Blogs were built to be badly managed – and so I have lived up to the expectation with a rather embarrassing two-year lull. Here’s a quick(ish) look at almost everything that I’ve penned in that time.
Interviewing might look a little different these days, with a rapport dependent on the strength of the WiFi connection, but nevertheless it hasn’t stopped me being able to speak to some wonderful people in the world of wine.
- First up is an accidental mini-series talking to wine writing legends, starting with the one and only Hugh Johnson (discussing everything from turbot to England’s “grand cru”). I also got to speak to Steven Spurrier, the man behind the Judgement of Paris (although, as I discovered, it’s best not to ask him about it) and William Kelley, the Wine Advocate writer at a much earlier stage of his career.
- When it come to winemakers, I’ve been spoilt. I sat down with Jim Clendenen for a second time (and he was as wild and opinionated as ever), as well as a couple of other newer names on the Cali scene: John Locke, one half of the duo behind Birichino’s effortless and gluggable styles, and the DeSantes, a couple crafting some fascinating and very serious wines that show a new side to Napa. There were conversations with a couple of other New World icons, with Chris Mullineux and Nathan Kinzbrunner of Giaconda, while the Old World was repped in the line-up by Pepe Raventós, a man championing Spain’s sparkling terroir, and Rafael Palacios, the king of Godello.
- Last but not least, I had a great conversation with Master Blender Richard Paterson – a character that dominates any room – about his new project, Wolfcraig, and why learning about wine only helped him hone his nose: read it here.
Two years’ worth of jottings on a host of brilliant bottles spans the globe:
- Getting into grapes, I took a little look at Pinotage, trying to convince people to discard their burnt-rubber-tinged judgements. I also dove headfirst into the unpronounceable world of indigenous Greek varieties, from Assyrtiko to Xinomavro
- My Beaujolais obsession shone through with a spotlight on the producers bringing Nouveau back from the brink as well as a straightforward guide to the region that should be a wine rack staple for anyone and everyone
- Bordeaux got a look in, as I argued there are some producers making Claret cool, and savoured the joys of trad Classed Growth with a mini Issan vertical
- Elsewhere in the Old World, I looked at Champagne’s flat beginnings, investigated the differences between Barolo and Barbaresco and ran through the story of Italy’s sexiest (and most expensive) wines, the Super Tuscans.
- I managed to slip in a work trip to Burgundy in October last year, a fleeting escape between lockdowns, to taste the new vintage, resulting in a whole host of articles: my first taste of the vintage with Jadot, notes from the Eurostar as we returned to news of yet another lockdown, my report on the reds, and a run-down of what the critics said about the vintage. In brief, I loved the wines, and have bought as much as I could afford to.
- The 2019 vintage has a remarkably similar story in the Rhône, the dry conditions somehow preserving the acidity in the fruit. I spoke to a handful of producers to write up a report on the year, which sounds like another superb one for the cellar.
- I caught up with some of Napa’s finest, just as the nation was voting Trump out, about the 2018 vintage.
- With amphorae becoming increasingly popular, I looked at these trendy clay vessels and why producers are using them
- The sommelier world has seen rather a lot of scandal since this piece was written, but in 2018 I spend a fascinating few hours watching somms compete for the UK title: here’s my take on the curious event
Looking beneath the surface
A constant theme throughout is the challenge of climate change, and how winemakers can take on the growing threat, as well as limiting the impact they have. I spoke to a number of California’s top winemakers to find out what they’re doing (a shorter summary of which you can find here), and more recently examined the issue in Burgundy – where with the delicacy of Pinot Noir and recent warm conditions, the situation feels increasingly tangible and ominous. I also penned a guide to the lingo around sustainability, with a quick run-down of the differences between organics, biodynamics, natural and more – including what they actually mean, if anything, for the wine in your glass.
Just occasionally I drift into the world of spirits:
- I’ve a newfound love of Vermouth, here’s a guide to the basics of this sort-of-wine-sort-of-spirit curiosity
- I wrote a cheat-sheet for Scotch whisky, and took a look at the increasing rarity, and value, of Sherry butts
- If you’ve got the money, spirits are outperforming almost everything else: here’s a look at the investment market for single malt Scotch and more
Under the knife
Remember restaurants? Lovely places where people bring you wonderful plates of food and delicious drinks in exchange for dosh? A very long time ago, I visited some stellar places in the name of “work”: Bright, Levan, and the now-shut Emile were particular highlights (although crossed fingers for a permanent home for the team from the latter in the wake of Covid). Add the former two to your post-lockdown wish-list.
I’m still dreaming of Margaret River – in fact, three years ago today I was at Pierro learning how to run and clean the press. I wrote up a guide – should you ever be in the hood, here are some tips, mainly on what to eat and drink