Interview: Paul Hobbs

Space. That’s where Paul Hobbs wanted to go, as an astronaut.

Wine is where he ended up. Described by Forbes as, ‘the Steve Jobs of wine’, Hobbs is one of the best known international wine consultants, with the likes of Mondavi, Simi and Opus One on his CV, now making wine from California to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Cahors, Armenia – and now New York State and Galicia.

I sat down with him in Uruguay and London to discuss his vision, life and current projects. It made for a fascinating encounter.

Hobbs is clearly a driven, ambitious and deep-thinking winemaker with profound convictions and a resolute will. A confirmed scientist by background, with a disdain for ‘dogmatic, protocol-based’ winemaking, he nevertheless admits that this approach, ‘is not enough to make a great wine – you need experience, and you need to feel it.’ He describes his approach as, ‘one part science, three parts intuition.’

He rejects the notion that high alcohol is inherently detrimental to wine quality. ‘When you’re dealing with really fresh fruit that’s not over-ripe, alcohol is irrelevant,’ he states. ‘I abhor wines that are underripe or overripe. I’m looking for balance.’

I was intrigued by the fact he’s one of 11 siblings from a teetotal family (milk being the drink on the family table) that moved into wine farming after an encounter with a bottle of Yquem. (That, and a canny realisation of how market forces were going in the farming world). His mother cried when he said he was going to work in wine.

You can find the link to the full interview in Decanter below.

We filmed a late-night video interview during our first meeting, in Uruguay, also below. I should mention that this was after a full day’s tasting and a very enjoyable dinner at Familia Deicas / Juanicó. Quite how Paul makes any sort of sense is testament to his stamina. I love his assertion of how important in life it is to, ‘smell the flowers and enjoy life a little bit.’

[The Decanter Interview with Paul Hobbs appears in Decanter magazine’s December 2018 edition]

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