The catastrophic bushfires of early 2020 were a traumatic reminder of the ongoing challenge of climate change in the world’s driest continent. And yet Australia has never made finer wines across a dizzying range of styles than today. So what’s the future for Australian wine – boom or bust? After all that, we cook up some delicious curried meatballs, inspired by Ozzie chef Bill Granger, and argue over whether a Clonakilla Shiraz or Jim Barry Clare Riesling go best. ‘Alcohol’ is the starting point for our Wine A-Z education blast, then Mark from down under asks which wines he should keep (making it clear he doesn’t want any of the ‘science’).
Wine is many things to many people. But credible career path (or second career) isn’t often one of them. We set the record straight by talking to young people who’ve made a brilliant job of making wine their career. And someone who made it their second career after defecting from finance. We discuss how wine can make a fantastic career, including how we both made the leap. Having worked up a thirst, we rustle up some student classics – spicy sausage pasta plus the easiest home-made pizza EVER – and line up a selection of value Aldi wines (spoiler: not all go down well but there is a great bargain to be had). Our Wine A-Z takes in biodynamics before Warren asks how to tell if a wine is corked.
The first of our Wine Survival Guides – small antidotes to the current coronavirus chaos, where wine people tell their stories, detailing challenges but also sounding notes of joy. Via the magic of Zoom, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW of Domaine of the Bee explains how the lockdown in France has motivated him to appeal for help, and the ‘extraordinary, humbling’ response that followed. He also talks us through online tastings, magnum Jenga, Wine Gogglebox and re-purposing a Bryan Adams’ classic for the times. We then find delicious wines to go with a creamy dhal with turmeric-roasted cauliflower.
In our second Wine Survival Guide, we chat with Chilean winemaker Viviana Navarrete of Viña Leyda before recommending Majestic wines that are not only delicious and different but also ideal for the coronavirus lockdown. Viviana is understandably emotional and tired – she describes 2020 as the toughest vintage of her 20-year career. The reason? It’s all about the people, and her family. But she highlights the quality of Pinot Noir as a major positive and says the fact this was a hot, early vintage was a blessing in disguise given they can get the harvest done and dustsed before any further restrictions are announced. She also reveals her ideal quarantine wine…
As Singapore goes into lockdown, renowned writer and publisher Poh Tiong Ch’ng reflects (from a beach) on the local and global implications of coronavirus. Including some eye-opening thoughts about the prospects for the global restaurant and hotel trade. He also has a somewhat surprising choice as his ‘quarantine wine’. We then cheat when it comes to finding a wine for delicious porcini pasta, committing heresy by looking beyond Italian wines to things that are both leftfield and pretty indulgent. This episode even comes with a free book download…
How wine supplier Berkmann is tearing up the rule book to help stricken restaurants – and buying director Alex Hunt reveals his other passion by sharing tracks from his latest (brilliant) album Closing Ceremony. We unwrap some snazzy new glasses from Jancis Robinson to taste Prosecco, Gruner Veltliner, Gredos Grenache, Ozzie Syrah and Barolo from the Help4Hospitality line-up. Plus, Susie has a confession…
Flying winemaker Paul Hobbs can’t fly. As one of the foremost globe-trotting wine consultants, he reflects from his base in California on the challenges of making wine remotely and offers a tip on Zoom etiquette (‘wear a shirt and work pants’). He confesses to being nervous and reveals his ideal quarantine wine. Meanwhile listener David asks us whether he could be happy with just one glass for all wine styles rather than the many he currently owns. Our response is fulsome and even involves an experiment we lined up…which of course involves drinking some nice wine too.
It’s a sobering post-coronavirus outlook for wine in China, according to Shanghai-based Sophie Liu. She tells of a stable situation as people re-emerge from lockdown but a bleak panorama for the wine business. Sticking with the heavy-hitting theme, Susie and Peter explore the delicious topic of Amarone, exploring the reasons behind its highly distinctive style and heady price tag. They also ponder the pressing issue of which wines are best to bathe in, and revel in their status as unlikely instigators of marital bliss (of sorts).
What to do with a Michelin-starred restaurant that was due to close down shortly after coronavirus struck? If you’re Roger Jones, you re-purpose it to deliver wild mushroom and truffle risotto free of charge to local residents in need. To honour our gues, we rustle up a wild garlic and asparagus risotto – which is really an excuse to open some delicious Sauvignon Blanc (and a cheeky English Bacchus). Plus, Peter has a confession for Susie…
Bartholomew Broadbent is a wine importer in Virginia, USA, who has seen ‘atrocious declines in business’ since coronavirus restrictions began. He lightens the tone by singing Monty Python songs (always look on the bright side of life…) and calls Trump, ‘an idiot president’. In California, Eric Baugher of Ridge Vineyards muses on challenges and opportunities before choosing an ideal quarantine wine that, ‘just kind of lifts your spirits’. Listener Liz calls in with a question about Lodi wines and we respond by cracking open some delicious bottles.
South African wine is in turmoil. The government has banned the sale and export of wine as part of its strict coronavirus lockdown and Cape producers are in shock: reeling from the long-term effects and implications of this dramatic intervention. We hear the views of three producers – Kathy Jordan, Charles Back and Andrea Mullineux at this critical time. There’s also time for a quick BBQ (braai, Cape style) complete with a mouth-watering line-up of South African wines to recommend.
We asked a simple question on social media: what are your top 3 grape varieties for white wine? The reaction blew us away, with a torrent of fascinating posts featuring more than 100 different grape varieties – not to mention fighting talk, bonding, football analogies and cheating. We got a bit carried away with this podcast – it’s our favourite one so far – but there is something for EVERYONE here: laughter, tears, David Beckham, sherry, scholarship (in the form of the fascinating expert Dr José Vouillamoz and his definitive tome Wine Grapes) and controversy. Lots of controversy.
Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Michael Baum is rebooting Burgundy, even under lockdown (which he rails against while being stuck in France, separated from his wife and boys in San Francisco). He talks about how coronavirus and his tech-based approach may prompt radical change in wine – which is about getting closer to customers, at a time when close contact is challenging at best. Following on from Michael’s choice of ‘isolation wine’, Susie and Peter reveal how to find good value white Burgundy – that Holy Grail for wine lovers. There’s even time to mention David Beckham (again…)
Our SHORTEST EPISODE EVER. Funny messages sent with champagne deliveries during lockdown come courtesy of The Finest Bubble’s Nick Baker. (Our favourite? A close call between ‘Cheer up!’ and ‘STOP MOANING’.) Then Tom asks where to find the best Syrah wines, made in the style of the Northern Rhône (think: Côte Rôtie, Hermitage), but from the New World. Glasses are poured.
How to make sense of Riesling? Food is one of the best ways to make sense of wine so we line up a delicious monkfish and prawn curry as well as some pork terrine to get a handle on the grape variety that came top in our survey of the Best White Wine Grapes. We also chat to the man who embodies the spirit of Riesling more than perhaps anyone: German winemaker Ernst Loosen. His prodigious mind is a thing of beauty in full flow, and we’re treated to a masterclass of Riesling evangelism (and the odd profanity). We even give our top 3 Riesling tips at the end.
Robin Hutson is one of Britain’s foremost hoteliers as chairman and CEO of The Pig hotels and Limewood group. He’s been a prominent campaigner for rural hospitality during lockdown, never too far from controversy, but citing the millions of jobs supported by the wider sector and the difficulty of re-opening with two-metre social distancing rules. In a wide-ranging interview, Robin responds to his critics and outlines how the hospitality business can re-open after lockdown. (He subsequently announced the re-opening of his hotels for early July.) A noted wine lover, he also opens up about the new vineyard being planted at The Pig in the South Downs. By way of digestif, we chat rosé and sound off about the debut release from popstar Kylie Minogue (a French pink) as well as two English roses. The likes of Sam Neill, Graham Norton, Brangelina and Sarah Jessica Parker also get a mention. We also ask the question: what’s the rosé that lights your fire?
Superstar Italian winemaker Alberto Antonini tells us about wine as meditation, how to be a ‘virtual’ wine consultant, his vinyl collection and his nonna’s wise advice on how to stop a mole-hill becoming a mountain. In his honour, we crack open two wines from Sicily, delving into this most exciting of Italian wine regions – and discuss the hot topic of vegan wine.
In our LAST Wine Survival Guide we talk climate change, ancient grapes and guitar-offs with Miguel Torres – and reveal our Top 5 Rioja Tips.
Go on. What’s the best rosé wine you’ve ever hard? For Lee Isaacs, rosé is ‘a crime’ and, if you like it, ‘you’re a bad person’ (or, at best, indecisive). Global rosé expert Elizabeth Gabay MW thinks we’re too snobbish about the sweet stuff and has had delicious rosés back as old as 1959. Majestic’s Jack Merrylees thinks the best way to get a party started is with rosé…in magnum. In this episode, we get tickled pink by all this and more, discussing some of our favourite rosés (we’re big, big fans), and the likes of Hugh Johnson, Randall Grahm and Kylie Minogue also crop up in proceedings. Forget the best rosé…this may just be the best PODCAST ever. It’s certainly the pinkest.
It’s like trying to eat your favourite food with tweezers. Or listening to your best tunes with a goldfish bowl over your head. If you buy a nice bottle of wine then serve it wrong, you’re wasting your time as well as money. In this episode, we tackle the thorny issue of how to serve your wine right, with a couple of helpful tips to remember. It can make your wine taste so much better! Roped in to give their expert views are Master Sommelier Laura Rhys and hotelier Robin Hutson. The discussion covers temperature (including our infamous 20-20 rule), glasses, decanters, gadgets, corked wine, calmness, people and… keeping it real. (Sample quote: ‘Wine’s there to be enjoyed, no point analysing it to bl**dy death.’) There’s also a rude Dutch interlude to start and, to finish, we resume our quirky Wine A-Z, decoding wine speak. This time it’s C for Chardonnay.
So how do you go about judging nigh-on 300 of the finest English and Welsh wines amid the Covid chaos? Susie reports back from chairing the WineGB Awards 2020 – a bit different from the norm, featuring an aircraft hangar, personalised portaloos, being brought to tears…and English sparkling Merlot (yes, really – and no, the last two things aren’t connected). There’s a quick word on Wine Festival Winchester 2020 going online (save the date: 28th November!) Susie gives her top tips on what to look out for in English and Welsh wine right now, and where to buy it. Peter pushes her on what to steer clear of too… Look out for Part II, out in early September as the trophies are announced and Susie wants to get a few more things off her chest.
How can wine lovers help Lebanon in its hour of need? Lebanese wine expert Michael Karam and Chateau Musar’s Marc Hochar talk us through the finer points, all the while educating us about Lebanon’s fascinating history with wine and its current day challenges including the massive recent explosion in the port area of Beirut. We give a plug to some of the fundraising initiatives taking place around the world and recommend a line-up of delicious Lebanese wines.
As one of the best-selling wine writers of all time, with millions of sales to his name and global renown, Hugh Johnson OBE needs little introduction. For this exclusive interview, we head into the privacy of his London home for a rare, no-holds-barred, funny, wide-ranging, moving, eye-opening chat. It’s intimate, controversial and thought-provoking. The great man even admits to making ‘some of it up’ in his first World Atlas of Wine..! There are few things we don’t cover, and Hugh doesn’t pull his punches. Scoring wines out of 100 points is ‘dangerous’. One wine smells, ‘like an open grave.’ Some fine wine has entered the ‘tedious’ territory of luxury goods. He remains in the dark as to why Islam prohibits wine. Over-oaked wines are ‘posh gloss’. Regarding climate change, ‘people need to change pretty smartly.’ Those featured range from Elizabeth David to André Simon, Napoleon, Robert Parker and William Pitt – via celebrated wine estates like Château Latour, Villa Banfi and Royal Tokaji. Hugh talks about tasting wine from 1540, how the English used to be, ‘sozzled all the time,’ the challenges of making wine TV and the potential emergence of a new ‘Côte d’Or’ in England.
There is FREE medal-winning wine to be won for UK-based wine lovers in this episode, which ties in with the virtual ceremony for the Wine GB Awards 2020. Tune in for more details! Also to hear Susie’s views, in the wake of the trophy announcements for these awards, on what, where and who are providing the real excitement in English and Welsh wine right now. There are also some up-to-date stats on English and Welsh wines to share. The concluding part to Judging Britain’s Best Wines Part I.
Chile is a wine scene stuck on fast forward. Many of the most exciting projects lately have been developed in the country’s deep south, where the cooler conditions mean more elegant, refreshing wines (and respite from a decade-long drought). And these aren’t projects for the faint-hearted: we visit a new vineyard on a remote island 1,200km south of Santiago – and another on the side of a smoking volcano. It’s not just about terroir, either – southern Chile is home to indigenous Mapuche communities, where poverty and disputed land rights (among other issues) have long been bones of contention with the Chilean state and industry. But now, alongside pioneering vineyards aiming to champion the south’s remarkable terroirs, wine is providing new hope of social unity as a new project is launched by Viña San Pedro Tarapacá in association with the local Mapuche community in Buchahueico. It all makes for a compelling and intriguing future – one we explore in this episode. (We also announce the winners of our WineGB giveaway!)
So what’s been happening to wine during lockdown? It’s the BIG question on everyone’s lips – and the answer is not what you might expect. We dive right into the debate, throwing about facts, figures and opinions as we go. It does seem as if people revert to the familiar in times of crisis – and we’re not afraid to treat ourselves a bit either. With this in mind, we launch a Twitter hullabaloo then taste test the biggest of all wine brands (car crash? Maybe…) After all that excitement, we go to the other end of the spectrum and get views from historic club The Wine Society and ‘counter-cultural’ wine bar and shop Diogenes the Dog. It’s another wine rollercoaster of an episode – hop on, and don’t look down.
We’ve reached a tipping point in environmental terms. Not just in terms of biodiversity, climate change, pandemics and the like – but also in the media. Recent releases showcase this trend – from Kiss the Ground (Netflix) to Extinction: The Facts (BBC/David Attenborough) and The Food Programme’s English Pastoral episode. All are powerful, terrifying, inspiring calls to action – and made us think about wine’s place in all of this. Given we all share personal responsibility for this crisis, should we only buy sustainable wine? Should we both, as professional wine communicators, only recommend sustainable wines? What even is sustainable when it comes to wine? Can (or is) wine taking a lead in this regard – or not? We all need to be asking questions – of ourselves, the products we consume, the lifestyles we lead. And we can be positive, and much good can come of this. Including delicious, sustainably produced wine in a biodiverse, stable, healthy planet.
So what’s the BEST red wine grape variety? EVER? We asked you – and you replied in your droves, more than a thousand of you sending in weird and wonderful suggestions from all over the world. Thank you! We’ve compiled the results, and the funny comments and goings-on, and you can hear the results in this fun episode. We name names so see if you get a mention! (Sorry if not…) We also find time to talk to legendary Yarra Valley producer Timo Mayer (who’s clearly obsessed with Trollinger – listen to find out why). We throw numbers and stats about like, well, confetti. And we name check a few good bottles by way of recommendations too (can’t have you going thirsty).
We use our wine festival (formerly Wine Festival Winchester, this year Wine Festival Online) as a springboard to talk English wine, wine education, making a wine festival happen in lockdown, events in general and how normal people engage with wine. We chat to acclaimed English winemaker Emma Rice of Hattingley Valley, Erica Dent of Enjoy Discovering Wine and Tony, who has a great story to tell about his own personal Damascene conversion to wine. As Tony puts it so brilliantly, ‘Things have got out of hand.’ Join us at Wine Festival Online on Sat 28th November, when things could definitely get out of hand.
Where’s best for wine travel? (Well – we can dream, can’t we?!) The best value bold New World Chardonnays out there? Greek wine? Why no love for Merlot? How to deal with being considered pretentious when it comes to wine?? We answer your burning wine questions and pick our favourite highlights from the 30 episodes to date in this fun, momentous culmination to Season 1 of Wine Blast. And it has been a blast, THANK YOU everyone for listening, supporting, recommending, rating, reviewing and getting in touch. Don’t go anywhere because Season 2 starts straight away, we’ve got lots of exciting new plans to reveal – we can’t wait to get started. See you there – and, in the meantime, cheers!