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.

‘Wine is an expression of the beauty of nature.’ Hugh Johnson

Running Order

  • Introduction: 0 – 3.58
  • Interview with Hugh Johnson: 3.59 – 45.03
  • End: 48.03

‘I have to admit I made some of it up! Not much but…’ Hugh Johnson on the first World Atlas of Wine


‘The acceptance and application of scientific knowledge was a huge change in wine.’ Hugh Johnson

Snaps & quotes

‘Scoring wines is dangerous because it gives people the idea there’s something objective and absolute in quality, which I would challenge.’ Hugh Johnson

‘Wine isn’t meant to taste of oak. A good wine tastes of itself.’ Hugh Johnson

‘We’d swallowed something that had been alive before Shakespeare was born. Bottled history – wow!’ Hugh Johnson

‘If global warming carries on at the present, extraordinary rate, then people have got to change pretty smartly.’ Hugh Johnson


  • Hugh’s seminal book The Story of Wine is being re-released on 9th September by Academie du Vin – it’s £30 or £9.99 for the e-book. Pre-orders are available now and you can also find it on Amazon.
  • It’s worth listening to the podcast for Hugh’s chuckle alone. Priceless.
  • Apparently William Pitt drank six bottles of port a day, having initially been recommended the stuff by a doctor for his anaemia aged 14.
  • The podcast features perhaps the most elegant way for an interviewee to bring an interview to a close. Listen and learn.

‘If you look a the evidence, this country in the 18th century was drunk all the time.’ Hugh Johnson

Have your say!

Rate our podcast

Podchaser - Wine Blast with Susie and Peter