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Wine to 5: Hermione Ireland, wine book publisher

Inside a professional's everyday life, Decanter speaks to Hermione Ireland, a wine book publisher at Académie du Vin Library.

Hermione Ireland is managing director of Académie du Vin Library, the publishing venture set up by Steven Spurrier and Hugh Johnson to publish the world’s best wine writing of the past, the present and the future. Follow her on Instagram at @hermione7031, and discover the range of books at academieduvinlibrary.com.

How did you get here?

I love connecting authors and audiences, particularly on non-fiction topics. I’ve been in sales and marketing in publishing all my life and have always loved books. When chairman and publisher Simon McMurtrie got in touch about the Académie in 2018, I felt I was looking at my dream job description.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The authors. I feel so privileged to work with so many great wine people, particularly Hugh Johnson, as well as Oz Clarke, Andrew Jefford and many others. I was lucky to work with Steven Spurrier before he passed away [March 2021], though I joined too late to meet Michael Broadbent. I’m working to collect as many of the greats and as much new talent as possible.

I also get a kick from working on lots of things at the same time, and running a small business gives me lots of opportunities to do that! And of course, it’s worked wonders for my wine education – I now buy far more expensive wine than I did when I published fiction!

And the worst?

I miss being in an office. We’re a small remote company and I sometimes feel the need to go into 67 Pall Mall [a private members’ club for wine lovers and trade] to surround myself with people. The team does meet in person fairly often but I’m a real extrovert.

What’s been your greatest moment?

There have been a string of equally important moments. Signing several key authors – Oz and Andrew, for instance, and working with Warren Winiarski, who supported us with On California. And when that book was chosen as a wine book of the year in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Daily Telegraph.

How long do you need to take a wine book from conception to publication?

Between six months and a year, depending on the type of book. Some require quite a bit more design, while others require more editing. The Classic series we published last year was turned around in about three months, but that’s unusual. We’re starting work in the autumn on a book for 2024 as we want to get a year’s worth of photography from the vineyard into the book.

What makes a good wine book?

We’re passionate about telling stories. There are some great reference books out there, particularly The World Atlas of Wine and the Oxford Companion, both written by the inimitable Jancis Robinson, working with Hugh on the first one. But our books get close to the people who make the wines we want to drink and the wonderful places the wines are made. I want to be transported to somewhere new, to hear from someone fascinating. I also – call me fussy – want the words to be beautiful, and I hope our books deliver these qualities.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to do what you do?

To be a publisher it really helps to have worked in publishing before. Editorial, sales or marketing are probably the most useful disciplines to have worked in if you want to run a small publishing company. But you can always find talented professionals to help you. A lot of it is about having a nose for a commercial proposition and a passion for getting it out to people.

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