I’m very lucky. Thanks to my job I get to travel all over the world and topour all kinds of wines into my glass, from (surprisingly good) cheapie Spanish reds sold at Aldi to 2005 Ch Ausone (££££) to really delicious natural pinotage rosé made in South Africa. And that’s just in the last month.
It’s even more of a privilege to have access to the minds of some pretty extraordinary people, whether they’re sharp commercial types calculating how to shave costs and still persuade us to buy their bottles, philosopher-winemakers up to their neck in cow dung and golden means in a bucolic part of beaujolais, sommeliers getting excited about a new grüner that works bizarrely well with Thai…I could go on. Almost forever. Have notebook, will get on train, plane or tube: I love to listen as much as I love to ask questions.
It’s my job to comb through all of this information, turfing out nuggets – wines you might like, stories that might interest you, then put them on the page or the screen. I sometimes feel a bit like a dog that has bounded off and returned, wagging, hopefully, with an interesting stick – LOOK! LOOK!
So. I get to follow my own nose (which leads me down all sorts of avenues, quite often to Italy, and increasingly into science labs as I get interested in the ins & outs of olfaction and why smell is such a powerful sense), and it’s really important to do that.
But I go in the opposite direction too. At the heart of how I work has always been the question: what do people want to know about? What is useful? What’s going to perk up someone’s late Sunday lunch, or their rainy Wednesday in? How are people buying wine? How are they drinking it? How could it be easier, tastier, more fun? All that sort of stuff.
This means I also listen carefully to the way people who aren’t wine specialists talk about wine. Some of my best columns have come from ideas seeded by conversations overheard on trains or in bars or the supermarket aisles. At one of my booze/food collaboration nights with the Culinary Anthropologist last week, I met a bloke, let’s call him Stefan, whose really lovely girlfriend dobbed him in as someone who cuts out my Telegraph page and files it in a special folder every week. Except for one week recently, apparently. For the record, we had a perfectly civil conversation and I managed not to hold Stefan hostage until he explained why that particular column hadn’t interested him. And in the very near future I will be writing a piece about sub-£20 chardonnay because Stefan and his girlfriend said they find it easy to find good sauvignon blanc at this price but struggle with chardonnay.
The chat made me think. Another chap said he’d like to hear more on South African wine. But what else do you want to hear about? Either here or in the Telegraph or in Olive magazine. What wines do you need to find? What prices are most salient? Put your answers in the comment thread below.