Australian wine critic, vigneron and wine judge James Halliday began writing about wine in 1979. In 1986, he produced his first annual guide to Australian wines. Since 2000, this has been called the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. The book and the associated website cover nearly 3000 wineries, with more than 70,000 wine reviews. Halliday has won numerous awards and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010.
James Halliday was a lawyer by profession. Born in 1938, he obtained his degree at the University of Sydney where he became interested in wine through the St Paul’s College wine club and cellar. After graduating, Halliday worked for many years for the Clayton Utz firm which, he said, gave him the income to buy wine. He became involved in the wine industry in 1970 when, with two partners, he bought land in the Hunter Valley and founded the Brokenwood winery. The first plantings, in 1971, were of Shiraz and Cabernet. The wines were soon winning gold medals.
Halliday became a wine judge in 1977 at the behest of Len Evans, who had admired his palate at their regular lunches together. His first book, Wines and History of the Hunter Valley, was written in 1979. It was followed by books on the Clare and Coonawarra regions and then the Australian Wine Compendium.
Brokenwood was sold in 1983 and Halliday moved to Melbourne, still working as Managing Partner of Clayton Utz. He founded Coldstream Hills wines in the Yarra Valley, planting the first vines in 1985. Halliday retired from the law firm in 1988 and became the winemaker at Coldstream Hills. The business was eventually publicly listed and was acquired by Southcorp Wines in 1997. Halliday was appointed by Southcorp as Group Winemaker, a position he held for the next three years.
The State Library of South Australia has an interview with James Halliday in its digital collection, tracing his life and career through to 2001.