The Passing of Michael Broadbent MW and a Debt Owed
I can’t be sure how much it amounts to, but I know that I owe Michael Broadbent a debt.
The great Michael Broadbent MW has passed at the well-cellared age of 92. The man was an absolute giant in the international wine world. I’m not sure he can be replaced nor should he.
As one would expect, Jancis Robinson has penned the best obituary/remembrance of Mr. Broadbent. I recommend it.
As for my debt, it is directly related to Broadbent’s “The Great Vintage Wine Book”. My copy has the great man’s signature in it and for that reason alone, I’ll treasure it. I never met the man, despite having a chance or two. However, reading this long book of notes on wines one does get a sense for him. Broadbent’s “Great Vintage Wine Book” taught me at the beginning of my career how to think about wine, particularly well-aged wine. Its notes on wines reflect on bottlings that were ancient at the time as well as those that would have been young at the time of writing.
The vast majority of the book is devoted to the wines of France, with some German, Tokay, and Port threw in. My interest, however, was in the 9 pages Mr. Broadbent devoted to the wines of California. When I first read the book I was new to the wine industry and still learning where the quality guardrails had been set, how to talk and write about wine and even how to think about wine. So, reading his notes on the 1892 Inglenook Pinot Noir (“Beautiful colour, like old port, faded mahogany with amber brown rim….Tasted in Chicago in 1979”), the 1959 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon (“…a really lovely rich wine. Even the highlycritically tuned palate of Edmund Penning-Roswell could not fault it.—Tasted at a rather casual Wine Publications working lunch at Christie’s, July 1977”), or the 1947 Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (“Still incredibly deep for its age; very rich, very fine bouquet with the Napa burnt character and marvelous fruit…Will last for years.—Last tasted at Heublein’s, May 1977”) gave me the window into what was what concerning California wine history that few writing on wine at the time could offer. It was a windfall of knowledge for me.
I’ve gone back so many times to this book not so much for additional learning, but for pleasure. No one currently writing about wine composes notes like Mr. Broadbent. My copy of “The Great Vintage Wine Book” is soiled by happy use.
Michael was delivered all the honors available to him during his lifetime. They need not be recalled here. His presence has been with me my entire career not merely through that soiled book but his ongoing contribution to Decanter Magazine. As I think about it now, I can count on one hand and without using all its fingers the number of wine writers and communicators alive today who could be said to have been as great an influence as he.