My journey into wine

The Wine Lover’s Discussion Group: a thread list of topics from 2000. This bulletin board helped me take my first steps in wine geekdom, starting around 1996

How do people discover wine? What proportion of non-involved consumers end up morphing into involved consumers? And how do people make this transition? These are all very interesting […]

We don't want our wines to taste nicer, but truer

When I started drinking wine as a student, I was bottom feeding. Buying cheap wines from supermarkets. Most tasted bad. Now wine tastes better, even at the bottom end. That’s a good thing. But let’s explore the issue a bit further. I’d argue that generally speaking, we don’t want our wines to taste nicer, but […]

Some thoughts on wine quality: an intrinsic or extrinsic property of a wine?


How do we define quality in a wine? Is it an intrinsic or extrinsic property of the wine? That is, is quality something that a wine possesses independent of the occasion of drinking, or the drinker, or not?

The most useful definition of quality is fitness for purpose. We can no more ask someone what the […]

The importance of stories, good and bad

One of the most popular programmes on BBC Radio 4 is Desert Island Discs, which is presented by Kirsty Young. It has been running forever (since 1942), and the idea behind it is that a notable person undergoes a biographical interview punctuated by eight pieces of music that they’d choose to take with them if […]

The social licence of wine

I’ve been at the excellent Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference this week, where I presented on two topics. The first was on whether or not we make too much of terroir, and the second was on the social licence of wine. Here’s a written version of some of the ideas that I discussed in the […]

Framing and wine tasting: how words can get in the way of experience

Framing is a social science term which refers to a set of concepts and perspectives that then form the background that influences how we think on certain issues. In this sense, framing is part of the narrative structure with which we see the world. American academic and author George Lakoff has popularized the term in […]

Accessibility and interest: how we grow to like wines

David Huron, Professor of Music at Ohio State University, has written an absorbing book titled, Sweet anticipation: music and the psychology of expectation. When we listen to music, our relationship with it changes with repeated exposure. We predict what is coming, and then there is a pleasure derived when the music matches our predictions. […]

Who would be the ideal wine critic? A specialist or a generalist?

The wine world is big. Properly big. I’ve been travelling it now for quite a few years, and since 2008 as a full-time wine writer. There are still so many places I’ve yet to get to grips with, and a few famous regions that I haven’t visited at all. For example, I’ve only spent one […]

Internal change, living in the now, and our approach to wine

How we approach life is so important. If we change our viewpoint, it changes everything. But this sort of change is incredibly hard for most.

In our pursuit of happiness, we seek external change. Likewise, in our avoidance of pain, we seek this external change. We look to change the environment. Move to a better neighbourhood. […]

Wine predictions for 2016

What do I know? I’m a wine journalist who travels the world, asks lots of questions, and has a slight obsession with interesting wine. But my love for wine means I’m seeing things from a particular perspective, and I can’t claim to understand all the segments of the wine business equally well. For example, I’m […]