Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Wine Diary

AFTER WRITING two conventional wine/travel books (120,000 words about wine!), the idea of writing something similar didn't thrill me, but wine still interested me. So, instead, for three years, I used my wine column in France's leading English-language newspaper, 'The Connexion', to take an offbeat look at wine culture and answer these basic questions: Why are the French (and Brits) so clueless about wine? Why do they learn almost nothing about wine from what they drink? What does price really tell you about a wine? And what does a Rumpole mystery reveal about the actual cost of wine? How can you spot a decent restaurant wine list? And choose wisely from a bad one? What can a tea lady teach you about wine and food pairings? Why are medals an unreliable guide to wine quality? Can a biodynamic wine have a bad "leaf day"? Are all wine gadgets just Plenty O'Toole? What kind of wine fault is man boobs? What would Reliant Robin engineers conclude about screw-caps? Or the Gamma Hydra IV colonists (from the Star Trek episode 'The Deadly Years') about industrially manipulated wine? Why would it be absolute mangos to use Brad Pitt as a tasting note? And why will your favourite wines not be coming soon from China's Ningxia province? When I had answered these basic wine questions - without once telling a reader what wine to buy and where to find it (or what floral notes come to mind) - I quit writing the column. The editor did ask me to stay! But I'd discussed wine culture (the making, selling, consuming, and talking about) in enough detail to interest anyone with a passion for wine (OK, maybe not a doctoral student). One reader, who said she appreciates my "twisted sense of humour" also told me "you should replace that boring woman who writes for The Saturday Telegraph." That was nice of her. I've now collected those wine columns and made them available in one slim volume. I thought about calling the volume 'All You Need to Know About Wine'. Instead, it's called 'The Wine Diary'. I am also the author of 'Discovering Wine Country: South of France' (Mitchell Beazley) and 'The Wines of Roussillon' (Trabucaire). 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Plenty O'Toole

THE PHOTOGRAPH 'Plenty O'Toole' by Nigel Bradley (Decanter, Wine Spectator) was taken to accompany a column in 'The Connexion' about folding helicopters, flappy-padle cork screws, and James Bond. I chose the image for the cover of 'The Wine Diary' because it's also a visual metaphor for determination in the face of pretentiousness, an important trait for a wine critic. It is not by accident that 'Plenty' is confronted by a bottle from Château d'Arse ... a name that evokes the place where many wine writers have their heads.