“We would like to see more Bulgarian wines and continue to learn more about them”Christy Canterbury is among the few female professionals in the world, carrying the prestigious title Master of Wine. She manages to be a wine journalist, a jury, and a lecturer at the same time. Although she lives in New York City, it is more likely to see her at wine events all over the world.
We managed to steal a moment with her during the Balkans International Wine Competition 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria and talk to her about Bulgarian wines, the commitments of a Master of wine and her successful career.
This is your second year here at the BIWC, do you notice any major differences, compared to last year?
I think the judging process was incredibly well-managed this year. It certainly was last year as well but it went more quickly and more smoothly this year. I think that the judges were even better focused and more focused on the wines and not on the process of actually having to judge and grade wines.
You lectured a master class about your Selection of The Best from the Balkans. Can you give our readers a short overview of the best you noticed this year?
It’s always hard to pick the best because there’s so many. We would be here for hours. I’d like to add so many more. There was no sparkling wine, for example. That would have been wonderful to have been included. And many other types of dessert wines as well, and a few other whites. Certainly Romania makes a lot of white wine, for example, and some other countries. The wines that I chose were wines that I know well, that I have tasted many times and that I appreciate for a number of reasons. Particularly with regard to the red wines, I wanted to choose wines that had a little bit of age on them which shows the complexity that the wines can develop in the bottle over time.
How has having a Master of Wine title changed your life and career?
It has changed a lot. It has definitely changed a lot. It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears getting there but it was worth it. Right before I became a Master of Wine, I went independent. I have been a buyer for restaurants, restaurant groups and tiny retailers prior to that. And I love buying, I love the numbers aspect and also providing people with fantastic wines and sourcing them myself. It’s a lot of fun to be independent, to be able to travel around the globe, meeting all sorts of different people from different countries because the wine community is so warm and hospitable, and energized.
How does a Master of Wine go shopping for a bottle of wine off the job and what do you like to keep in your cellar?
My cellar is pretty diverse and I live in New York City, so I am very lucky to have a selection of a lot of wines from around the world. Our selection of Balkan wines is fairly small at this time. I have the Svb Rosa at home, I certainly have the Sigalas, that Assyrtico that was in my presentation. But how I shop for a bottle of wine is pretty random. Sometimes it is something that I have tasted before and I know, sometimes, especially if the bottle is inexpensive, I’ll just go and buy an array of things to see what I like and to discover new wines. Because I am always writing about wines, I need to constantly be discovering new things. I attend a lot of trade tastings in New York, in London, and elsewhere I don’t always get to try everything.
And is there any entertaining stereotype that you face when you go shopping for wine?
Yes, I have been told that I should like sweet wines because I’m a lady.
You have just recently been to the Istanbul Masters of Wine Weekend and afterwards you are going back to NYC, then Bordeaux, Milan, Seattle, Canada... What does it take to keep up with a schedule like that?
It takes a lot of energy for sure. It does take being extremely carefully organized; it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. Certainly journalists are known for being late and missing deadlines and that’s the last thing that I want to do. So I keep everything electronically organized on my wonderful iPhone and I constantly review my Calendar to make sure that everything is on track.
In previous interviews you have often discussed the importance of treating everyone well in the wine industry and it is an amazing piece of advice. How do you manage doing it yourself on a daily basis?
It’s usually pretty easy. The wine industry is full of so many great people. Sometimes you need to tiptoe, and be careful and politically correct, depending on what the issue may be. The most important thing for me is that everyone should have the opportunity to voice an opinion about wine and especially consumers as well, whether or not they know that much about wine, the fact that they enjoy wine means that the industry should be positive to them, to encourage them to continue to participate in a way.
…, therefore, humility is a key part of the job?
Yes. Well, there is also so much to learn about wine. You are never always going to be right, you will make mistakes and you are never going to know everything because things change so rapidly.
All of our readers are certainly looking forward to this question: what are your impressions about the Bulgarian market and Bulgarian wines in particular?
First of all, I would say that I would like to see more Bulgarian wines in my country. We don’t have that many. I see some occasionally when I am living in London. The U.S. is a country that makes a lot of small-production wines too, so [being small] is OK. We would just like to get some of them, please share with us. [I heard that] Wines of Bulgaria is looking in coming into the U.S., so I hope to see the wines there soon and for people to continue to learn more about Bulgarian wines there.
The MW had their first female graduate in 1970 and since then more and more women have become successful in the wine industry as a whole, including winemakers, journalists, etc. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in the wine industry?
I have an answer that I think not all women would agree with but I have never felt any sort of prejudice or any sort of glass ceiling. I am lucky, I live in New York City, I am also perhaps a little bit blind, maybe I am not seeing some of that that’s around me but I’ve never felt restricted or put into a box because I am a woman. I really feel that the wine industry is full of equal opportunities and certainly where I am coming from (I know that's not the case everywhere) is full of opportunities and as long as you are competent, gracious, and hardworking you’ll go a long way.
What advice would you give wine journalists, being a wine writer yourself, in order for them to be able to reach more people?
Take great notes, ask lots of questions when you take great notes, check the facts and just try to portray the joy of the wine industry in your writing.