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Ed McCarthy: An Appreciation
By Michael Franz
May 15, 2024
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Our friend and long-time Wine Review Online contributor Ed McCarthy passed away on May 2, which we note with sadness and in profound sympathy with his wife, Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW, who has likewise been our friend and contributor since we launched this website in August of 2005.  Ed was a keenly intelligent man an insatiable thirst for learning, and also a generous person with a big heart who was always eager to share his learning with others.  He and Mary were a wonderful couple who achieved a great deal as collaborators while also distinguishing themselves as individuals at the highest level of accomplishment among all the wine writers and educators in a generation—or two.

Over Ed’s years of contributing to WRO, he addressed a wide range of regions and wine types in an informative and appreciative manner but also with some critical bite where it was deserved.  He led readers to the world’s best wines and values, but just as important, explained why excellent producers were achieving excellence—and why mediocre ones were falling short.

Ed’s writing was always been refreshingly straightforward.  For example, regarding practical matters such as how cold to chill top-shelf Champagne or how long to age fine Barolo before pulling a cork, Ed didn’t engage in much subjectivist hand-wringing.  His advice didn’t begin with clauses like, “Perhaps you could try this...” or “Some people report good results from such and such.”  Long experience informed by sharp attention and a keen palate led Ed to offer definitive recommendations.

By not mincing around, he gave readers clear starting points for their exploratory adventures in the complex world of wine.  Some readers might re-calibrate their practices by a few clicks based on their own preferences once they’d started as he advised, but that was fine with Ed, who was more intent on providing a flying start than dictating a “correct” flight path to everyone.

Ed’s writings and accomplishments range far beyond Wine Review Online, earning him recognition as one of the most influential voices in fine wine over the course of the past four decades.

With his wife Mary, he co-authored Wine For Dummies, White Wine For Dummies, Red Wine For Dummies, Wine Buying Companion For Dummies, French Wine For Dummies, Italian Wine For Dummies and California Wine For Dummies (Wiley & Sons).  Wine For Dummies is one of the largest-selling wine books ever; having sold about one million copies to date and having been translated into 34 languages.  Both Wine For Dummies and Italian Wine For Dummies were nominees for a James Beard Award, in 1995 and 2001 respectively.

Ed's own book, Champagne for Dummies, was also nominated for the James Beard Award as best wine book of the year, in 1999.  He was long considered a leading Champagne authority in the U.S., and rightly so.

Ed was wine columnist for Nation’s Restaurant News and a quarterly columnist for Beverage Media.  He also wrote for Decanter magazine, Quarterly Review of Wines, and Wine Enthusiast.

Ed’s working life began as an English teacher in the NYC school system.  While teaching, he pursued part time jobs in wine shops, began collecting wine and became active in wine-tasting and collecting circles.  Soon after retiring from teaching, he began writing about wine.

In addition to his writing, McCarthy is a regular guest speaker at wine events.  He appeared frequently as a guest on radio and television programs in various U.S. cities.  He was also a frequent judge at wine competitions in the U.S. and abroad. An avid wine collector, he has a temperature-controlled wine cellar of over 3,500 bottles.  He traveled extensively to the world's wine regions to visit winemakers and to research new developments.

I’m fortunate to have traveled and judged with Ed many times in many places, and I’ve always admired how he stayed balanced between critical professionalism and appreciative enthusiasm.  No wine that he tasted “got a pass” simply because it showed well in earlier vintages, and he never seemed to dismiss a wine out of hand due to being an upstart that’s made from a new region or a minor grape variety.

Ed’s long career was interrupted last year by a bout with cancer of the tongue.  He underwent major surgery, and after a period of remission, was afflicted by a return of the cancer.

Many of Ed’s columns will remain on Wine Review Online as the thoroughly re-designed website debuts toward the end of the second quarter of 2024.  During the past year, we scrutinized the 944 columns published on the site since it launched, looking for examples that were truly excellent and strongly viable as “evergreens” not diminished by the passage of time or the march of vintages.  Ed contributed a conspicuously large share of the columns meeting that standard for retention on the new WRO.

For that reason, this is not exactly a final farewell to Ed, but rather an appreciation of our friend and all the wine wisdom he has imparted to our readers to date, with more to come as we cycle some of his best writing through the site periodically when dipping into his “Columnist Emeritus” archive.    



Archive of Ed's wine columns:     Ed McCarthy