Thursday, 9 February 2012

Guest Spot: Simon Woods, Wine Journalist

I am very pleased to welcome Simon Woods as our next Guest on this blog. Simon is a charming award winning wine journalist, whose excellent humour and bright demeanour always enliven wine tasting events. His knowledge and diverse communication skills bring the often complicated and confusing subject of wine to a wider receptive audience. Simon makes wine fun! He is certainly worth following on twitter @woodswine and looking at his excellent and funny video blogs on his website:

1. You have been writing about wine for some time Simon. What drew you to this subject and why?

Flavour – even though we didn’t have an especially exotic diet at home, I noticed at a reasonably early age that there was a difference between the bad, the OK and the best. Couldn’t work out in my teens how my friends could drink vast quantities of grotty beer when there was better stuff on offer for just a few pence more a pint. After a brief dalliance with the electronics industry, I spent a year in Australia during which time I picked grapes, worked in a bottle shop and visited several vineyards on a bike. Since then, I’ve managed to carve out a job that let me share my opinions with others.

2. Have you ever wanted to make wine and develop your own label? And if so, which area would you choose?
With so much interesting wine around, it would be hard to settle on a particular region. Also, running and promoting your own estate seems to be extremely hard work. But it would be great to develop a brand that covers many regions, something that is consistently good but which encourages normal people to spend just that little bit more to explore the world of wine.

3. You write mainly for the UK market which is facing some challenging times at the moment. You taste extensively all around the World. When you are polishing your crystal ball in the evening what do you think are the most exciting wines (area, region or country) that we are about to discover on the UK merchant shelves?
The traditional wine producing countries of Europe offer so much in terms of the spectrum of flavours, but most of the time, their promotion is very poor, and often forgets that the target audience is normal people rather than the wine trade. At the same time, countries outside Europe are often seen in the UK as simply sources of easy-going varietal wine, meaning that the more ambitious offerings are seen as overpriced. My concern is that our obsession with ‘getting a good deal’ will cause many wine producers to bypass the UK and seek out more appreciative audiences in other countries. So while there’s lots in both the Old and the New World that excites me, I’m not holding out much hope of our shelves being overwhelmed with whites and reds from Galicia, Austria, southern France, Swartland and Beiras, new wave Australian Chardonnay, Greek whites, post modern Bordeaux reds etc

4. What do you think of organic and biodynamic wines? Do you think the customer cares?
Love the idea of wines being made that are sympathetic to the environment, but for most customers the organic/bio status is a bonus rather than a reason for buying in the first place.

5. You live in the North of England. Are there enough tastings and activities for northern based journalists, consumers? Or do you feel that the wine trade is Londoncentric? What percentage of your time is spent travelling??
The wine trade IS very London centric: with regard to trade tastings, there are events in the north, but they often coincide with more interesting ones darn sarf. But there are several enterprising northern retailers who make sure their customers get plenty of chances to try wines. As for me travelling, family demands mean I do quite a lot less than in the past, but I’m still away from home – both in London and on trips to other countries – for maybe 80 nights a year.

6. Which journalist has the best reach to the audience? Which journalist do you read and appreciate the most?
They write for different audiences, but I’ve heard that reccos from Jancis Robinson, Jane McQuitty and Matthew Jukes translate into sales. I love reading Andrew Jefford, and just wish he had a decent outlet for his impassioned purple prose, but he’s never going to be mainstream.

7. If you had the choice of any other career.....what would you want to be?
Am too old now to be a footballer, but there may still be time to play lead guitar in a kick-ass band…

8. You do most of your reviews now on video – why?
There’s been a huge move to consuming information online rather than in print, with video leading a lot of the charge. Hopefully my enthusiasm for wine comes through in my videos, and not only exposes me to a wider audience, but lets people discover wine in a way that is more relevant to them

Thanks Simon.

Simon is worth following for his humorous video blogs and his fun twitter activity., twitter @woodswine

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