top of page
  • andychalk


Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Nerve center. This is where iconoclastic decisions about wine writers get taken
Nerve center. This is where iconoclastic decisions about wine writers get taken

by Andrew Chalk

It’s been a tough week. The “Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020” has just been released -- and I’m not in it. Should I be depressed? Is it time to leave the world earlier than He had planned for me (ironic, since I am usually late, and premature death would make me early at being late, if you see what I mean)? Should I sign up for one of Cameron Diaz’s ‘Clean Wine’ classes to bring my knowledge of the most critical new issues up to date? Maybe just a consultation with the people who made these awards would give me some tips on how to qualify next year -- if I make it that far?

Bloggers I know were so overcome with flatus at being included that they tooted their own horns about the event. ‘ was an honor to be named...with these amazing people’ gushed one on Facebook, another on Facebook noted that his blog was 14th!!! Another was ‘humbled’. One amped Corking Wines’ title up to 11, declaring his blog ranked “29th among Internet wine sites”. I guess that’s including publications, stores, and everything else. Well done sir.

Their Facebook followers went gaga, not knowing what the award actually meant (they assumed it was like a Pulitzer, or Nobel).

I checked the site where these awards originated. I expected to find it was some august professional body such as the globally respected Wine and Spirits Education Trust, or the Court of Master Sommeliers? If not, maybe a revered wine writer like Jancis Robinson, editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine, a kind of bible to wine aficionados the world over (although I didn’t think it had enough pictures). Or was it the product of a leading auction house? Maybe Christie’s?

It turned out that to be judged one of the “Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020” you didn’t have to expose yourself to any of these. In fact, you didn’t have to be a writer in a paying publication. The list was actually a list of wine bloggers (I guess ‘writers’ sounded better).

And the source of these judgments was not out of London, San Francisco, or Bordeaux, but York, England. YO26 4XU to the exact postal (zip) code. And the organisation making the awards was an off license (liquor) and convenience store, named Corking Wines, conveniently located near the station.

Now, York is a perfectly nice town. It has a charming old shopping center with some quaint streets called ‘The Shambles’, the National Railway Museum, where Stephenson’s Rocket, a 1929 steam locomotive that set new standards for rail transport, is on display, and lots of stunning Yorkshire countryside surrounding it. However, York is not New York, and Corking Wines is not in the rarefied heights of wine criticism. It is the perfectly nice wine (and convenience) store of David and Yvonne (they don’t use last names) who established it after working ‘many years in the corporate sector’.

Returning to their list, I am not surprised that I am not on it (I am nobody) but the order does raise some eyebrows. Notable authors, like Steve Heimoff, came below several bloggers who just started out in this business. I emailed Corking Wines at their intergalactic headquarters about the criteria they used, but did not get a reply. We don’t even know who chose these sites. Mr. Google?

A Nobel Laureate once opined on the recognition the prize conferred with the words (and I paraphrase) “the clapping of educated hands is so much more satisfying to hear”. Maybe the converse is also true. If you win the lottery just put it down to luck.



bottom of page