When my son was six, his teacher asked the class what people’s parents did for work. Alex’s reply ran to four words:
‘Daddy spits out wine.’
And it’s true. I spit out thousands of wines every year. The great thing about wine is that after 25 years of spitting the stuff out – and drinking quite a bit of it too – I still have plenty more to discover. So wherever I go, I taste as much as possible, but I also ask questions. But I haven’t always done so…
Have you ever had that feeling that you want to ask a question but don’t want to advertise that you don’t know the answer? That was how I felt went I started getting into wine. I was surrounded by people who were older and – I presumed – wiser – who never asked questions because – I thought – they knew it all.
So I kept my mouth shut. I sat on my hands. I stayed quiet.
But after a few years, I learned something important. The people around me weren’t quiet because they knew it all, they were quiet because they too didn’t want to display the gaps in their knowledge.
So I thought, what the heck? No point remaining ignorant. And I began asking questions. And the funny thing is that those older wine trade people, those ones whom I thought knew everything would approach me later and say things like, “I’d been wondering about that…”
Since then, I’ve been asking as many questions as possible. I’ve probed wine producers, wine importers and wine retailers for information, and I’ve learned…loads.
Enough to have been a wine columnist for the Financial Times. Enough to have been invited to judge wine competitions on four continents. Enough to write several books (and win awards for some of them). And enough to conduct dozens of wine seminars and tastings on a huge variety of topics.
It’s these tastings that I enjoy as much as anything. I think back to the time when I was the one on the third row with a puzzled look on my face, so I do my best to encourage the audience to ask questions. I look around the room for the furrowed brows, the nods of approval and, yes, even the looks of boredom.
The people can be a bit quiet to start with, but after the first couple of wines have hit their system, they usually open up and start talking. And disagreeing with me. And asking questions.
And I’ve no problem with that. In fact, I love it. Real people asking real questions about real wines.
Hence my new book, 101 Wine FAQs. It covers the most frequently occurring and most interesting questions I’ve been asked over the 20+ years I’ve been doing tastings. Such as…
- Which country drinks the most wine?
- Why are wines aged in oak?
- Does wine contain anything apart from grapes?
- What effect is global warming having on wine?
- What will be the Next Big Thing, the next “IT” wine?
- Why are some wines labelled by origin and others by grape variety?
- Why does this wine dry my mouth out so much?
- At what temperature should wine be served?
- Can I add things to my wine?
- Why is wine so expensive in restaurants?
- How many calories are there in a glass of wine?
- How do you prevent wine staining your teeth?
Some of the answers run to a few lines, others take up several pages and even spill over into the following chapter. Some you may disagree with, others will bring a smile to your face. But the intention with all of the answers is to assure, guide and inform. I’ve enjoyed writing 101 Wine FAQs, and I hope you’re going to enjoy reading it.
Providing my printer is true to his word, you’ll be able to buy it through my website from September 1st for £9 as copy. If you fancy three copies, you’ll get a 25% discount. And if you sign up for my mailing list (HERE, if there isn’t a box below), you may even get a further discount…
(PS If any companies are looking for gift books for customers for this Christmas, get in touch as I can offer a keener price for larger orders)