News & views | A day in the life of a wine writer

News & views

A day in the life of a wine writer

I wouldn’t say that yesterday was a typical day in the life of this particular wine writer but it was certainly an eclectic one, starting with one huge supermarket tasting (Asda), going on to a Dom Pérignon lunch and finishing with another one (Morrisons).

Few would regard that as anything like work but it takes its toll on the tastebuds so I thought I might pose myself the kind of questions my friends and relatives tend to ask:

So how many wines did you taste?

Hmmm, about 180 I’d guess

How could you possibly taste anything by the end of it?

Good question. The fact is that you’re not going to taste as well at the end of the day as you do at the beginning, particularly after a *cough* Dom Perignon lunch at which not much (actually no) spitting was done. But you get enough of an idea to tell whether it’s a cracking wine or ... er....crap

But don’t your personal preferences come into that?

Yes and no. I must say 20-odd young sauvignon blancs become quite wearisome as does a line-up of huge, overripe 14.5% reds but you try and look at them from the perspective of readers who like those styles. You can still tell which are the stars

Doesn’t it make you drunk?

Not drunk precisely but you do inevitably absorb some alcohol through the lining of your mouth. I wouldn’t want to drive after a tasting

What’s Dom Pérignon like?

Pretty extraordinary. In the case of the 2005 which was being released yesterday, exotically rich, honeyed and vinous - i.e. it’s not just for quaffing at a party. We also ‘tasted’ - i.e. drank - the 1998 and 1971 which costs a cool £1801 at Hedonism

Blimey! So how much is the 2005?


That seems a bargain by comparison. But it worth four times the average champagne?

Oooo, tricky one. For most people the answer's obviously no but it’s not about value for money, it’s about style, theatre, entertainment .... Think of the fashion industry. You can get cheaper shoes than Jimmy Choos but if you want them and can afford them you buy them. DP is an experience not just a drink. (Makes note to self to use that line somewhere)

Would you buy it?

If money were no object, yes. Given the current state of my bank balance, no.

So what did you eat?

An elegant little crab, raw asparagus and samphire salad. A simply gorgeous dish of guineafowl with broad beans and lashings of tarragon butter and gariguette strawberries with set cream (panna cotta to you and me) and brown butter and rye shortbreads. Cooked by Skye Gyngell of Spring (to which you should go by the way. Particularly at this time of year)

OK, let’s get back to the real world shall we? What about the supermarket tastings? Which was better - Asda or Morrisons?

Read the Guardian in a couple of weeks time and I’ll tell you

Oh, go on - give me a couple of recommendations

If you like crisp Italian whites the 2014 M Signature Verdicchio is a real bargain from Morrisons at £5.49. And Asda’s Extra Special Douro 2013 - a big dense spicy red made from the same varieties as port - is a steal at £5. Look out for these vintages though. I can’t vouch for the earlier ones

Were you tired at the end of the day?

As a dog ….

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Comments: 3 (Add) on May 31 2015 at 12:02

Great post! I liked your Q&A style. It demonstrates that any job, no matter how glamorous and fun it sounds, can be hard work at times - even if it's your passion. Hats off to you being able to articulate between quality and less-so at the end of an afternoon!

Douglas Blyde on May 29 2015 at 11:24

Very nice to see you at DP, Fiona.

David Boyer on May 14 2015 at 15:28

Hi Fiona,

I just read your Day In the Life . . . post and loved it. It's amazing that most people think our work is easy and glamorous and I can see why, because it's seldom talked about. Thanks for pulling back the curtain for your readers to get a glimpse of the real world of wine writing.

I posted a piece on my site not long ago entitled, "So, You Want To Be a Wine Critic?" that also provides a real-life picture of how it really is (if you're interested, you can find it here:, which reduces some of the glamor one might think comes with the job. I'm not saying it isn't fun, but rather, it is also hard work.

In any event, I have long been a fan of your writing. Keep up the great work!

Best regards,

David Boyer

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