I recently had a chance to sit down with London based fine wine market company, Liv-ex , to talk about a number of issues including 2018 Bordeaux, the future of wine criticism, score inflation, and a host of other questions. I’ve included a handful of the interview questions below but you can read the full interview at https://www.liv-ex.com/2019/05/liv-ex-interview-jeb-dunnuck-aerospace-engineering-wine-criticism/
Jeb Dunnuck is an American wine critic, specialising in the wines from the Rhone Valley, Southern France, Bordeaux, Washington and California. He established the Rhone Report in 2008, joined The Wine Advocate in 2013 and left the publication in 2017 to start his own website JebDunnuck.com, which provides in-depth wine reviews and commentary. Having recently published his verdict on Bordeaux 2018, Dunnuck kindly set some time aside to share his thoughts with Liv-ex. In the interview below, he talks about the vintage, the future of wine criticism and his career.
How did you get interested in wine?
As part of a college program, I worked abroad in 1996, selling clothes in Whiteleys department store in London, and traveled through France while I was there. That was the start of my love of France, but I didn’t dive into wine until just after college, when I worked for Lockheed Martin in upstate New York. I had access to a multitude of good wine shops, and I still remember hiding $20-$30 a week from my wife so I could buy a different bottle every week. Some of the first wines I bought were 1990 and 1996 Bordeaux. When I moved to Colorado in 2000, I belonged to several great tasting groups and pretty much monopolized our family vacations to visit wine regions. I also took a part-time job at Applejacks Wine & Spirits in Denver, in the evenings and on weekends, just to learn a new side of the business.
It wasn’t until 2008 that I created the TheRhoneReport.com and started writing professionally about wine. I would work during the day at Ball Aerospace, then write for The Rhone Report from about 8pm to 2am. I did that for five years. The website was open to the public for the first three years before moving to a subscription-based model. The site continued to grow and gain traction, and then sometime late in 2012 or early in 2013, I received an email from Robert Parker asking me to work for him. It was at that point that I left Aerospace and went full-time into wine.
What region(s) are exciting you most at the moment and why?
The wine world is always changing, and you can find exciting things in numerous regions today. Bordeaux has had an influx of new owners, new directors, and people with incredible passion and talent, not to mention a string of great vintages. Napa, like Bordeaux, has a similar laser focus on quality, with almost unlimited funds to pursue it as well. The number of brilliant wines coming from Napa is truly shocking. The Rhône Valley hit home runs with 2015 and 2016, with 2015 being one of the best for the Northern Rhône and 2016 being in the same league for the Southern Rhône. You see a similar level of passion and focus on quality in both regions today. I think the Southern Rhône is making some of their finest wines ever, and while there were just a handful of collectible domains in the past, that number has soared today. Washington State, which is too often overlooked, has had an incredible surge in talent and is making world-class Bordeaux blends and Syrahs today as well.
What would you consider to be your greatest career achievement to date?
Being part of NASA’s Kepler mission (which was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, CO) from the very start, it was great to see that mission be so successful, rewriting science books and completely changing our understanding of our place in the universe, so that ranks pretty high.
From a wine standpoint, I’m proud that I was able to create a company like the Rhone Report from scratch, and have it take off the way it did. In the same mold, JebDunnuck.com has been more successful than I ever dreamed, so I’m proud to have created two separate, successful companies that help consumers find wines they like.
What are your plans for the future?
Keep doing what I’m doing. It’s important to realise that JebDunnuck.com is less than two years old, yet even in that short period, we’ve had incredible success. We’re continually updating and adding functionality to the website, adding to the database, and we have no plans to rest on our laurels.
Read the full interview at https://www.liv-ex.com/2019/05/liv-ex-interview-jeb-dunnuck-aerospace-engineering-wine-criticism/