spread than Gallo (it has 29 wineries across the world, of which 16 are in the US). But the sale of brands like Hardys, Banrock Station and Kumala signals a reining in of its global ambitions. It also indicates the firm’s frustration at the price- sensitive competitiveness that now characterises the key UK market — leading it to cut its losses and run. The move was an embarrassment — the A$290m sale price dwarfed by the A$1.85bn the company had paid for BRL Hardy alone. But early indications suggest Sands was right to scale back.

The company made $560 million in the tax year 2011, on sales of $4bn. Two years before, it lost $300m. Constellation still owns big names such as Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Ravenswood and Inniskillin, and Sands stressed that the proceeds of the sale would be reinvested in these major assets.

6 - Annette Alvarez-Peters (5)


Wine-buying director, Costco; 49

While Jim Sinegal, the CEO of Costco Wholesale, based in Washington State, battled unsuccessfully last year to privatise the state-run wine and liquor stores, Annette Alvarez-Peters oversaw the purchase of wine for 335 sites in the 34 states where the warehouse stores sell wine. She leads a team that selects 4,000 wines for the Costco system. Costco, the largest-volume wine retailer in the US, sold more than $1.15bn of wine in 2010, with Alvarez-Peters the gatekeeper as to whose wines got in, and whose fell out. Her clout has increased since the 2009 Power List, as economic conditions forced many premium wine producers to court retail outlets they’d never needed before. Alvarez-Peters cherry-picked top labels at discount prices. She also bolsters Costco’s range of its Kirkland Signature house brand, now at 20 wines. But the US’ restrictive interstate shipping laws,  which Sinegal has yet to overturn, preclude Costco from operating as freely as it wants, leading to its retrention from online wine sales.

It seems inevitable the company will eventually find ways to translate Costco’s buy-direct sourcing to wine, but it has thus far been hampered by the complex US wholesale system. Will it fight on? Alvarez-Peters demurs: ‘Costco’s philosophy is to bring the best possible price to our members.’ With unparalleled buying influence, her ability to do just that will no doubt keep growing — reports that Costco is now the world’s biggest wine retailer are hard to verify, but with stores in Canada, the UK, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and Australia, it’s not slowing down.

7 - Don St Pierre Jr (16)


CEO, ASC Fine Wines; 43

When people think of successful wine import companies operating in China, ASC is usually the first that comes to mind. Established in 1996, ASC has gone from selling several thousand bottles in its first year to millions now. If China is to establish a fine-wine drinking culture, ASC will be leading the charge. The founder and current CEO, Don St Pierre Jr, is a Canadian who formerly ran a sporting goods company in California. St Pierre’s ties to China go back to the 1980s when his father was president of Beijing Jeep, a venture between American Motors and the Chinese government. Over the years, he watched China engaging more and more with the global market and, in 1995, decided to go into the wine business. The road has not always been smooth. In 2008, St Pierre Jr was detained for 28 days while Chinese customs reviewed allegations of under- declaration of import duties for blue-chip wines.

At the end of 2009, Japan’s Suntory group took over 70% of the company but retained St Pierre Jr as CEO. St Pierre Jr has not let any setbacks deter his goal of ensuring that ASC remains at the forefront of importing premium wines, and the acquisition of the DBR wines (minus Lafite) from Summergate last year added to an impressive portfolio including Peter Lehmann, Penfolds, Petaluma, Bollinger, Gaja, Beringer and Guigal. Based in Shanghai, St Pierre continues to guide the company’s expansion, not only within China, but also in Hong Kong and Macau, and has seen sales double, to US$190m in the last two years.

8 - Wu Fei (—)


Chairman & General Manager, COFCO Wines & Spirits, 47

As chairman of the wine and spirits division of COFCO, China’s largest foodstuffs trader and manufacturer, Wu Fei is one of the most important figures in the country’s booming domestic wine industry, both as a producer and distributor. Right now, Chinese wine still accounts for 90% of the market. There is speculation as to the provenance of much Chinese-produced wine, however, with tales of South American or Australian bulk wine being repackaged. As the Chinese wine market continues to grow and mature, this state-owned company will set the tone in terms of quality. Its Great Wall brand is already one of the top three domestic wine brands, with an intricate, nationwide distribution network; imported wines going through these same channels are bound to reach an entirely new market that traditional import companies have not yet tapped. Recently, COFCO has been on a buying spree.

In 2010, it purchased Chilean winery Biscottes for €12.5 million and in early 2011, it acquired Château Viaud in Lalande-de-Pomerol for €10 million, promising to take control of supply direct from château to market, to assure consumers of authenticity. It is now eyeing properties in Italy, the US, South Africa and Australia.

9 - Eduardo Guilisasti (12)


CEO, Concha y Toro; 59

Guilisasti has been boss of Concha y Toro, Chile’s leading wine company by far, since 1989. 2011 is arguably the most significant year of his tenure as company CEO, marking as it does his first major venture outside South America — the acquisition of Brown-Forman’s California-based Fetzer. That $238m purchase in March 2011 adds another 3.1m cases to a business which already sells more than 28m cases of wine a year, and will swell Concha y Toro’s annual revenues to a total of about $800m, bringing an additional 429ha of vineyards to boot. Fetzer joins a business which also owns Cono Sur, Viña Maipo, Viña Palo Alto and Viña Maycas del Limari in Chile, plus the Almaviva joint venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Bodegasy Viñedos Trivento across the Andes in Mendoza. The trick of Guilisasti’s reign at Concha y Toro has been that the company’s ever-increasing scale has not diminished its credibility, or the consistency of its wines. A benchmark for big brands across the globe.

10 - Jancis Robinson MW OBE (8)


Author, journalist, broadcaster and consultant; 61

More than 35 years after typing her first word, Robinson remains for many the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world — or at least, to her many fans, a European counterpoint to the hegemony of US guru Robert Parker. Beyond the 20-plus books and the ongoing column in Britain’s Financial Times,  Robinson’s website is now her prime link with the outside world, serving subscribers from more than 80 countries with a mix of news, tasting notes and a vast array of online reference material. The forum area of the website is a debating chamber for the big issues facing the wine world, most recently discussing Robinson’s thought-provoking suggestion that wine critics withhold their verdicts on the 2010 Bordeaux en primeur wines until after the châteaux have released their prices. A prolific tweeter, with 79,000 followers, Robinson has embraced social media to further spread her reach.

11 - Bernaud Arnault (13)


Chairman and CEO, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton; 62

Boasting names like Krug, Moët, Veuve Clicquot and Château d’Yquem, Arnault was recently named by Forbes magazine as the world’s fourth richest man, and the wealthiest in Europe, with a fortune of US$41bn. How he protects such high-end brands in a world awash with counterfeits will be closely followed, and his portfolio of fashion houses give him plenty of experience.

The sale of his personal 50% stake in Château Cheval Blanc to LVMH fuelled rumours, though, that the luxury goods giant might sell its €12bn Moët Hennessy drinks business to Diageo, which already has a 34% stake — a move that could see Arnault move away from drinks to add to his fashion empire.

12 - Nobutada Saji (—)


President, Suntory; 65

Saji has spent a decade at the helm of Japan’s vast conglomerate, and earns a high position in this year’s list following a string of significant wine- related acquisitions and deals.

Suntory has managed Bordeaux’s Château Lagrange since 1983, and joined forces with Castel to take over Châteaux Beychevelle and Beaumont, plus wine merchants Barrière Frères, early this year (the Japanese company previously had a 37% stake in Beychevelle). That came after Suntory took a majority stake in ASC Fine Wines, China’s leading premium wine importer, in late 2009, signalling its continuing intent to expand beyond the economically stagnant Japanese market.

13 - Steven Spurrier (15)


Consultant editor, Decanter; 69

As well as being consultant editor to this title, and chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards —  now the world’s biggest wine competition — Spurrier exerts a global influence and legacy. As an educator, he founded the Christie’s Wine Course and brought through several notable names at his Academie du Vin in Paris. As a consultant, he is increasingly active in Asia, notably through the Wine Society of India, the Japan Wine Challenge, and with Singapore Airlines.

Respected and recognised the world over for an approach that combines integrity and insight, his knowledge of the classic wines of Bordeaux is complemented by a championing of emerging regions, be it California in 1976 or Chile, Argentina or Slovenia today.

14 - Dan Jago (6)

Director of beers, wines & spirits, Tesco; 51

Five recession-battered years since Jago took up his role at the world’s second biggest retail group (5,008 stores and counting), he has been talking about renewed signs of consumers ‘trading up’, revamping the retailer’s premium own-label Finest* range and investigating the possibility of migrating fine wine offers from the Tesco website (which has 1,300 wines on its list) into its stores. However, Jago raised a few eyebrows at the Global Wine Conference in September 2010, when he accused the wine trade of not engaging with consumers and trying to make wine accessible purely through price, thus shrinking the significance of the UK wine market to producers. Pots and kettles?

15 - Gina Gallo (—)


Winemaker, E&J Gallo; 44

E & J Gallo is now the world’s largest winemaker, making 75 million cases of 60 different brands from 6,000ha every year, and selling them in more than 90 countries. Unconfirmed figures put annual turnover at $3bn. Gina Gallo is the face of the prickly, litigious, privately held, notoriously hush-hush, family-owned firm — the highest-profile member of this US winemaking dynasty. Julio’s granddaughter prefers to be called a ‘winemaker’ and is based in laidback Sonoma in California rather than at the imposing corporate headquarters in Modesto. So who runs the company?  To a large extent it’s Joseph Gallo, president and CEO (ranked 11 in our 2009 Power List). Gina’s marriage in 2009 to Jean-Charles Boisset (no25), president of the powerful Boisset Family Estates in France, creating arguably the most significant power couple in the industry, ‘tilts toward the future,’  a source said, echoing a broadly held view.

Gallo was embarrassed in 2010 when a French criminal court found a dozen Languedoc wine suppliers and traders guilty of supplying Gallo with 13.5m litres of wine falsely labelled Pinot Noir for its low-priced Red Bicyclette Pinot brand. Gina Gallo called the fraud ‘something of a disaster.’

16 - The amateur wine blogger (—)

As social media continues its relentless online spread, everyone is now a critic. Or, at least, anyone with basic computer literacy. The ease both of setting up blogs and joining online conversations about wine means that consumers are now able to share information and opinions with each other as never before — all the time diluting the importance of the professional critic. As wine markets such as the US continue to mature, so consumers will come to better trust their own judgment — and that of their peers. Online commentary has empowered consumers in a way that print media struggles to, and the upshot is a world of rapidly evolving views and insights which are increasingly becoming a key reference point — and forum — with which winemakers and producers can engage.

17 - Robert Shum (28)


Founder, Aussino World Wines; 48

Robert Shum started Aussino as a China-based importer of food and wine. In 1997, he decided to focus his company solely on wine. Shum was inspired by the time he spent in Australia in the mid-1980s, which fostered his love for wine, and was keen to spread the gospel in China. During its first six years, Aussino was one of many wine importing companies mushrooming throughout China’s coastal cities. By 2003, its first retail shop, Aussino Wine Cellar, had given a retail focus to the company. Now with hundreds of shops under the Aussino umbrella, it is among the largest wine retail operators in China. Shum guided the business to branch out to both first-tier as well as second-tier Chinese cities, setting up franchises, joint-venture operations as well as solely owned wine shops. Although Aussino has strong education, import and wholesale businesses, it is the retail aspect for which Aussino is best known.

18 - Michel Rolland (17)


Winemaking consultant; 63

The cliched view is that Rolland creates the over-fruited, overripe wines that Robert Parker loves. Like most clichés, its grain of truth simplifies reality: Rolland remains the most famous and influential winemaking consultant on the planet, working at about 100 properties in the Médoc and all over the world.

His own properties include Le Bon Pasteur and Rolland-Maillet, and his media exposure continues, long after his presence in Mondovino (2004): recently he has appeared in El Camino del Vino, a film about Uruguayan sommelier Charlie Arturaola (see ‘Reviews’, June 2011 issue), and he is also featured in a satirical French graphic novel — alongside Parker, naturally.

19 - Pierre Castel (23)


President and founder, Groupe Castel; 84

The president of France’s biggest wine producer (€1bn sales from 42m cases) is in the throes of reinventing Castel, adapting its volume-driven business model to a more premium focus. The deal with Suntory to buy Grands Millésimes de France, including Châteaux Beychevelle and Beaumont, plus other estates and the Barrière Frères merchant house cements Castel’s position in Bordeaux.

Beychevelle’s cult following in China also suits the company’s geographic emphasis, with China overtaking the UK as its strongest market in 2009 (sales went from 14m bottles to 20m last year), and the company forging new distribution for its Barton & Guestier business.

20 - Tony Laithwaite (24)


Chairman, Direct Wines; 65

More than four decades after starting Bordeaux Direct in a Windsor railway arch, Tony Laithwaite presides over one of the wine industry’s more discreet portfolio of success stories. The world’s largest mail-order wine specialist, with annual sales of more than £340m, Direct Wines owns Laithwaites in the UK and operates a number of other businesses such as the Sunday Times Wine Club, Averys and Virgin Wines.

International expansion has been impressive, with businesses in the US, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Poland, while back in the UK, the company’s flagship retail store at Vinopolis in London is housed, appropriately enough, in a railway arch.

21 - Marvin Shanken (19)

President and founder, M Shanken Communications; 67

Largely known as editor and publisher of New York-based Wine Spectator magazine, Shanken has as many layers as a glass of Domaine de la
Romanée-Conti. His umbrella company, M Shanken Communications, also owns Cigar Aficionado and Food Arts magazines, and the business-tracking trade publications Impact and Market Watch. It administers the Restaurant Wine List Awards, and stages wine-tasting and cigar-smoking events throughout the US. Yet Wine Spectator, which reports an annual readership of more than 2.5 million, drives Shanken’s bus. Vintners revel in 90-point-plus scores for their wines in Spectator and promote them in their marketing materials; wine retailers use its scores to sell bottles. It’s been this way for two decades.

Yet Shanken’s one-person- per-region tasting structure has been challenged of late. James Laube once reviewed all California wines, but has ceded some categories to other writers. Harvey Steiman continues to cover Washington, Oregon, Australia and New Zealand, though rumours of his retirement run rampant. With the departure of James Suckling as Spectator’s European bureau chief, Bruce Sanderson and James Molesworth have taken on additional tasting duties. This is a time of great change for Shanken’s wine magazine business; and with suggestions that US consumers are slowly turning away from scores, his response will be instructive.

22 - Miguel Torres (18)


President, Torres; 69

Under Torres company rules, Miguel Torres is due to retire this year, meaning that one of his children will almost certainly succeed him at the top of one of the most respected wine businesses on the planet. Whoever it is, the affable, humble and quietly driven Torres (he presided over increased revenues, from €185m to €206m, last year) will be an extremely tough act to follow.

His leadership has seen expansion into Chile and regions such as Rioja,  Ribera del Duero and Priorat, a devotion to green issues that puts much of the rest of the wine industry to shame, and a recently announced expansion of its retail arm in China to 62 outlets.

23 - Sylvie Cazes (—)


MD, Louis Roederer Bordeaux properties, and president, Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux; 55

Sylvie Cazes-Regimbeau was at the centre of one of the biggest news stories in Bordeaux earlier this year when Louis Roederer appointed her to direct the company’s Médoc châteaux, including Pichon- Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. The appointment catapulted the president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux even further into the Bordeaux limelight, eclipsing her older and now semi-retired brother, Jean-Michel Cazes.

Cazes will juggle her new role with the UGC presidency (elections take place this month), a supervisory role at the Cazes family properties and a seat on Bordeaux’ City Council, where she promotes wine tourism.

24 - Gary Vaynerchuk (40)


Wine retailer, video blogger; 35

After five years and 1,000 episodes, Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV video blog ended in March — to be replaced by The Daily Grape, a similar blogging service more geared to mobile phones. The Russian-born retailer’s trademark irreverent style remains, but the man described as the second most influential wine critic in the US is as much in demand these days for public speaking on social media, brand-building and e-commerce.

Vaynerchuk made one book into a 10-book, US$1m publishing deal with HarperStudio, and signed a deal last year to be a wine consultant for airline Virgin America.

25 - Jean-Charles Boisset (32)


President, Boisset Famille des Grands Vins; 41

Over the past two years, Boisset’s string of acquisitions has been rivalled in its headline- grabbing abilities only by his personal life, thanks to his wedding to Gina Gallo (no15) in September 2009. Not that that put a halt to Boisset’s expansion, with the same month seeing its purchase of Antonin Rodet in Burgundy and Raymond Vineyard & Cellar in the Napa Valley. In late April Boisset acquired Buena Vista Carneros, one of California’s oldest wineries. At the helm of the third biggest wine business in France, with turnover of around €300m, Boisset is noted for his un-French forward thinking, packaging Beaujolais Nouveau and California’s Fog Mountain Merlot in PET, and French Rabbit in Tetra-Pak. He is now focusing on further modernising the company’s California business.

26 - Jeannie Cho Lee MW (—)


Author, journalist, blogger, consultant; 42

The first Asian to become an MW in 2008, Korean-born Cho Lee is a contributing editor for Decanter and founder of, a website linking Asian cuisine and wine. Promotion of the latter has seen her become one of the most active, influential commentators on Asia’s burgeoning fine wine scene, where she exerts significant influence in directing consumer tastes.

Based in Hong Kong, she is a regular judge at wine competitions and runs countless tasting events with multinationals, hospitality companies and wine merchants. Commercial interests include tie-ins with Estée Lauder, Singapore Airlines and the Galaxy Macau resort.

27 - Simon Berry (25)


Chairman, Berry Bros & Rudd; 53

It was founded in 1698, but the story of Berry Bros & Rudd over the past 20 years is a masterclass in how to rejuvenate a business without sacrificing its sense of tradition and heritage. Still very much the merchant of the establishment, BBR has combined this with internet innovation, education and events, plus an expansion programme into Asia that is evolving by the day.

The company has been in Hong Kong since 1999 and now has a wine shop, plus a luxurious store, tasting area and events venue in the Alfred Dunhill complex — and it plans to expand into mainland China later this year.

28 - Hugh Johnson OBE (21)


Wine writer; 72

Now into his 70s, Johnson remains the doyen of wine writers after a career that spans more than five decades and has seen him sell close to 16m books worldwide. The long-running success of his Pocket Wine Book, which has gone through well over 30 editions is likely to be repeated as newcomers to wine pick it up in the emerging Asian markets.

Chosen as Decanter Man of the Year in 1995, his opinions, and his writing (including his regular column in Decanter), continue to captivate new generations of oenophiles from California to China.

29 - Peter Gago (—)


Chief winemaker, Penfolds; 54

The Penfolds chief winemaker and custodian of Australia’s most famous wine, Grange, Gago has just finished his 22nd vintage with the company, is a multi-award-winning winemaker and also the co-author of four books.  When not in the company’s vineyards and wineries, Gago travels the world as a tireless ambassador of Penfolds in particular and Australia in general, and is a passionate believer in tasting wines from every part of the world.

It’s important not to fall into the trap of drinking only your own wines,’ he says, an attitude likely to serve him well as the wine world continues to expand to all four corners of the globe.

30 - Aubert de Villaine (—)


Co-owner/co-director, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; 71

The owner and director of the most famous vineyard in Burgundy, de Villaine in 2010 became the first from the region to be crowned Decanter Man of the Year — an apt recognition for a humble individual who regards himself as simply the guardian of arguably the world’s greatest estate — Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

De Villaine is a beacon in Burgundy for his outright commitment to quality and his unfussy, pragmatic embrace of biodynamism. 2010 also saw the launch of Hyde de Villaine, a personal joint venture with Larry Hyde of Carneros in California.

31 - John Kapon (31)


CEO, Acker Merrall & Condit; 39

Kapon heads a superior New York City shop that, dating back to 1820, bills itself as America’s oldest wine merchant. Its auction operation quickly became an international heavyweight and has led all competitors in revenues in four of the past five years. In 2010 it grossed US$98.5m, a single-year record for a wine auction house. Acker’s real weight, though, is seen in the way its growth was fuelled by becoming virtually synonymous with the Hong Kong secondary market when it was born in 2008. In six 2010 sales there, Acker took in US$63.5m (up 206% over 2009), with 97.3% to 100% of lots sold. Acker’s internet-only auctions are lucrative too: this year’s sales both drawing over $1m. As fine wine prices continue to spiral, expect Kapon to be at the forefront.

32 - Ch’ng Poh Tiong (-)


Publisher, The Wine Review; 55

A Decanter columnist, Ch’ng Poh Tiong is also the writer of the world’s longest-lived wine column in Chinese, published in the Lianhe Zaobao, Shanghai’s largest-circulation Chinese newspaper. A trained lawyer, he also publishes The Wine Review, which began in 1991 and markets itself as the oldest wine publication in south-east Asia.

Other writing duties include a column in China’s Wine Life magazine, a Chinese guide to Bordeaux and a blog on, one of China’s most visited internet portals. Beyond writing, he is wine trainer to Accor Group’s Sofitel luxury hotels in China. As the country continues its wine appreciation, it is to the likes of Ch’ng that they are turning.

33 - Stéphane Derenoncourt (34)


Consultant winemaker; 48

Dubbed ‘The new Michel Rolland’, the self-taught Derenoncourt continues to spread his wings as a consultant, with projects in Italy, Spain, Chile, China, India, Turkey and Lebanon. Bordeaux remains at the heart of Vignerons Consultants, the company he runs with wife Christine, with high-profile clients including Domaine de Chevalier, Canon-la-Gaffelière and La Mondotte.

Derenoncourt owns Domaine de l’A in Côtes de Castillon, co-owns negociant Terra Burdigala, consults for Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon in California and now makes a cool- climate, high-altitude Napa range in his own name.

34 - Pierre-Antoine Casteja (42)


Managing director, Joanne; 60

The Casteja clan is one of the grandes familles of Bordeaux, with Philippe, Pierre-Antoine’s cousin, the CEO of Borie-Manoux and owner of Château Batailley. As CEO of leading negociant Joanne, Pierre-Antoine is the middle man par excellence, travelling widely in emerging markets around Asia, Russia and Brazil. His advice has helped châteaux owners reap the rewards of emerging wealth in China and Brazil.

The vast majority of Joanne’s business remains with the leading classed growths and their second wines. In all, Joanne’s inventory takes in 4,000 labels and six million bottles, leading to sales of €115m, almost half to Asia.

35 - Piero Antinori (22)


Director, Antinori; 72

Any family that can trace its winemaking heritage back more than 600 years is noteworthy, but when it revolutionised Tuscany’s wine industry in the 1980s and 1990s, its place in history books is assured. The Marchese’s near 50-year tenure at Antinori has created Italian wine legends such as Tignanello and Solaia; recent projects in Hungary and Romania have shone a light on darker corners of European wine.

Last year saw the launch of Tenuta di Biserno, a joint venture with brother Lodovico.

36 - Ghislain de Montgolfier (27)


President, Union des Maisons de Champagne; 68

When this great-great-grandson of Jacques Bollinger took up the UMC presidency in 2008, he was viewed by a few as a compromise candidate — less likely to ruffle feathers than Bruno Paillard or Paul-François Vranken.

But de Montgolfier’s charm, calm and inner steel have made him adept at dealing with challenges including the economic downturn, Champagne production levels and internal spats at growers’ union the SGV. He views the future expansion of the appellation as a long-term process untainted by short-term economic volatility.

37 - Denis Dubourdieu (30)


Consultant winemaker and professor, University of Oenology, Bordeaux; 60

The godfather of Bordeaux’s white wine revolution could be as feted for his soundbites as his knack with yeasts. He once likened winemaking without fining and filtering to landing a jet aircraft without air traffic control, and said of the potential pitfalls of micro-oxygenation: ‘It isn’t necessarily sensible to make up a girl of 12 as if she were 18.

His high-profile red wine clients include Cheval Blanc and Haut Bailly, and his work to rebuild the reputation of Château-Grillet in the Northern Rhône helped persuade Latour owner François- Henri Pinault to buy the property earlier this year.

38 - Eric LeVine (—)


Founder, CellarTracker; 41

Ex-Microsoft executive LeVine’s CellarTracker website embodies the way the internet is democratising wine and wine criticism, linking nearly 140,000 collectors and 23.4m bottles, along with 1.8m consumer wine reviews. The site, offering inventory management and value tracking among other features, started life as a replacement for LeVine’s own Excel spreadsheet in 2003 before friends persuaded him to share.

A year later, CellarTracker went live, and it now partners with sites such as’s Purple Pages and Allen Meadows’ LeVine maintains he has never encountered such a ‘visceral’ reaction to a piece of software in his professional life.

39 - Gary Boom (37)


Managing Director, Bordeaux Index; 52

Boom was a wine enthusiast frustrated by poor merchant service when he set up Bordeaux Index in 1997. Today it turns over £150—£175m a year. Significantly, the Hong Kong office generates half of this. While rival Farr Vintners shifts more Bordeaux, BI has a more diversified business, selling Krug and Dom Pérignon Champagne, and moving into events, education and tastings.

There’s also a customer reserve, a wine tours service, an online fine-wine trading platform — LiveTrade, with firm bid and offer prices — while it is set to launch a new investment fund, First Growth Wine Fund.

40 - Allen Meadows (46)


Writer/publisher,; 57

A financial executive for 25 years, Meadows retired in 1999 to pursue a career devoted to his beloved Burgundy. The acclaimed was the result, offering an extensive quarterly review (and exhaustive database) of the great wines of Burgundy, then Pinots from California and Oregon, plus Champagne. Meadows has subscribers in more than 50 countries, and is one of the most respected commentators on Burgundy today.

He recently published arguably the most complete exposition on Vosne-Romanée ever written, The Pearl of the Côte: The Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée, which has been sold in more than 55 countries.

41 - Mathieu Chadronnier (—)


Managing Director, CVBG Group; 33

If anyone was born to their role in the wine industry, it is Mathieu Chadronnier, son of Jean- Marie Chadronnier, former president of long- established Bordeaux négociant CVBG-Dourthe. A keen devotee of new technology, he was appointed to head CVBG’s Grands Crus division at the eyebrow- raisingly young age of 23, moving to group MD in 2007, when his father stepped down following the company sale to the Thiénot Group.

Now he oversees a group that turned over an impressive €118m in 2010, 63% of it coming from more than 85 international markets. Expansion into Asia is a key component of recent growth, notably through the company’s relationship with its influential agent for Hong Kong and China, Summergate.

42 - Michael Hill Smith MW (38)


Co-owner, Shaw + Smith; 56

A family buyout of Yalumba enabled Hill Smith to move to London and become the first Australian Master of Wine. The money he received from the buyout also funded the establishment of Shaw + Smith with first cousin Martin Shaw. Since then, the winery has become a reference for characterful, cool-climate Adelaide Hills wines, and Hill Smith a lauded ambassador for Australian wine in general.

This Cordon Bleu-trained chef, wine judge, writer and restaurateur is a staunch advocate of Australia’s regionality agenda, set in the context of promoting fine wine over big-box brands.

43 - Serena Sutcliffe MW (—)


Head, Sotheby’s international wine department; 66

Owner of one of the industry’s most coveted address books,  Serena Sutcliffe MW has contacts at the highest level, especially in Bordeaux, where she last year negotiated the record-breaking Sotheby’s Asia sale of Lafite direct from the château’s cellars. The revenues of US$8.4m illustrated not only the premium commanded by wines of such provenance, but also the growing importance of Asia on the auction scene.

As head of Sotheby’s international wine department, overseeing sales in London, Hong Kong and New York, Sutcliffe was instrumental in more than doubling its sales in 2010, to $88.27m.

44 - Pierre-Marie Guillaume (—)


CEO, Pépinières Guillaume; 55

The nurseryman is a great unsung hero of the wine world — and few can rival Guillaume and his family business for the breadth and calibre of his clients. Pépinières Guillaume sells about 10m plants a year to a roster of wine estates including DRC, Leroy, Roederer, Clicquot, Margaux, Mouton, Dagueneau, Cono Sur, Clos du Bois, Antinori and Vega Sicilia.

Expert on vine selection and health, his work is painstaking and long-term: witness the 10-year project to identify just six top-performing clones of Sangiovese in Chianti Classico and Montalcino for Antinori in the 1980s and ’90s.

45 - Nicolas Joly (—)


Biodynamic winemaker; 65

Still the most celebrated champion of biodynamism, Joly is, depending on your view, a visionary or a lunatic. His reputation has enjoyed a resurgence with the current trend for natural wines —  and he remains staunchly, defiantly opinionated and scathing in his comments about those who refuse to believe his creed. So wine consultants are accused of ‘killing’ appellations through the uniformity of their work and their espousal of chemical treatments.

Amid all the noise, it’s easy to forget that it’s now more than 25 years since Joly converted his entire Savennières vineyard in the Loire to biodynamism in 1984. (see interview, p52)

46 - Frédéric Rouzaud (48)

MD, Champagne Louis Roederer; 43

The atmosphere of serenity at Roederer may have been rudely interrupted by the economic downturn, but the consequent decline in sales of Louis Roederer and Cristal earned a philosophical reaction from Rouzaud, who said it gave the company a chance to ‘give our wines a little extra bottle age’. He makes no secret of the fact that he would like to make further acquisitions — of the right properties, at the right price — to add to a roster of wine estates including Deutz, Châteaux Pichon-Lalande, de Pez and Haut-Beauséjour, Delas Frères, Portugal’s Ramos Pinto and California’s Roederer Estate.

47 - Nicholas Catena (39)


Owner, Catena Zapata; 70

Old world countries tend to mingle the two extremes of winemaking — Lafite and Sassicaia at one end, cheap vin de table and vino da tavola at the other — but, for a long time, Argentina pretty much only made plonk. If one man has been the architect of the country’s transformation over the past few decades, it is Catena.

Inspired by a visit to Mondavi in 1982, he has gone on to prove what Argentina is capable of, planting at 1,440m in the Uco Valley and encouraging a host of others to follow suit, from Argentina and beyond.

48 - Yasuhisa Hirose (45)

CEO, Enoteca; 61

More than 20 years after opening the first Enoteca shop in Tokyo, Hirose has overseen the business’s expansion into Hong Kong (three stores to date) and Singapore. The move is a reflection of the shift of power in the Asian fine wine market: Enoteca’s sales volumes increased 20% in 2009, but value slumped by the same amount, thanks to Japan’s economic woes and a collapse in the market for fine Champagne. Enoteca has 40 stores, including several under the Les Caves Taillevent banner, run jointly with the Taillevent restaurant in Paris.

49 - Pedro Parra (—)


Soil expert; 41

Born in Chile and educated in France, Parra has returned to his homeland with a passionate belief in how soil can shape great wine and, in the process, has transformed the thinking of many of its leading producers, working with the likes of Montes, Casa Lapostolle, Concha y Toro, Errazuriz, Matetic and others.

Today he spends much of his time working in other countries, including Argentina (Zuccardi, Chakana, Finca Flichman), Sonoma in California, and Italy (Poggiotondo in Tuscany). Personal projects include Burgundy-style Aristos and Clos des Fous — low-alcohol wines from Chile.

50 - Lorenzo Bencistà-Falorni (—)

President, Enomatic; 65

It’s been around for nearly a decade, but the Enomatic system of preserving and serving wine for up to 30 days has witnessed phenomenal growth as it is adopted in more bars and retailers across the globe, giving wine lovers the chance to try small samples of wines often beyond their financial reach. Founded in 2002 by Italian winemakers and automation engineers, the Baldini family-owned business is the world leader, with distributors in 70 countries.

Ones to watch:

Ryan Anderson Opaz co-founder,,, European Wine Bloggers Conference. The new breed of blogger
Eric Asimov chief wine critic, New York Times. The thinking man’s successor to Parker power?
Bill Foley founder, Foley Wine Group, Foley Wine Estates and Foley Family Wines NZ. Hoovering up recession-hit California brands
Ian Harris CEO, Wine & Spirit Education Trust Spreading wine education further and wider
Debra Meiburg MW prolific writer, broadcaster and judge in Hong Kong. Spreading the wine word in Asia
Bruno Paillard chairman/CEO/director, Lanson; Champagnes Boizel, Chanoine Frères, Philipponnat, De Venoge; president, CIVC. Champagne powerhouse
Simon Tam head of wine, Christie’s China; Bringing Chinese tasting notes to Asian auctions


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