I've known Don for 15 years from when we were working at Berry Bros. & Rudd and he was a key host in the Wine School and Corporate Events. Don has helped TheRLWS enormously and hosted at various events for which I am very grateful. You can now seek him out in Taylor's Fine Wine in Richmond and also organising big trade events with Sensible Wine Services.
1. What is your wine mission?
Keep learning. The longer I spend in the world of wine the more I realise how little I know and how much is yet to be discovered and explored.
2. Next big thing in wine?
Producers trying ever harder to meet the needs of consumers who are ever more environmentally and health conscious. I’m finding customers increasingly asking questions such as how the wine is made? Is it organic/biodynamic? What are the producers environmental credentials? Is the wine suitable for vegans? What about alcohol level or sulphur level? Producers are going to have to meet the needs of increasingly inquisitive and demanding consumers.
3. Your ‘go to’ glass after a hard day?
White port with tonic and ice and a slice of citrus or a sprig of mint or basil.
4. Music paradise?
I think I’m in a category of my own on this one because I have absolutely no taste for music!
5. Preferred colour?
6. Favourite film?
Schindler’s List. It’s my favourite in the sense that it is the most powerful and moving film I’ve ever seen. Also I like Liam Neeson. He grew up in the town where I went to school and his mum was our dinner lady.
7. Fondest vintage?
1963 as I love vintage port. I wish I could favour my birth year but nothing much good got produced in 1962 apart from me!
8. Oak or stainless steel?
Judicious use of oak though obviously not if the wine style doesn’t support it.
9. Best place to eat?
Of recent experience it has to be Le Frog @ Les Mirabelles in Nomansland on the edge of the New Forest. The food is excellent (traditional French) and the wine list is beyond belief! The Patron is a rather grumpy Frenchman but that all seems to go with the territory.
10. Food and wine matching purgatory?
When I’m a guest of someone who continues to serve red wine through pudding and you can’t really refuse.
11. Guilty food and wine match?
Old vintages of Ch. Musar with chocolate. I know this completely contradicts what I’ve just said about a matching purgatory but it simply works. It just shows, there are no rules!
12. Favourite wine writer (apart from yourself)?
Simon Field MW writes with a particular style and fluency that I really enjoy.
13. Wine ‘fad’ irritation?
Silly gadgets and accoutrements. You need very few things, first a decent corkscrew, I favour the Waiter’s Friend but also keep one of the 2-pronged types (known as a Butler’s Thief) for older soft corks. Also a clear glass decanter and a good decanting funnel with a curved spout that directs with wine all around the inside walls of the decanter to aerate it, these are all you need.
14. Most delicious cheese?
Epoisses from the Burgundy region. I first encountered it in Beaune and put some in my bag to take home and got stopped at customs because they thought something had died in my luggage!
15. Inspiring novel?
The Call of The Wild by Jack London. First read when I was about 12 years old.
16. Damascene wine moment?
Early in my wine drinking years I was having lunch with friends who are nuns in Cobham. They mentioned that the family of the founder of their order, Jeannne de Lestonac had a vineyard in Bordeaux and that they still received a quota of the wine and we would have it with pudding. It was amber nectar with notes of barley sugar, dried apricots honey and so much more and on the palate it was simply astounding, I’d never tasted anything like it. I had just been served my first glass of Ch. d’Yquem. In that moment I realised the huge difference between everday drinking wines and those which are truly great!
17. Most beautiful vineyard in the world?
This is difficult because I’ve seen so many beautiful vineyards but if I had make a choice the most memorable for me was when I was staying in Alba in Piemonte and looking at the Barolo vineyards in autumn colours just emerging from an early morning mist.
18. Ideal last sip?
A good champagne, and celebrate a job well done!
19. Next place to visit?
I’ve rather neglected our own wines so I plan to focus more on UK vineyards.
20. Best advice?
Don’t take it all too seriously, don’t be badgered by so-called “experts”, trust your own judgement and enjoy!