Monday, 7 November 2011

Guest Spot: Jane Anson, Decanter

Our second guest at Bella Wines blog is the charming, elegant and very interesting journalist Jane Anson. Jane is based in Bordeaux, where she writes regularly for Decanter magazine as well as contributing to the South China Morning Post and amongst others. Jane had a large contribution to probably the heaviest wine book ever....The Wine Opus, published October 2010 (Dorling Kindersley) and she is frequently charging about the Chateaux and listening out for the latest hot news from the key players. Jane's website New Bordeaux is well worth exploring. Her Twitter feed (@newbordeaux)is often from the library at Chateau Haut Brion or the cellars of Chateau Margaux, whilst Jane is researching her latest up to date and undoubtedly fascinating book on Bordeaux First Growths...due for publication October 2012.

So Jane, tell me why you ended up working with wine?
I came to wine through writing, rather than the other way round. I have been a journalist since I graduated - after one year teaching English for the JET programme in Tokyo (and even there I edited the JET Tokyo newspaper!). I then moved to Hong Kong and began working on newspapers and magazines until the Handover in 1997. Back in England, I did a masters in Publishing and continued working as a journalist, working as managing editor of websites as the Internet opened up. All the while, my interest in wine was growing... mainly Italian, rather than French, at first! That 'moment with wine' that all wine writers seem to have came for me in South Africa, when I visited in 1996, and interviewed one of the first black managers post-apartheid, who was then working at Spier in Stellenbosch. I realised that wine could be a subject that encompassed history, geography, politics and personality, as well of course as taste and pleasure. That was when I started to study it more seriously, first with WSET, and later other courses in Bordeaux. I moved to Bordeaux in 2003, and have been writing full time about wine ever since, so coming up to nine years now.

Was your family involved in winemaking, wine, food or restaurants?
No. My mother has always been an excellent cook, and prepared a wide variety of different types of food - even in the 70s we were eating Mexican, Chinese, Japanese etc - and we would be given some wine (and water) with our meals from a young age. But never any professional involvement.

Did you have a specific inspirational person or mentor?
When I arrived in Bordeaux, Jean Michel Cazes was one of the first winemakers to be truly open and welcoming, and armed me with various books about Bordeaux that were invaluable (such as Pijassou's Medoc). Equally Jean-Claude Berrouet, who took the time to taste with me when I first arrived, and was so generous with his time and knowledge. But I have found so many people in this industry to be inspirational, from Jancis Robinson and Jeannie Cho Lee, who both work incredibly hard and have enormous depth of knowledge and yet manage to maintain successful families and be thoroughly nice people, to legendary winemakers such as Charles Chevallier, Peter Gago and Jean-Claude Berrouet. You taste some of their wines and are just in awe.

You live in and have written extensively about Bordeaux, which relies on a classification system mainly from 1855 and operates a multi layered (often criticised) archaic distribution system. In 2011 who do you think embraces modern technology, social media and communication the best in Bordeaux?
Increasingly, Bdx chateaux are getting to grips with the possibilities of new technology (although far too many still never answer emails). Some of the best I would say are Chateau Palmer, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Coutet (particularly on twitter) and a smaller property called Chateau de la Vielle Chapelle.

Who is the best female/male winemaker currently working?
Difficult to say, particularly if you leave to one side the recognised, world-famous talents I mentioned above (Chevallier, Berrouet, Gago). Personally I am always excited by the Domaine Brana wines from Irouleguy, and think Etienne Brana makes wonderful things happen with the cabernet franc grape. Same grape, but up in the Loire, I love Gerald Vallee at Domaine de la Cotellaraie. For Loire whites, which I also love, I am closely following the work of Eric Morgat at Domaine Eric Morgat (formerly Ch de Breuil). And here in Bordeaux, turning out brilliant wine each year in a quiet manner, I would have to say Jean-Philippe Janoueix over in Saint Emilion. And lastly, there is some brilliant white winemaking going on in Pessac Leognan - an area which still doesn't get the recognition it deserves for throughly grown-up, classy white wines.

In your opinion which wine journalist (global) is the most interesting to read and which wine journalist has the most power?
I always love reading both Jancis Robinson and Andrew Jefford. Clearly Parker still wields enormous influence. And I hope I can add that the best wine news is clearly on!!

Which vinous area is the NEXT BIG THING?
Plenty of Spanish regions are still 'up and coming', producing wonderful wines, and we too often forget about Eastern Europe, particularly Croatia's Istrian region and Slovenia, along the border with Austria. But France is my speciality, and I would say Beaujolais is ripe for another look, especially the 2009/2010 vintages (and I hear 2011 was another success, although haven't tasted any yet). Plenty of wine writers already know about the excellent quality coming out of the Villages, but too many consumers will still suppress a smirk when you say you like Beaujolais wine. Producers such as Potel-Aviron, Villa Ponciago and Jean-Marc Burgaud are all worth looking out for.

Thank you Jane Anson.
If anyone would like to pre order Jane's forthcoming book on Bordeaux First Growths, or if you would like to stock this book as a retailer/re seller, please contact me and I will pass on information.

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