1. Did you have a seminal wine tasting experience that made you want to pursue a career in wine?
On Christmas Eve 1954, my first Christmas in long trousers, at the end of dinner in the family house, my grandfather said I was old enough for a glass of Port. The butler brought a glass, the decanter came round and the wine completely knocked my socks off. “What’s this, Grandpa?”, “Cockburns 1908, my boy” came the answer. This wine sent me into the wine trade.
2. You have been a wine merchant, wine educator, journalist and wine-maker. Which of those has brought you most satisfaction?
Probably a journalist, as it involved wines, people and travelling, but I am most proud of being a wine educator. Basically, I am a communicator.
3. Can you tell us an interesting food and wine pairing from your travels?
No, my mantra is to drink for mood, not for food.
4. Can you tell us about a wine in your cellar that you have yet to sample but look forward to trying?
Hermitage Domaine de Tourettes 2016 Delas. (I’ve bought it in almost every vintage).
5. You famously put American wine into the fine wine firmament with the ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting in 1976. Does your personal taste lean more to the ‘New’ or ‘Old’ World?
I taste and enjoy the discovery of New World wine in London and abroad, but my tastes are pretty firmly still in Europe, which represents 90% of my cellar in Dorset.
6. Is there a style or type of wine you don’t get on with or actively dislike?
Wines that are over-extracted, for these are made to IMPRESS rather than to EXPRESS.
7. Is there are an up-and-coming wine region that impresses you?
Old Europe like Romania and Geogia.
8. Has your palate altered or improved with age?
It has certainly not improved and my sense of smell has declined, but years of experience sort of recompense for this.
9. Is there a type or style of wine that you think is underrated?
Cabernet Franc is being discovered but is still underrated. So is Chenin Blanc.
10. What advice would you give to a college leaver hoping to pursue a career in wine journalism?
It won’t pay much and don’t hold out your hand for too many freebies, but the wines you will taste and the people you will meet with make it a lifelong journey.