Given his vocation as a "wine writer", one might expect Neal Martin to recall sepia-tinged memories in the family library, when his aristocratic father would offer his eldest son a sip of Yquem or Latour. Alas his childhood chalice was never filled with wine and in fact, until his mid-20's never drank fermented grape juice. Alcohol consisted of cheap cider and Sunday roasts accompanied by boxes of Liebfraumilch or for special occasions, the ubiquitous Matéus Rose, a tradition upheld today despite his best efforts.
He was born the eldest of four sons on 12th February 1971, an under-rated vintage, and enjoyed an uneventful but enjoyable childhood in sunny, coastal Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, a place of mudflats, cockle sheds, tacky nightclubs and trenchant Conservatism.
He attended Westcliff High School for Boys, a grammar school that instilled traditional values of Conservatism and conservatism and kept their students segregated from the adjacent Girls' School in case they were deflowered with lascivious thoughts. Puberty brought acne and a passion for music that remains undimmed, as evinced by the antique vinyl twelve-inches stockpiled in his spare room. An erstwhile DJ with an eclectic but impeccable taste, he refuses to accede to middle age and maintains a burning desire for new music. In 1989 he left for Warwick University and spent two-years living in Coventry, a town devastated by new buildings after the Second World War. Inebriated days were whiled away drinking ruby port and Blue Bols, sometimes on the same evening and despite failing his first year, he graduated with a useless 2:1 degree in Management Science.
Having feigned working for Lloyds for a couple of years he subsequently worked as an English teacher in Tokyo for twelve months. Returning to England and whilst on probation for what can only be described as "the most boring insurance job in the world", an opportunity arose within a Japanese export company where he would be responsible for the wine. How could he refuse?
Lo and behold he inadvertently found himself procuring an inordinate quantity of unheard of wines such as "Latour" and "Petrus" without the foggiest what the hell he was doing. Enrolling for a WSET certificate at Battersea College, those first dozen tutorials lit the touch paper for his passion. Epiphany took the form of a glass of Chateau Montrose 1982 and his eyes and olfactory senses were duly opened and never closed. Still savoring that Saint Estèphe he wrote a perfunctory tasting note as a memento of the occasion and unwittingly germinated the seed of his career. Four years later he passed the WSET Diploma, had traveled regularly to European wine regions and visited nearly all the major chateaux in Bordeaux several times; all the time recording notes for no reason except to assuage his archivist nature.
Bored one rainy Monday afternoon, he began writing an independent website, wine-journal.com in June 2003 that somehow ended up with over
100,000 readers and three years later, his penmanship was requested by the most influential wine critic in the world, Robert Parker. Since joining The Wine Advocate in 2006, as well as continuing Wine-Journal with a strong Bordeaux bias, he has covered several countries for TWA published both in the print edition and online. His current remit includes: Bordeaux (with Robert Parker), Burgundy, Oregon, South Africa, Madeira and Tokaji, as well as contributing chapters for Parker's 7th Wine Buyers Guide. If that was not enough, in his spare time he self-published the seminal tome on www.pomerolbook.com Pomerol in 2012, which won both the Louis Roederer and Andre Simon awards the following year.
He presently lives in Guildford, England with his wife Tomoko, herself a gifted taster, and daughters Lily and Daisy, and one goldfish.
— Neal Martin