Rebecca Gibb has been a dedicated wine journalist for the past ten years or so, covering wine news and features for some of the world’s most famous publications.
As the Institute of Masters of Wines announced last week (on September 7th) a record-number of 19 newly graduated MWs, Rebecca had the pleasant surprise to see her name on the list and receive her new Master of Wine title. I caught up with her to learn more about where she comes from, what she’s been up to in the world of wine, and how she sees herself evolving with the new MW letters attached to her name.
British-born Rebecca Gibb MW graduated in History & Politics at the University of Warwick in England. She was awarded in 2006 the title of Young Wine Writer of the Year by the Circle of Wine Writers, and voted Emerging Young Wine Writer of the Year in 2010 by the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Award.
As either an Editor or a freelance journalist, she has delivered wine news to the world through number of famous paper and web publications including Decanter, Wine Business International, Imbibe, Food & Travel and Sommelier Journal and Wine-Searcher.com.
Based in New Zealand, Rebecca Gibb is now Deputy Editor (wine) of a new magazine headquartered in Hong Kong that covers fine wine, cuisine and lifestyle: LE PAN.
Through our Questions & Answers with Rebecca, meet with us the new and 340th Master of Wine in the world:
You grew up in North East England and studied history in a medieval town of the English countryside. Wine doesn’t exactly grow there, but your curiosity towards it apparently did. How did you get into wine?
It all started in a ski resort in Australia, actually. I had arranged an internship as a political lobbyist with KPMG in the City [of London] between university years but it fell through at the last minute. My sister was doing a season as a ski instructor in Victoria, Australia and suggested I go out to join her. So I did. I met Tennille and Kim Chalmers, and their grape-growing parents while I was there, and they piqued my interest, which I pursued when I returned to England by going on a WSET course.
I actually set out as an assistant to a wine merchant, selling wine to the lords and ladies of North Yorkshire, and thought I wanted to be winemaker. I did a vintage in Australia, and soon realized that being clumsy and not-at-all practically minded were not the traits of a good winemaker! I realized what I was actually good at was research and writing and after returning to England, entered the young wine writer of the year and won. I then got work experience with Harpers magazine and was offered a (paid!) job within a week. The rest is history.
You’ve written for many of the main international publications over the past decade. Is there a particular event, moment or period in that part of the recent wine ‘history’ you remember yourself thinking: ‘this is really going to change the face of the wine world for the years if not decades to come’?
I’m only 34 – give me a bit more time! I’ve been fortunate to be able to pay my mortgage writing about wine for the past nine years. Now that I’ve managed to establish myself as a Master of Wine and experienced wine journalist, I hope that I can work on something seminal. Long term, I have a vision to further the existing body of knowledge and would ideally like to write popular wine history books in a Bill Bryson style. My MW research paper on the 1911 Champagne riots was a step toward that goal.
How long have you been living in New Zealand now, and what brought you here?
My husband is a New Zealander and we set sail for the southern hemisphere more than five years ago. I only intended to be here for two years…a mortgage, marriage and a child later…
Do you think it’s harder to pass the Master of Wine exam being based in New Zealand rather than Europe or the United States?
It’s no harder but it’s more challenging being at the end of the world in terms of sourcing the wines you need and having a mass of other students to study with.
After quite a few years as a NZ-based wine journalist, you would have tasted pretty much all wines produced around the country, at least in one vintage. Which Kiwi wines (regions, grapes, price categories) do you think have the best potential to make the headlines on the international scene?
Sauvignon Blanc has obviously put New Zealand on the white-wine map, with its idiosyncratic style while Pinot Noir has become New Zealand’s signature red variety. There are good reasons for that but I’m personally most excited by New Zealand Syrah. There is no other place in the world that makes Syrah like New Zealand – it sits in a happy place between the northern Rhone and Australia, offering both cool climate spice and savoriness, and ripe black fruit. There are many other wine critics who have applauded New Zealand Syrah but it’s such a difficult sell that plantings have fallen in recent years. That makes me sad.
We don’t seem to know much about the LE PAN Magazine project, except that it’s new and seems rather ambitious. Can you tell us more about it and what the objectives and expectations are for the wine section?
LE PAN is a beautiful magazine project based in Hong Kong, mixing lifestyle content with wine. It’s published in both English and simplified Chinese and aims to bring new and expert content to the reader that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else – if it’s on wiki, it’s not in LE PAN!
Most Masters of Wine seem to find a specialty for themselves, a particular area of expertise and influence in the diverse world of wine. Do you know which one you would like yours to be now that you can attach the MW letters to your name?
Yes, as I said earlier, I’d eventually like to focus on wine history, as well as maintaining my New Zealand specialism. I’d also like to add a classic French region to my areas of expertise – perhaps the Rhone or Burgundy – in the coming decade. For the time being, I’m enjoying writing for and editing LE PAN, with a great team.
And finally, which wine would you hedonistically drink on a night you’re not working?
Isn’t all wine hedonistic? As I’ve just championed New Zealand Syrah, I had better choose that. My favorite Syrah producers include Man O’War on Waiheke Island and Hawke’s Bay producers like Elephant Hill, Sacred Hill, Squawking Magpie, the list could go on… Otherwise, I am a massive Sherry nut. Nothing quite beats a chilled glass of Manzanilla anywhere, anytime. Yum!
Find out more about Rebecca Gibb MW on her website RebeccaGibb.com
Read all about the 19 new Masters of Wine titled in September 2015 with the Institute of Masters of Wine’s Press Release.