Caroline Gilby Master of Wine. About Me

Who Am I?

A Master of Wine since 1992.  I abandoned life behind the microscope after a degree in Botany and a PhD in plant sciences. I joined Augustus Barnett as trainee wine buyer in 1988 and never looked back.

The Start to my Career in Wine

Seven years as Senior Wine Buyer for Augustus Barnett and the whole Bass Group gave me the chance to travel to vineyards all over the world.  I have bought wine from most countries that grow grapes, in parcels ranging from a few cases to over a hundred thousand cases, for wine shops, pubs and hotels.

The Freelance Life

In 1995 I left corporate life behind to start my own business as an independent consultant and freelance wine writer.

I provide consultancy on wine quality; brand development; benchmarking against competitive products; range selection; technical specifications; copy writing for websites, back labels, shelf talkers and brochures. Clients range from major international PLCs to small boutique wineries.



I am a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and I contribute as freelance writer to magazines including Decanter, Harpers, The Drinks Business, VinCE and Meiningers Wine Business International.  I also contribute to Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, The Wine Opus and other books including Oxford Companion to Wine and Wines of the world, and while it was still being published Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report. Websites I write for include http://www.divino.bg and http://www.wine-pages.com.

I judge regularly at international wine competitions including being appointed Panel Chair for Hungary at Decanter World Wine Awards in 2011 and have since added Slovenia, Romania and Czech Republic to my responsibilities. I’ve also judged recently at Pannon Bormustra in Hungary, Vinaria in Bulgaria, the biannual Georgian wine competition and the annual Cyprus wine competition and was appointed President of the Vinistra Wine competition in Croatia in 2014 and 2015.

I can offer wine talks and wine dinners to companies and wine societies. I have worked with WEI on a programme of trade seminars and consumer tastings on the New Face of Hungarian wine for Pannon Wine Guild in 2007 and 2008.  I also led a programme of seminars and tastings on the wines of Robert Mondavi on behalf of Constellation Europe in 2008.

I have lectured for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust at Diploma level on the global drinks market, UK wine market, wine tasting technique, vinification, wine handling and quality control. I also lectured  on the UK wine market for (2003 to 2011.) for OIV’s Master of Science in Wine Management.

I was a board director of the UK Wine Standards Board for 4 years until 2003, appointed by the Minster for Agriculture.This was a Non-Departmental Public Body responsible for supervision and enforcement of EU wine law in the UK, a function now held within the Food Standards Agency

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More About Moldova

Moldova Tastings London October 2018

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10 October 2018 found me in London to present the wines of seven Moldovan wineries on behalf of importer Novus B H Magister Wines. This is run by two Moldovan sisters who want to put wines from their home country back on the map. I am really passionate about Moldova, and feel it is so often overlooked, yet with 81,000 hectares of noble vines it is bigger than Bulgaria, Hungary and even New Zealand. It grows more vines per person than anywhere else on earth and so many here people depend on grapes for living, which is great motivation to get it right.  Moldova is a country very close to my heart and I wanted to tell the story of how its winemakers have reinvented themselves after brutal economic and political battles to emerge with a new generation of exciting wines.

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My first masterclass took a look at Moldova’s indigenous grapes or at least those indigenous to the region, given Moldova’s shared viticultural history with its bigger neighbour Romania. The small newcomer Poiana in the cool rolling hills of Codru was first with their fresh, apple blossom-scented, delicate crisp Feteasca Alba. This is a winery that believes in minimal intervention to protect their beautiful wooded environment. My second choice was Viorica  from Timbrus estate near Purcari, established as recently as 2013 by Spanish investors.  This is a truly local grape with exotic muscat-like aromas and zesty acidity, created in Moldova in 1960s.  The third wine was the Individo Feteasca/Riesling blend from Chateau Vartely. This  was the first private winery set up in 2004. Winemaker Arcadie Fosnea trained in Germany and brings precision and purity to his white wines, this blend combining the more textured Feteasca Regala with crisp Riesling. Moving onto reds, I began with Fautor’s Rara Neagra from its new Aurore range.  This is a grape that looks promising as Moldova’s red flagship – moderate in colour and tannins but capable of elegance when vinified well – as it is here by a mother-daughter team. Next I moved onto black cherry and violet toned Feteasca Neagră from the state-owned winery Cricova with its legendary underground cellars dating back to the 1950s. The winery has recently invested in its own vineyards and much improved winemaking.  I then moved on to blends, the first, the superb Negre from Fautor bringing together Rara Neagra and Feteasca Neagra.  The final wine was 5 Elemente from Equinox – a impressive blend of 5 varieties from Moldova’s pioneering first small private winery (organic as well). As owner Costia Stratan explained, it came about in 2010 when he had such a tiny crop he blended all his grapes together – he liked the results so much he kept the concept.

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My second session was to take a look at what Moldova can do with international grape varieties, possibly less intriguing to press and the trade, but important to benchmark what Moldova can do with grapes that consumers understand and are more likely to buy from a country they don’t know. This line-up began with a traditional method sparkling wine from Cricova. Most famous for its huge cellars (55 km) and famous wine collections, it’s been making sparkling wine in the cool limestone caves since the 1950s. These are hand-riddled by a team of women who hand the role on from mother to daughter. Then came the benchmark Pinot Gris from Salcuta, one of the first wineries to understand that investing in its own vineyards would stand them in good stead for the future.  Next came the unique and surprisingly delicious blend of Sauvignon and Albarino from Fautor – one of the  advantages of lack of regulation here is that wineries are free to experiment with their own blends. Chateau Vartely’s top Taraboste blend – based on sleek  barrel-fermented Chardonnay along with Pinot Gris and Sauvignon was another example of a very well-made blend. Poiana’s crunchy, red-fruited Cabernet Sauvignon rosé came next. Moving onto reds Saperavi may be of Georgian origin but it appears to really suit the growing conditions in Moldova, exemplified in Timbrus Estate’s bright, crushed berry version.  The line-up concluded with 310 Cabernet Sauvignon/Feteasca Neagra from Fautor, named for the  altitude of the vineyards which are some of Moldova’s highest. Here the touch of Feteasca Neagra added a unique local twist to the dark cassis Cabernet varietal character.

Moldova is a country that has undergone a complete revolution in its winemaking in the last dozen years or so. It will more than repay another look  at its wines, offering  both fascinating local grape varieties and very well made wines from international grapes too. And all offering excellent value for money. Noroc!

Read more in my book “The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova”

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The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova is released

IMG_20180713_125650_275My first (and only) book is now out in all the usual places.  You can also buy it from

https://www.vaskovino.co.uk/collections/all.

https://apollowine.com/?lang=en

and several other wineries

also here http://www.infideas.com/books/wines-bulgaria-romania-moldova/

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2018 Master of Wine Exam

This year’s papers have juts been published. Huge respect to anyone who passes.  Reckon I could have fair stab at getting through theory still. But I taste too much Eastern European wine to have time for knowing the classics in enough detail.

https://www.mastersofwine.org/filemanager/root/site_assets/documents/exam/2018_examination_questions_and_wines.pdf

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Decanter World Wine Awards 2018 – the results are out

Results for 2018 are now out with lots of exciting and positive results for Central, Eastern and Northern Europe plus the Caucasus and near East. Several other judges commented that my “patch” was the most exciting – we still get top producers entering, along with such a varied range of grapes and wine styles. Take a look at the nearly there silver medals too – still scoring over 90 points showing that these are world class wines too.  Worth remembering that in many wine competitions, especially  ones based on OIV rules 85 or 86 posts gets a gold medal whereas at Decanter it’s 95 points for gold.

UK results – Decanter World Wine Awards 2018

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Hungary’s Winemaker of Winemakers and Friend of the Winemakers Awards 2018

Janos Konyari (RIP) was a worthy winner of the 2018 Winemaker of Winemakers’ award in Hungary last week, though congratulations are also due to the other shortlisted winemakers, all superb winemakers in their right. More details here

 

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I was also hugely honoured to receive the Friend of Winemakers award for 2018.  Thank you to all who nominated  and voted for me, and  most importantly to all the producers who make the wines I get to write and talk about.

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The Wines Of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova

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Copy has now been submitted and publication date is 30th July!

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Hungary’s indigenous grapes

From a masterclass I led last week at SITT in London.

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http://www.harpers.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/23205/Plotting_the_indigenous_jewels_on_Hungary_92s_wine_map.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=e-mail&utm_campaign=Harpers%2Bnewsletter%2BIssue%2B293

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