The winners of the 2020 André Simon Awards were announced on Wednesday 3 March, in a Zoom ceremony attended by an international audience.
The winner of the Drink Award was Intoxicating: Ten Drinks that Shaped Australia, a personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history, by Max Allen.
‘What made Intoxicating the outstanding work in the group was Max Allen’s achievement in weaving the minor world of drinks into a major historical and cultural context,’ said John Hoskins MW, one of two independent assessors overseeing the judging panel. ‘This is a book that anyone with an interest in humanity would enjoy; it is a drinks book that will stand the test of time.’
‘I’m honoured and humbled that the judges picked my book from the group,’ said Max Allen afterwards. ‘My first book, Red and White, won the same award in 1999, which was a massive boost early on in my career. Winning it again, 22 years later – the first time, as far as I know, that an Australian has won an André Simon Award twice – is a real thrill.’
Also shortlisted in this category were Wine from Another Galaxy: Noble Rot, by Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew; The Wines of Georgia by Lisa Granik; and Inside Bordeaux: The Châteaux, their Wines and the Terroir, by Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent and contributing editor, Jane Anson.
Hoskins described Inside Bordeaux as ‘masterful – an extraordinary piece of work, and beautifully designed’.
‘Yes, it’s a wine reference book, but it’s also a joy to read, which isn’t always the case with wine reference books,’ he added. ‘You might ask yourself whether we need another book on Bordeaux. Jane Anson has proved with this book that we do.’
The winner of the food category was Caroline Eden for her book Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes Through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland; this was praised for being ‘a sumptuous and delicious escape into other lands,’ by Lisa Markwell, who was assessing the food books.
The John Avery Award went to Salmon, by Mark Kurlansky, who demonstrates in the book how salmon is a barometer for the health of our plant. And a Special Commendation was awarded to Harold McGee’s Nose Dive, which explores the smells of everyday life, to uncover exactly how these scents work and how better understanding them can transform your relationship with the world around you. The four Award winners were whittled down from more than 170 submissions.
The André Simon Food and Drink book awards have been running since 1978, named after André Simon, the French-born, UK-dwelling wine merchant and food and wine writer, who died in 1970. They are the only awards in the UK to exclusively recognise the achievements of food and drink writers, and are the longest continuous running awards of their kind. Past winners include Elizabeth David, Michel Roux, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Rick Stein.