Bob Campbell ONZM MW

  • Bob Campbell ONZM MW was the second New Zealander and is one of over 350 people in the world to hold the Master of Wine qualification. He founded The Wine Gallery, an Auckland based wine school, in 1990 and is widely regarded as the New Zealand’s foremost wine educator. Over 22,000 people have attended wine courses and wine seminars run by Bob throughout New Zealand and in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and London. He currently teaches the New Zealand Level Two Wine Certificate in China and Hong Kong in association with NZ Winegrowers.

    In addition to wine education Bob makes a living from wine writing and as a public speaker. He is New Zealand editor for Gourmet Traveller Wine, and is wine editor for Taste magazine, and the Air NZ In-Flight magazine “Kia Ora”. Bob was author of The New Zealand Wine Annual (1989-2001), co-author of Cuisine Wine Country 2003 and writes for the UK-based magazine, Decanter as well as Tasting Kitchen in Hong Kong and Wine Press in China. He has contributed to The Oxford Companion of Wine, Sainsbury’s Pocket Wine Guide, the Companion to Wine, The Wine Report by Tom Stevenson, Clarke & Spurrier’s Fine Wine Guide, and The Slow Food Wine Guide (Italy).

    Bob was awarded the title Columnist of the Year (Home & Food section) at the Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) Awards in 2006 and Columnist of the Year (Home & Food Section) again in 2008. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir George Fistonich medal in recognition for services to wine and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Bob served as chairman of judges at the NZ Wine Society Royal Easter Wine Show for 21 years and is currently chairman of judges at the NZ International Wine Show and chairman of the New Zealand section of the London-based Decanter World Wine Awards. He has been a senior judge at the National Australia Wine Show, co-chairman of judges at the International Wine Challenge in London and has judged extensively in Australia as well as England, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, China, Slovenia, the US and France. Bob was founding secretary of Hawkes Bay Vintners, president of Winemakers of West Auckland and president of the Rangitoto Beefsteak and Burgundy Club. Bob began his career in the wine industry when he joined Montana Wines as an accountant in 1973, the same year he became an Associate Chartered Accountant, and worked as a marketing, export and company manager for several winemakers before starting his own business in 1986.

    Bob was most recently honoured as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2019 for his services to the New Zealand wine industry.

  • In an ideal world I would try every wine twice; the first time blind and a second time with the label revealed. Sadly it is not an ideal world and there are simply too many wines for me to be able to indulge that ideal approach.

    For many years I only tasted wines blind but that excluded me from recording tasting notes when I visited wineries, attended winery trade days and joined many exciting private tastings. I next began to taste some wines blind and others not blind but tagged each tasting note accordingly so that I could measure any bias. After a few years I became satisfied that there was no consistent difference between wines tasted blind or with the label revealed and stopped tagging them. I still favour blind tasting but also have some respect for the claim that when wine is tasted with its identity revealed it is able to be tasted in context.

    Inevitably I taste many wines two or more times. That allows me to conduct an audit on my tasting consistency both in scores and description. Consistency is very important. When I cease to be consistent it’s time to hang up my tastevin.

    There is no absolute in wine scoring. A wine might receive a gold medal award from a generous critic while another critic may give the same wine a silver and a wine competition a bronze. Who’s right? As long as the critics and wine competitions apply their judging standards consistently they are all right in my view. Consistency is the key.

    In an effort to judge consistently I try to do the bulk of my wine tasting before midday and limit the number of wines to less than 25, usually of the same type, region and vintage if I can manage it. I use the same Riedel tasting glasses and sit in the same tasting room which I try to heat or cool to a consistent temperature.

    I often enjoy the best, most interesting or perhaps most controversial wines over dinner where I enjoy the luxury of tasting them with food and discussing their merits with family and friends. Occasionally I feel that my tasting score has been too tough or too generous but restrain from changing the score even if I believe I have made a mistake. It’s important to have a level playing field.

    I try to apply objective quality criteria when I judge wine. In fact I approach each wine in pretty much the same way – considering colour, aroma intensity and characteristics, texture, length etc. Because I consider these criteria in pretty much the same order every time that determines the flow of my tasting note – colour first and length, or perhaps a comment on cellaring potential, last. I tend to write with greater enthusiasm, and at greater length, when reviewing wines that I like very much.

    When I first began to rate wines I, like everyone else in those days, used the 20-point system. I later changed to the 100-point system by multiplying my scores by five. In order to sync with the slightly different 100-point scale used by Gourmet Traveller Wine I set up a mathematical conversion on my database which translates my score into theirs. I use the same “Parker-type” 100-point scale here.

    I have never awarded a wine 100 points despite having been labelled a “points miser” for not having done so. My argument for avoiding 100 points was that no wine can possibly be perfect although I now think that stance is a little pedantic and plan to use the full 95-100 point scale in order to differentiate quality levels of great wines.

    At the other end of the scale I don’t attempt to record a scale of badness. 84 points is my default score for wines that don’t make the cut. I have deliberately avoided featuring those wines on my website to reduce the risk of litigation by disgruntled winemakers. Under this new website these wines will receive a “Not Rated” (NR) tag.

    I never review wines that have not been commercially bottled – they are “work in progress” and there is no guarantee that they will taste the same when they are finally bottled.