Karen MacNeil_Red Shirt
Karen MacNeil With Blue Shirt
Barbie And Wine

The Wine History Project honors Karen MacNeil as the most influential wine educator and writer in the United States. She not only produced the most comprehensive and accessible “Bible” on viticulture, wine history and wine culture throughout the world, but continues to make wine accessible to everyone through her blogs, wine quizzes, seminars, films, special events and wine tastings. She is always available to educate you with delight and passion.

“After more than thirty years I am still moved by wine’s magic, its mysteries, its sheer deliciousness. I still believe that wine touches our hearts and heads in powerful and spiritual ways. Through the simple act of drinking wine, our bond to Nature is welded deep. Every sip we take in the present, we drink in the past. And it is by sharing wine and food that we embrace our own communal humanity.” These words by Karen MacNeil are found in the Introduction to her latest edition of the Wine Bible. Author Kevin Zraly comments on her talents, “A masterpiece of wine writing. This is the best edition yet! No one writes about wine like Karen MacNeil.”


Karen MacNeil has been named one of the “100 most influential people in wine in the United States.” She started her career as a free-lance journalist and is known as an extraordinary researcher and writer. After many rejections she sold her first article to the Village Voice for $30 in the 1970s. She described a unique food product, artisanal Hudson Valley Butter, but most notable about this first sale is that Karen celebrated with a bottle of Champagne at a local New York bar. It may also have been a toast to her destiny.

The Village Voice article brought her talent, research and writing as a journalist to the attention of many food publications. Women were welcomed into this field in the 1970s and Karen wrote for many magazines and newspapers.  Her career flourished; Karen rose to become the Food and Wine Editor at USA Today.

Karen had other plans for her future; she was much more interested in writing about wine than food. She was studying and learning about wine on her own time. In the 1970s and the 1980s, the “World of Wine in New York City” was dominated by a group of male journalists whose wine columns appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal among other serious publications. Their reviews, ratings, and interviews with famous wine makers in Europe, particularly French producers and wines, were followed by wine lovers across the globe. Eventually the California wine revolution appeared in their columns. These wine writers were also known for their notable wine tastings In New York City. They also met privately to taste and discuss these wines as professionals each week. Karen was invited to attend weekly wine tastings with these notable wine writers however she had to agree not to comment or ask questions.

Karen saw her opportunity to gain access to knowledge and experiences. She was thrilled to have access to this invaluable wine education for the next six years.

Karen’s romance with wine may have started in her teenage years with a Bulgarian wine that cost 89 cents a bottle. Karen continued her personal wine education with German Liebfraumilch, Lancers Rosé and Chianti in straw covered bottles. As an adult her interest rapidly was transformed into a lifelong quest for researching, archiving and sharing wine culture and wine history. She has become a great educator who can inspire those new to the field and those who know it well with excitement, laughter and adventure. 

Karen forged her own educational path, focusing on the wines she loved and the countries where other journalists were not traveling. She selected Spain as her first destination outside the United States to study wine in the late 1970s. Every other journalist (remember they were all men) was focused on Bordeaux, France. Karen had been drinking Spanish wines and felt she knew them well. She described her experience, “Spain was a very insular, proud, reclusive place at the time and I felt I had the whole country to myself (journalistically speaking). Whenever I taste an old Rioja or an old Sherry, I am immediately transported back nearly 50 years to those bodegas.”

Forty years later I was amazed to learn Karen tasted over 8,000 wines, many of which are documented in over 700 pages of invaluable knowledge and education while writing her Third Edition of The Wine Bible. The curiosity and the search for answers make  Karen one of the finest wine writers in the world. This Wine Bible edition was truly a global effort.

Impact on Wine History Around the World

  • The only American to have won every major wine award given in the English language including the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year, the Louis Roederer Award for Best Consumer Wine Writing, the International Wine and Spirits (IWSC) Award as the Global Communicator of the Year, and the Wine Appreciation Guild’s Literary Award.
  • Her articles have been published in more than 50 magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, Town & County, Food & Wine, and Worth.
  • Time Magazine named her America’s Missionary of the Vine in their full page profile on her work.
  • Named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Wine in the United States.”
  • First woman writer to be accepted into the weekly wine tasting group of influential male wine columnists in New York City in the 1980s.
  • First wine overseas adventure was Spain (instead of France) to learn about Spanish wines, food and wine culture in the 1970s
  • Studied wine of almost every culture and wine-producing country, traveling and tasting, for at least six years before selecting wine as her passion for research and writing.
  • Food and Wine Editor of USA Today in the 1980s.
  • Wine correspondent for the Today Show on NBC.
  • Host of PBS Series Wine, Food and Friends with Karen MacNeil. She won an Emmy for the series.
  • Founded Karen MacNeil & Company to create customized, bespoke wine experiences around the world for groups and corporations including global law firms and investment banks. Just for the historical record, Karen describes her background as a poor, uneducated Irish Catholic who left home at 15, worked two jobs to put herself through high school and worked on her homework at the end of the day while drinking a glass of wine – an auspicious beginning.
  • Creator and Editor-in-Chief of Winespeed, her award- winning weekly digital newsletter with an audience of 40,000 subscribers. (www.winespeed.com)
  • First edition of the Wine Bible published in 2001, ten years in the research and writing, inspired a generation of sommeliers and wine enthusiasts to learn all the fundamentals of vineyards, grapes and terroir and the world of wine, based on an encyclopedia of Karen’s knowledge, definitions, descriptions, photographs and maps.
  • Known for her research from original sources, using a network of global professionals to find the answers to every wine question imaginable.
  • Second edition of The Wine Bible, published in 2015,  became the educational resource for growers, winemakers, educators, importers, distributors, marketing and public relations experts, all types of writers from fiction to food, and travelers throughout the world.
  • The Wine Bible has sold more than 1,000,000 copies and was featured in the 2020 Netflix series Uncorked and the Starz Series Sweet Bitter.
  • Flavor First Collection, an affordable collection of glassware designed by Karen, is focused on a wine’s flavor rather than wine regions or grape varieties – a unique approach debuting in 2020.
  • Tasted over 8,000 wines with her staff when writing the Third Edition of The Wine Bible, published in 2022.
  • Research on grapes, wild yeast and wine in the Ancient World dating back to Neolithic times with comments on the earliest discoveries of alcoholic beverages and early archaeological sites described in the The Wine Bible, Third Edition.
  • Research on viticulture and winemaking in Asia including China, India and Japan in the eWine Bible, Third Edition.
  • Creator and Chair Emerita of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies established at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
  • Teacher of Exploring Wine’s Connection to Place and Culture: Stories in a Bottle one of Stanford University’s most popular courses offered in the Continuing Education Division.
  • The papers and writings of Karen MacNeil added to the Warren Winiarshi Wine Writers’ Collection at the Library of the University of California at Davis which includes the papers of Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, preserving her contributions to wine history, wine culture and viticulture.
  • Host and narrator of the new documentary film featuring local winemakers, The Amphora Project Past-Forward, 8,000 Years of Winemaking in Clay Vessels, winner of Best Documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival in the Republic of Georgia, February 5, 2023.

And Here is the Best Historical Fact

  • A groundbreaking tribute from Mattel Industries, creator of the iconic Barbie and Ken dolls, to a self-made woman who designed and developed her own unique career and founded her own business with passion, wisdom, grace, and generosity. The doll is nicknamed  “Wine Barbie” and the design features the likeness, integrity and power of the most important writer in American Wine History holding a glass of red wine. Yes it is Karen MacNeil. Pick your favorite red wine and raise your glass to her and all the women inspired by her work in celebration of Women’s History Month