Hugh Johnson became a member of the Cambridge University Wine and Food Society while an undergraduate at King’s College, Cambridge in the 1950s where he was reading English.
Johnson has been writing about wine since 1960. He was taken on as a feature writer for Condé Nast Publications upon graduation and started work on Vogue and House & Garden, becoming in 1962 editor of Wine & Food. In the same year he became wine correspondent of The Sunday Times, of which in 1967 he became Travel Editor. From 1968 to 1970 he edited Queen magazine in succession to Jocelyn Stevens.
He has published a wide array of books, starting with the publication of Wine in 1966. The publication of The World Atlas of Wine in 1971 was considered the first serious attempt to map the world's wine regions.
Since its launch in 1973 Johnson has been President of The Sunday Times Wine Club, part of Laithwaites. From 1986-2001 he was a Director of the Bordeaux First Growth Château Latour and in 1990 was a co-founder of The Royal Tokaji Wine Company in an attempt to rebuild the foundering Tokaji industry after Communism.
In 1986 he started The Hugh Johnson Collection, which sold (until 2010) wine glasses and other artefacts related to wine, mainly in the Far East, with a shop in St James's Street, London.
His vintage - The Story of Wine was a 13-part TV series for Channel 4 and Boston P.B.S., first airing in 1989. Since 1977 he has compiled his annual Pocket Wine Book, selling many million copies in up to 14 languages.
Hugh’s 1961 tasting of a bottle of 1540 Steinwein from the German vineyard Würzburger Stein is considered to potentially be one of the oldest wines to have ever been tasted.
He was selected Decanter Man of the Year in 1995, was promoted Officer in the French Order Nationale du Mérite in 2004 and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007 'for services to wine-making and horticulture'. Earlier this year, he was awarded the IWC Lifetime Achievement Award.