The new series of BBC Food & Drink starts tonight (BBC2 at 8.30pm) and, unlike the last one which seemed to be channeling a 1970s children’s TV programme for the intellectually subnormal, it’s a goodie. The whole programme has been re-imagined. Michel Roux has been replaced as frontman by west country chef Tom Kerridge (and one day I hope I will be able to listen to him speak without thinking of Gareth from The Office. Sorry Tom.). As for wine, the BBC has hired one of most gifted wine men on the planet: the lovely, cuddly, talks-at-a-thousand-words-per-minute-as-ideas-come-exploding-out-of-his-huge-brain Joe Wadsack.
I’ve know Joe for seven years. We met at very sticky points in both our lives and spent three months sobbing and laughing and talking and opening bottles of wine and cooking and eating and sitting on my front step drinking cocktails before I realised I had made a very extraordinary friend. Joe is like a magical realism character. The world becomes technicolour when he is around. He’s the best cook I know (but only if you have an emergency cleaning service booked for afterwards) and the only Who Wants to be a Millionaire phone-a-friend you would ever need. He is also a wine genius, and to celebrate his return to our screens, I invited him round to my apartment to share a few bottles and do a little interview.
If you want to know what he loves about German riesling, what his worst karaoke injury is (it wasn’t even the one I was expecting), all about his best blind tasting spots, and how many planes he’s written off – that’s all in next week’s Telegraph. Here are a few of the snippets I couldn’t fit in. And the wines we drank.
VM: If I gave you £100 to spend on wine to drink right now what would you buy?
JW: In the mood I’m in right now, one bottle of something amazing. Oooh. Comte Armand Clos des Epeneaux 2010? And I’d buy you a bottle of cava with the leftovers. [Bursts into fits of laughter] [Not quite – it’s £110.95 a bottle at Lea & Sandeman even if you mix a case but we’ll let him have it.].
VM: What’s the most fun you can have in Skegness for a fiver?
JW: I was in the Bateman’s Brewery a week ago and had a pint of beer and it cost me £2.50 and I thought London does take the piss a bit. So two pints of Bateman’s XB. Or a couple of rounds of the Arnold Palmer crazy golf course which is the oldest in Britain. I used to take the kids when they were younger and we all lived there.
VM: If an apple was magnified to the size of the earth, how big would an atom in it be?
JW: You’ve asked me this before, it’s the Richard Feynman thing isn’t it, and I worked it out in my head – it would have a diameter of about 6cm, it would be the size of…an apple. I’m so pleased I didn’t say WATERMELON!
VM: Back to wine, what’s your view of supermarkets vs independents?
JW: Supermarkets will always have savvy. It’s not just about financial clout, with them. But I think the good independents will always have the ability to move faster than supermarkets.
VM: Giles Coren or Marina O’Loughlin?
JW: Assuming it’s not about sex because I know what Giles looks like and I’ve never met Marina…I love the way Marina writes. Marina O’Loughlin.
We drank: Red Boar Bobal 2013 Spain (12%, Oddbins, £6.75) Bobal is an unloved and little seen Spanish grape that can perform budget wonders and this gorgeous red initially foxed Joe when I gave him it blind. “It’s something like côt from the Loire or fer servadou…wait, wait, let me think…” Spot on, in a sense: it does taste contemporary but obscure – there’s smooth, bright, juicy cherries and a sniff of earthy forest floor with a slightly astringent kick on the finish. Fantastic stuff.
Beluga Noble Vodka Russia (40%, Waitrose, £41.50) Impeccably, richly smooth wheat vodka. The name twinkles at you to open caviar. Well I didn’t have any, but we did enjoy ice cold shots of it, poured straight from the freezer into tiny cut crystal glasses, with toast heaped with crayfish tails and dill mayonnaise. Also an Italian red from Swig but as there’s a Telegraph offer on that kicking in next week I’ll keep my powder dry on that one.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT The wine world has lost a pioneering legend. Serge Hochar, 74, of Chateau Musar died while on holiday in Mexico over New Year. A charismatic and forceful personality, who did more than anyone to put Lebanese wine on the map, he will be much-missed. Pay tribute to him by reading Nina Caplan’s piece here and Fiona Beckett’s here while drinking a glass of his wine.
Final note: I have just updated this post so that it didn’t refer to Michael Roux. I KNOW I didn’t write Michael Roux. Is there NO END to the humiliation that spell check is willing to cause?