Funchal is recovering and one sees more tourists yet again. The restoration work is still of enormous proportions in some areas and a few days ago, Wednesday, we were reminded of what happened on the 20th of February. Again it started pouring down without any stop and the rain was so intense and dense that people started driving out of downtown Funchal causing a lot of traffic jams. The fear is still there although the weather’s been very nice now for some time.
But life continues and so does our stay in Madeira. Half of the trip’s 36 days are now spent and what we’ve experienced so far are almost hard to understand. Treated like kings I am overwhelmed by the Madeiran’s generosity and the wine’s they produce! I thought I had tasted some great wines on the noble grapes but so far I’ve been tasting wines that now are new reference points for me – especially exceptional Boal’s from 1903, 1920 & 1922 from Pereira d’Oliveira and Blandy’s.
The weekly report continues being influenced by the Portuguese theme but also adds a new feature. You might have seen the blog list on my blog quartet – people I follow and who’s writing I enjoy a lot. It’s easy to drown in all wine writing you find on the internet, or miss out on the really good one’s, so I will now present the people behind my favourite English written blogs or websites.
First one was an easy choice – not only because of the fact he shares my passion for Portuguese wines -no, Jamie Goode is without doubt one of my favourites wine writers – one I have followed for years now – with his often insightful postings. Hopefully you too will discover Jamie and his totally unbound writing. So, here’s Jamie!
Hi Jamie! Having followed you for years and enjoyed your writing I now hope more of my readers will discover you and Wineanorak! Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and how you ended up becoming a wine writer?
I began writing about wine online as a hobby. I had completed a PhD in plant biology, and then ended up working as a science editor – the work was interesting in places, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. So in 2000, I started wineanorak.com as a hobby site with a bit of ambition, and then managed to get writing jobs for UK-based wine trade publications and consumer magazines. Then in 2005 I published my first book and got a national newspaper column. It meant that in 2008 I could leave the editing job and work full time on wine, which is great fun.
How does a normal day look like for a wine writer?
It varies. Sometimes I’m commuting into London to attend tastings or dinners. Other times I’m working from home on articles or the website. Then I might be traveling to wine regions, too. It’s a very flexible way of working, but as a freelancer I have to balance out the fun bits with the bits that pay well.
Tell us more about your areas of expertise; what interests you most in the world of wine?
Wine science is a big interest, but I’m not a scientific fundamentalist. There’s a lot of art to wine, as well as science. I’m fascinated by the natural wine movement, and organics and biodynamics. I follow closely the wines of Portugal, Australia and New Zealand, but I’m also very interested in France, Italy and South Africa. I try not to ignore any region, but sometimes you have to specialise.
Why is Portugal and its wines of such an interest for you?
Partly historical accident: I just began following Portuguese wines, way before I was a professional writer. And I love Portugal and its people. They’re interesting.
As a wine writer I assume you travel quite a lot during the year? For me as an amateur I enjoy every meeting with producer’s and visits to vineyards, but how is it for a professional? Is it always a joy or do you sometimes feel your passion collides with just being a job?
It’s still a passion. I feel very lucky to be able to do my hobby as a job. I love visiting vineyards still, and I feel it is a real privilege when winegrowers show me around and share their wines with me – this is something I will never take for granted. They are the ones making the wines. The writers are insignificant compared with them.
I want to learn more on the subject wine and science; your fields. On which level can I expect your books and what do they more specifically handle?
I try to make them interesting. I try to put myself in the readers’ shoes. I want them to be accessibly, but still with plenty of meat. I never want to patronise readers.
Today the internet is filled with competent wine critics on blogs and wine forums. Much has happened since there almost was a monopoly on wine writing and I guess more than a few dreams of a career in the wine business. What are your recommendations to those who long for a career such as your own?
You have to be patient. You need to persevere. You need to be able to write well, and have your own voice. You need to be nice to people and commit to being a lifelong learner. You need to have a lot of self-confidence. And you need a few lucky breaks along the way. A lot of it is out of your control, and you need to be OK about that.
The never ending discussions on the rating systems of wine were just recently handled by yourself on the Wineanorak blog. Why do you think it has become such a big deal; I mean most wine consumers don’t even know there actually exists ratings on wine, nor are they aware of the name and influence of for example Robert Parker?
I think scores have opened up fine wine for time-poor, cash-rich consumers. It’s a huge deal in the USA. I think in the future scores will matter less because all good wines will be getting such high scores (because of grade inflation) that they’ll all be scored very similarly.
They’ve been great for the wine industry. I think there’s still quite a bit more to be learnt about post-bottling wine chemistry, and the cork isn’t dead yet.
What’s your general opinion on wines on boxes; the so called bag in box?
Great for cheap wines, as long as they are drunk fairly soon after filling because oxygen transmission by the packaging (especially the tap) is quite high.
How is it possible to keep updated in the world of wine? So much happens all the time and there are simply too many great wines out there. Is it just a challenge for a wine writer or does it stress you as well?
You have to recognize that you can’t know everything, can’t taste every wine, and can’t keep on top of it all. You have to do what you can do.
In your opinion – which wine region/-s are the most interesting to follow right now? And from where will our new daily wines, at competitive prices, emerge from?
I think that it’s the passionate producers in less well known European regions who are doing very interesting things. New Zealand is also very interesting – the average quality of kiwi wine is really high. There are lots of really great small producers in Australia, too. Chile promises much, but we may have to wait some time to see lots of really interesting wines from here.
Any specific projects you’re working with at the moment?
I’ve just finished a redesign of wineanorak.com and the associated blog. I’m finishing off a book on Natural Wine. I’m working on a big project for Dorling Kindersley called Opus Vino (I’m doing the sections on New Zealand, Australia and Portugal).
Finally, the mandatory question – Your desert island wine?
Northern Rhône Syrah from a great producer – Chave Hermitage or a top Cote Rotie?
To find out more about Jamie’s writing please visit the Wineanorak site where you also will find a link to his blog and a lot of other interesting reading and watching! But why don’t start with watching him discussing why wines tastes different on different days of the Lunar Calendar?