To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts deciding this year's best wines.
Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford will be the Regional Chair for Regional France at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards. In this interview, find out about his inspirations, memorable wine moments and what he’d like to see people drinking in 2013…
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in the Languedoc, in a village about half-way between Montpellier and Pic St Loup. That’s where I work when I’m not travelling (which is between two and three months a year).
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I got into wine when I started making it at home as a teenager. Then I started reading books and articles about it, and writing words about it myself. I finally quit the day job (in publishing) in 1988 to take it up full time.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
First of all, I don’t believe wine is an industry. It is agriculture and craft. It’s at its least interesting when it becomes most industrial, though it can never become exclusively industrial. There are a number of clichés about wine (there’s always more to learn in wine; tasting is a lesson in humility; there are no great wines, only great bottles; the worst enemy of a good wine is a better one…) and they are all true. The thing I love most about wine is the way in which it is an interplay between human beings and soil, landscape, weather, the seasons; and I love its cultural richness, and its power to console and to inspire.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
Among those who have inspired me, in different ways and at different times, have been Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Simon Loftus, Richard Neill, Serge Hochar, Brian Croser and Michael Schuster.
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
Landing on a small boat to go to see the vineyards on Mount Athos; drinking Tokaji in an open-air restaurant in Budapest serenaded by a violinist, as we bathed in the scent of lime blossom; drinking Assyrtico in a restaurant on the edge of Santorini’s caldera on a summer night; finally reaching the vineyards of Irouleguy and finding them surrounded by heather.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
Douro red wines, and indeed most wines from Portugal; Georgian wines; Australian natural wines and naturally articulated wines; Piedmontese wines of all sorts; and my old friends Cahors, Madiran and Bandol.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
Not illogically, I drink (and enjoy) a lot of Languedoc wine at home.
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
No, Montpellier doesn’t have a strong wine scene (bizarrely enough – it’s just taken for granted).
What’s your desert island wine?
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Take it slowly and make it last. Listen to what your throat and stomach are telling you as well as your nose and mouth.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Harmony; drinkability and gastronomic aptitude; allusiveness; grace and poise.
This year the Decanter World Wine Awards are celebrating their 10th anniversary, what is your most memorable moment from the DWWA over the last ten years?
Finding our first Gold-medal-worthy rosé wine. (We thought for a while it couldn’t be done but now we know it can, we’d like to do it more.)
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
Seeing old friends and digging for Gold!
Written by Decanter.com