Michael Broadbent had just released his Wine Tasting book. At the time, I was running the wine society of a rural British university and we invited him to speak and teach us how to taste (I still have my first copy of the book). He graciously accepted to come down, stayed for dinner, missed the last train back to London and ended up staying the night in a rather scruffy student cottage—all with the greatest of glee and good humor. He then put me on the mailing list for tastings at Christie’s in London; I managed to attend a few for a first taste of some fabulous, legendary bottles.
Born in Yorkshire in 1927, Michael trained as an architect. Then, after the interruption of national service at the end of the Second World War, his career took a turn into the London wine trade, landing at Harvey’s of Bristol. He went on to earn his Master of Wine credential in 1960 and, later, to start the Wine Department of Christie’s in 1966.
His role at Christie’s, and the books that he wrote while there, would make Michael Broadbent one of the most famous wine personalities in the world. More decorated, fêted and honored than any other wine person I know—thanks to his charm, good looks, precision and hard work—he also had a magnificent tasting ability. I was lucky when I was working at Seagram Château & Estates Wines in New York to attend one or two blind tastings of great Bordeaux in his presence. Michael’s judgements and inspired guesses (because blind tastings are just that) were always spot on. Towards the end of his career, he and Jancis Robinson would put together a group of tasters to tour the great domaines of Bordeaux during En Primeur week; as a very junior member, I was allowed to be part of the group. His pronouncements about the quality and aging potential of the wines was always so confident and lucid—as anyone who has ever tasted with Michael knows—that we all learned by his example. Whenever he visited his beloved Lafite, he was given a hero’s welcome.
Join Bartholomew Broadbent on Facebook this Saturday at 3 p.m. EST to raise a glass in a virtual toast to his father’s memory and the legacy he left behind. See the Facebook Event page for more details.
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