Well, here we are at the end of an exhilarating first year for the Académie du Vin Library, with four books published (just!) and six more in the pipeline for 2020. It seems only yesterday (in fact, it’s a good 18 months) since the idea of bringing back the literature of wine first began to crystallize in my mind. In the interim, a number of things have become apparent. One is that fine writing isn’t just the preserve of my generation, but a constantly evolving medium in which the internet, social media and podcasting all play increasingly important parts. Another is that today’s wine writers often have trouble being heard simply because people don’t buy books in the numbers they used to, and without the patronage of publishers it can be very difficult to earn even a modest living putting pen to paper.
At the Académie du Vin Library, we’re looking to change all that – not by forcing people to buy books against their will (perish the thought), but by placing our books, our writers and their writing in the context of a wine world that has grown more complex and multi-faceted. These days, I venture to suggest, it’s not so much pure knowledge that people are looking for in their wine writing but words to embellish the experience – of encountering, of tasting, of drinking, of remembering. And that’s why we’ll be putting our heads together with our team during the coming months to see in what ways we can broaden the scope of what we offer to include not just books, but more extensive online content, international themed tastings and wine-inspired travel opportunities.
It also gives me great pleasure to be assisting my former Decanter colleague Christelle Guibert as she breathes new life into the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) – the world’s oldest, this year celebrating its 50th birthday. With everything else going on, it’s all too easy to forget that without the producers we wouldn’t have any wines to write about – and that without an opportunity to shine, today’s winemakers have little incentive to scale the heights achieved by their predecessors. We shall do what we can to help them – that’s always been my mantra.
Last, but by no means least, I’d like to thank all of you who have bought our books during the last nine months for your support, your enthusiasm – and yes, your criticism too. It would be a tragedy if there was no longer a place for the written word in our lives, and I’ve been delighted by how many of you appear to concur. We may not have got everything right, of course, but I hope you’ll agree with me that our hearts have always been in the right place. They always will be.
An example of the heartfelt link between our books and wine was my tasting of Vintage 2005 which conveniently overlapped with the first preview of our just published In Vino Veritas at 67 Pall Mall on November 25th. We could have done this over a glass or two of bubbles (from Bride Valley Vineyard of course) but I offered a Master Class to the members of six wines from my Dorset cellar, all from the superb 2005 vintage. Here they are:
- Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur Domaine, Christian Moreau
- Corton Grand Cru, Bressandes Domaine, Prince Florent de Merode
- Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Domaine de Chevalier
- Cornas Vieille Vignes, Domaine Alain Voge
- Vinedo Chadwick, Maipo Valley, Chile
- Niederhauser Herrmansschule Riesling, Spätlese, Weingut Donnhoff
All six 2005s had lain in my cellar undisturbed since purchase en primeur and in three cases this was the first time I had tasted them. They were all superb and since wine is all about the pleasure of sharing, I offered my last two bottles of Dow’s 1975 Vintage Port, which wrapped up the evening with pleasurable warmth. I could have offered my last two bottles of Fonseca 1985, but these are staying in the cellar!