1. What was the first wine that really stopped you in your tracks and made you realise you'd experienced something out of the ordinary?
Two wines. 1961 Haut Brion when I first moved to England in 1994 and an old Muscadet. I could never have imagined how gracefully a Muscadet could age.
2. Is there a type or style of wine that you just don't get on with?
Big alcoholic sweet reds. Zinfandel is my bête noire. What I dislike most about Zinfandel is when the super-ripe fruit flavours meet green characters – the result is very unpalatable; like a blend of raisins and over-cooked celery (I hate celery!). I've recently tasted the Vine Starr Zin from Broc Cellars, which is an elegant, pure and fresh style with low alcohol. But is that the only good one?
3. Do you have a favourite grape variety?
Chenin Blanc. With prices of Burgundy going through the roof, we have to be on the lookout for more reasonable areas and Loire Chenin Blanc is definitely one whose quality is not always reflected in its price. The wines have a great potential to age – think Savennières - and an amazing diversity of styles. As well as the Loire, South Africa is home to some excellent young producers of Chenin.
4. Is there an up and coming wine producing region we should be focusing on?
The Loire valley. Although it's hardly an unknown region it has so much to offer with a wide range of styles and many young and dynamic vignerons. It also one of the best value regions with something for everyone and every budget.
5. Can you tell us an interesting wine and food pairing from your travels?
Last year I went to Japan for the first time, and as well as discovering Sake it was amazing to see how well Sushi paired with Manzanilla, not something I would have imagined.
6. What are you most looking forward to sampling from your cave personelle?
I love discovering new producers, style, grape varieties etc. so I rarely buy more than 2 bottles of the same wine. I've just come back from Champagne with a boot full of grower Champagnes most of which are new to me so I'm looking forward to sampling those in the next 12 months. Also my Clos Rougeard and my JJ Prüm but there is no rush to drink them!
7. What has been your most interesting wine discovery of the last year?
Itata Valley in Chile. It has some of the oldest vines in the world whose potential is now beginning to be recognized. In fact the country's first vineyards were planted there in 1554. While the vineyards of Itata Valley are continually depleting – mostly due to the economic reality of labour-intensive vine production versus the low-prices of bought grapes – those that remain are as they were 500 years ago: ungrafted bush vines organically dry-farmed, planted on steep granitic hills reminiscent of Beaujolais.
8. What wine would you recommend to lay down for drinking in 10-15 years time?
I recently had Château de Coulaine, Les Diablesses, Chinon 1998 and it was drinking beautifully. I just bought some 2012 that I'm going to cellar for another 10 to 15 years. Chablis is another wine that I like to age; when you buy a top producer from a good vintage they re-pay laying down - if you can resist the urge to drink them now!
9. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?
Making my own wine. In 2013 I visited Muscadet for Decanter and I was astonished by the quality of some of the wines. I subsequently bought one hectare in Monnières and a concrete egg and started a partnership with the very talented producer, Vincent Caillé. 2014 was our first vintage.
10. What advice would you give to a young graduate wanting to embark on a career in wine?
WSET is a good start to learn about wine. I would then recommend getting as much work experience in a variety of areas - from harvesting to selling - to get an understanding of the different aspects of the industry. It's a great industry to be involved in!