1. You hail from Indiana which isn't well known wine country. What sparked your interest in wine?
The wine bug bit me in college when I worked and travelled through Europe. That experience sparked my interest in both wine and French culture. After college, I worked for Lockheed Martin in upstate New York where I found plenty of good wine stores to explore. I still remember hiding 30 dollars a week from my wife so I could buy a new and different bottle of wine every weekend. Luckily, she didn't hold it against me!
2. You trained as an aerospace engineer. Has that had any bearing on your subsequent career?
Once an engineer, always an engineer... I still have a whiteboard in my office! The process oriented thinking required by engineering is a huge help when covering lots of regions and producers, as well as tasting and publishing 8,000+ reviews a year.
In addition, the engineer in me keeps my wine prose crisp and to the point; I find the rambling and pompous prose of today's 'wine writers' annoying as hell and of very little value. I'm more technical-minded, and focus on informing wine consumers as opposed to entertaining them. My aim is to deliver what the consumer really needs to know about the wine quality and price before spending their hard-earned money.
3. How did you attain your role as the Wine Advocate's correspondent on the Rhône?
Roughly 10 years ago, while still working at Ball Aerospace, I started a publication called The Rhône Report which was focused on Rhône varieties from around the world. I moved the publication to a subscription-based model in 2011 and found that my wine reviews resonated with a lot of folks who subscribed. Then early in 2013 I got an email from Robert Parker, whom I've always respected, asking me if I'd like to work with him. I've worked full-time reviewing wines since then.
4. You also review the wines of Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Washington State and Central California. Which area involves the most time tasting and do you have a favourite?
France takes most of my time but I honestly enjoy all the regions I cover. Frankly, I feel lucky to have the ability and opportunity to review wines from so many different regions and made in different styles. My annual Southern Rhône trip is unquestionably the most grueling, mainly due to the number of wines required to review. Over the course of two weeks (or so) I taste anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 wines.
5. Did you have a formative wine tasting experience that stopped you in your tracks?
6. Do you have any concerns that improvements in wine making and the number of wines reviewed have made a 100 point marking scale too restrictive?
Not at all. I think improvements in wine making have made choosing wine less risky for the consumer. That said, the role of a wine critic hasn't changed. My goal remains to taste as many wines as possible from a given region, accurately describe the vintage characteristics, and provide as much objective guidance and information to subscribers so they get the biggest bang for their wine buck.
7. What wines feature most in the Dunnuck cave personelle?
I'm a Francophile, so it should be no surprise that 75% of my cellar is French, mostly from the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux. The rest is primarily California and Washington. However, if I didn't have nearby friends with deep cellars of Nebbiolo, I'd have a lot more Barolo and Barbaresco in my cellar!
8. Are there any wine styles or grapes you just don't get on with?
Orange wines... old no-sulphur bottlings... green, bitter, so-called intellectual wines. No thanks!
9. Can you tell us an interesting food and wine match from your travels?
Not really. I live by the rule that good wine goes with anything. I also never overthink or obsess about food and wine pairings – I just make sure I'm drinking wine I like!
10. What advice would you give to a college leaver hoping to follow in your footsteps and pursue a career in wine journalism?
Work hard and add value... or skip it and just go into engineering.
Twitter & Instagram: @jebdunnuck