The Up Close with… series is a collection of inspirational talks by leading thinkers and experts in the world of art, design, music, travel, and more held at the Sky Lounge at The Upper House. At a talk earlier this week, famed wine critic Jancis Robinson shared her thoughts on the current state of the wine industry, insights on her career, and what it’s like to advise on the Queen’s wine list.

Jancis Robinson was the first person outside of the wine industry to pass the Master of Wine exam in 1984. She also wrote The World Atlas of Wine with British author and wine expert Hugh Johnson. These days, she’s busy with her weekly contributor to the Financial Times and running her own website –

In the early 1980s, the wine industry was relatively new, so there were no English textbooks on wine.  Robinson studied French textbooks and a winemaking television series to pass her MS examination. She commented that the world of wine was much narrower back then and that wines tasted how you would expect them to taste. At the time, different styles of wine were made following the same model.

Today, the world of wine has a lot more communication. Social media has helped different publications attract more attention and increase their readership. France, as an example of a leading winemaker, used to keep their wine production exclusively French, but today, every French wine producer starting out will stage somewhere outside Europe. Everyone is sharing information and the world of wine has gotten a lot bigger.

While Robinson has already written a long article about her experience working with the Queen of England, she happily recounts a few memories. Every time she walks through Buckingham Palace she gets “a childish thrill of pushing through the crowds and into the gates to walk through the gravel.” Entry into the palace is followed by a tasting that is described as “relatively normal except there are tons of footmen around.”

After asking for advice on what bottle one should bring to a dinner party, Robinson suggests a good bottle of olive oil. But Champagne is the crowd pleaser – she recommends that nobody would object to a bottle of Cristal or Dom Perignon Grand Cru.


Images Courtesy The Upper House

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