Part of the three bottles deal is that I blow a bit of smoke, that sort of thing. I think it’s been a bit obvious on a couple of occasions. It’s generally quite easy.
Victoria Moore is the Wine Editor for the Telegraph. That’s probably enough for most. She’s also rather clever. And she’s almost invariably got a crash helmet with her.
It’s the clever bit that draws me in. There is no one I’d rather discuss the psychology of taste with. Which might explain why I struggle with the intro, and go for the easy allusion to the crash helmet. Because the psychology of taste thing is one of those subjects that my intellect can just about grasp for a minute or two – like spinning a plate – before dropping it and focussing on the more obvious stuff like food, beer, football and crash helmets.
So: possibly one of the worst introductions ever, and some of the best answers.
What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?
This is a question I dread being asked as the expectation is that there will have been a Damascene moment if not over an old Vosne-Romanée (darling) then maybe over an esoteric aged muscadet (bit more cred). Actually it wasn’t wine that got me into wine at all. I’ve always connected with the world more through smell and taste than through sight and sound. That’s the reason I spend so much time reading studies on how olfaction and gustation work (the stuff going on in smell genetics and smell forensics at the moment is amazing). It’s also why, if I say a wine is reminiscent of “battery acid” that is an actual bona fide tasting note; when the batteries of my plastic orange Bontempi organ started dripping liquid circa 1981 the first thing I did was dip my finger in and had a taste, to try to make sense of what was going on. As an adult, wine became a part of my emotional smellscape quite gradually and at some forgotten point the very complex world of fragrance it opened up became one I didn’t want to do without.
What was the first bottle that took you closer to your maker?
The wine that first made me take a step back and think, “Oh, hang on a minute.” came embarrassingly late. I was already a columnist for the Guardian and Simon Thorpe opened a few bottles for me at Waitrose in Canary Wharf and one of those was a white Domaine de Chevalier (1998). It was precisely on-song – I tried it again that year and it was good but just not quite hitting that perfect pitch you so rarely find even in the very best wines – and it made me want to laugh out loud with joy. I remember Simon had a naughty schoolboy “Bloody hell!” type expression. It cost about £50 making it one of the most expensive wines I’d then tried and it had a bit of development, and I just got it.
What’s the best bottle you’ve had in the past 12 months?
News reporters at the Daily Mail, where I worked for ten years, talk about getting a “kill” when they get the quotes to stand up a story. I get a (maybe less aggressive) thrill from finding a properly good wine at under a tenner. Two I’ve drunk rather than tasted: In June, a very elegant glass of Domaine de Valensac Sauvignon Blanc 2013 France (Lea & Sandeman, £7.25/£7.75); more recently Majestic’s Domaine de Montval Syrah 2012 which had cost £6.66. Moving up a notch, a wild-honey-and-nectarines, crystalline bottle of Domaine aux Moines Savennieres 2012 gave me a lot of pleasure across two nights (thanks Iain Chapple). And two highlights in a different league: Bruno Giacosa is a bit of a god; I was lucky to share a bottle of Barbaresco Falletto Asili 2007 in Piemonte last November. And at the end a primeurs dinner in Bordeaux Christian Seely poured a Quinta do Noval colheita. They are all beautiful wines but I should have known it was the 1997 when it made me go a bit meerkat-y, as it had the previous time I’d tried it. When wines are that good there are no words, just a sense of startled pleasure.
Victoria – thank you. www.howtodrink.co.uk