Michael Broadbent MW dies aged 92

One of the most famous names in the global wine trade, Michael Broadbent MW, has died aged 92.

The wine critic, writer and auctioneer died yesterday (17 March) at home. He was a towering and influential figure in the wine trade.

Born in Yorkshire in 1927 and with a real talent for drawing he originally trained as an architect before switching to the wine trade in 1952.

Starting at Layton’s he ended up at Harvey’s of Bristol in 1955 and received his Master of Wine qualification in 1960.

In 1966 he moved to auction house Christie’s where he pioneered fine wine sales at a time when none of the major auctioneers had a wine department and which also gave him access to an unprecedented range of old and rare wines including some dating back to the 17th century.

His time at Christie’s was, however, marred by an association with the late German collector and counterfeiter Hardy Rodenstock, which involved the sale of the infamous ‘Thomas Jefferson’ bottles. The saga was chronicled in the book ‘The Billionaire’s Vinegar’ which caused Michael to sue.

The author of many books, his The Great Vintage Wine Book (1980) was a compilation of more than 6,000 tasting notes (he made tens of thousands in his lifetime and was a religious note taker), while his seminal Wine Tasting (1968) was recently reprinted by the Academie du Vin Library Press. His works on wine appreciation and other vintage guides were considered standard texts for the wine industry and interested amateurs for decades.

Michael remained at Christie’s until 1992 as senior director of the wine department and remained a senior consultant until 2009.

Michael received a number of awards and accolades during his lifetime, including being appointed Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite in 1979 and made an honorary member of the Académie du Vin de Bordeaux.

He was also chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers’, president of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and chairman of The Benevolent. He also spoke and lectured widely on wine well into later life and was a monthly columnist for Decanter from 1977 to 2012.

He was married to Daphne Broadbent for many years, with whom he had two children, Bartholomew and Emma, before he became a widower in 2015.

in 2019, at the age of 91, he was married for a second time – to Valerie Smallwood, the widow of a fellow MW, Simon Smallwood.

Alan Montague-Dennis, director of prestige sales at UK agency Mentzendorff, said: “I think Michael’s love of daily rituals – a little glass of chilled Verdelho at 11am, a Buck’s Fizz to kick start the day, and the habitual Bloody Mary before lunch and dinner made him totally lovable.

“Not forgetting his wonderful sense of dress, his detailed eloquent and poetic tasting notes, his loves of hats and bicycling everywhere in London. I spoke to him in February and here assured me he wasn’t ill, just frustrated he was immobile.”

Generous with his cellar, his knowledge and his time, the outpouring of memories from writers and merchants today who looked up to him, is a testament to his stature and the respect, esteem and admiration in which he was held by aspiring and now flourishing generation.

11 Responses to “Michael Broadbent MW dies aged 92”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    A true legend and a real gentleman. Privileged to have worked with him. RIP Michael.

  2. Ron Emler says:

    The Master. Truly a gentleman, always willing to share his unrivalled knowledge with tact and patience. Irreplaceable

  3. His intimate works were the stormy introduction to my world of wine and his flowery descriptions have, however, made me feel certain that wine approaches cannot only be based on descriptions or scores. This input has had a decisive influence on my development of http://www.visual.wine, a harmony representation in pictorial form to get closer to the immanent code, the face of wine. With this I have given an adequate answer to the digital time. Thank you Michael.

  4. Robert Jones says:

    The wine business lost a titan and an icon…he will be remembered long after all of us are forgotten.

  5. Ulrike Ferres says:

    It was a very special moment for me when Michael Broadbent handed the WSET diploma certificate over to me in London’s Guildhall in January 2008. I will never forget that moment and fortunately a photo has been taken. He had a very special aura.
    RIP Mr. Broadbent

  6. Alexander Overdiep says:

    Full of dear memories, chats and tasting sessions at Christie’s auctions in Amsterdam

  7. Janet Trefethen says:

    When we had the earthquake in 2014, I will never forget the call I received from Michael to make sure we were all right. He was a terrific man and we cannot thank him enough for his contributions to wine. Janet Trefethen

  8. Allen Dale Olson says:

    Still refer to his tasting notes. Met him several times. Had the pleasure of introducing him to several wine producers in Alsace and to attend meetings he chaired for the International Wuine and Food Society. Full disclosure: I once shared a beer with him on a hot, sunny day near Strasbourg.

  9. James Elliot says:

    Witty, erudite and hugely respected.A lovely man and a giant of the trade.

  10. Dan Thompson says:

    Such a fine man – the world of wine is forever changed by his life. Condolences to Bartholomew, his son and prayers to all his family.

  11. Marcello Cancelli says:

    With Hugh Johnson, my first inspiration in the world of wine. A giant of our industry, an example of class and professionalism. Godspeed!

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