Wine Critic for The Wine Advocate
Last year, America’s premier wine critic, Robert Parker, announced to the wine industry that after more than 30 years he was passing the baton of critiquing California wines to MIT Sloan’s own Antonio Galloni.
One might wonder how one would inherit such an important responsibility from one of the most-respected wine critics in the world. Well, it never would have happened if Galloni had not attended MIT Sloan.
Just before attending MIT Sloan, Antonio Galloni spent three years living in Milan, Italy. Although he was there on an expatriate assignment with Putnam Investments, his indelible passion for wine gave him the perfect excuse to explore Italy’s famous winemaking regions.
During his time in Italy he began to comprehend the ”vastness” of Italian wine, discovered Italian wines unknown in the United States, and better appreciated his family’s homeland.
But, once Galloni left Italy and enrolled at MIT Sloan, he was quickly frustrated with the quality of information available about Italian wine in the United States. So, the wine aficionado launched his own newsletter, The Piedmont Report, focusing on wines from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy.
Publishing the newsletter while at MIT Sloan gave the new graduate student the ideal opportunity to test in the real-world the concepts studied in the classroom: strategy, pricing, and marketing.
The newsletter quickly became successful and it ultimately garnered a readership of more than 1,000 subscribers in 25 countries.
“Within weeks I had readers all over the world. Soon Piedmont Report was being quoted across the industry and became the reference point for information on those wines,” said Galloni, whose passion for wine began when he worked in his parents’ wine shop while growing up in the United States.
To better understand the options of incorporating his burgeoning venture, he sat in on Professor Joe Hadzima’s business class and afterwards struck up a conversation with him. Hadzima referred him to Mark Braunstein, SB ’69, who was running the website for Parker at The Wine Advocate—considered the de facto authority on wine critique.
“The rest is history,” said Galloni, who stopped publishing his own newsletter and joined Parker’s staff as an Italian wine reviewer in 2006. “Life can be so random. If I hadn’t attended that class, which I wasn’t enrolled in, and if I hadn’t introduced myself to Joe, who knows how things might have turned out?”
Parker has done more than any other critic to elevate California wine since he began reviewing in 1978. Some describe him as the most influential wine critic in the world. A high rating on Parker’s 100-point scale in The Wine Advocate—with a readership of 50,000—can easily rocket wine sales from Napa Valley.
Considered one of the most talented English-speaking wine critics in America, Galloni is today humbled by the ultimate compliment of taking over Parker’s influential position of critiquing California wines. Parker continues to review French wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.
“I am sure Bob thought very carefully about who would be the best person to inherit that legacy. Our shared goal is to take the Advocate’s coverage of California wine, but all wine more broadly, to another level,” said Galloni, who hopes to expand readership to younger people and inspire the next generation of wine writers.
When travelling to wineries in the United States and Europe, Galloni may taste as many as 100 to 150 different wines in a single day. “Some wines with less structure and tannin like Pinot Noir are easier to taste, while others like Nebbiolo or Cabernet Sauvignon that are bigger and richer can be more challenging,” he said.
“I take frequent breaks, drink a lot of water and rarely, if ever, go out at night when I am on the road. Tasting that number of wines requires some conditioning, but it is not unlike sports. It’s just a matter of discipline and practice.”
Today, Galloni looks back to MIT Sloan as the place where he studied hard in the classroom and then applied what he learned so that his newsletter could grow into a successful publication.
“I always knew that if I would be successful at Sloan, I could do anything. Most importantly of all, though, my friends pushed me incessantly to follow my dreams,” he said. “They all knew wine was my passion and they inspired me to go in that direction rather than pursue a more conventional corporate career.”