An interview with: Amanda Barnes of Around the World in 80 Harvests
If you're not already following Amanda Barnes, make sure it's a name you add to your (wine) repertoire. Amanda is a well known wine writer having contributed to publications such as Decanter, Oz Clarke's Wine Guide, The Guardian, and The Telegraph - just to name a few.
If that's not accomplishment enough, Amanda gave up her career as an editor in England to pursue no small feat - visit 42 countries, in 6 continents, and 80 wine regions - yes you heard that right - for a book to be released in 2020. Amanda's ethos? You cannot garner an authentic understanding for any wine growing region without actually spending time within them. One must be present to learn the terroir, viticulture and vinification, and of course the most important part - the people responsible behind said wines.
I reached out to Amanda over Facebook - we've never actually met - and asked if she would be open to answering some of my questions. She graciously replied right away, and shared her answers in the interview below - which had me laughing out loud! Side note: my social media journey into the wine community has been nothing short of amazing - the people I've met and communicated with, and learned from, has blown me away at how similar, and interconnected we all are.
Amanda, I thank you for your kind and humble nature, and for taking the time to answer my questions.
How did you get into wine?
Wine has always been on the table at home but I'd really say my fascination for wine came through my fascination for flavour and food. I've always been a glutton and loved trying food from all over the world, and wine gradually became part of that obsession. How I became a wine writer is a slightly different story although it starts out the same way: I wanted to learn about wine in order to become a better food writer. I moved to a wine-producing country, Argentina, in order to learn about wine from the vineyard up and I soon discovered that writing about wine involves all the topics I love most: gastronomy, travel, culture, history, the natural world, people and, of course, wine.
What about wine do you find so captivating?
All of the above! It is not just simply about what goes into your gut, but about the story behind it and a glass of wine (which you enjoy in just a moment) is always centuries, or even millennia, in the making. I can't think of any product quite as thrilling.
What are some of your most memorable wine and food pairings?
There are great classics that I adore and indulge in as often as I can (Fino sherry and jamon; bone-dry sparkling wine and oysters; big, fat Chardonnay and blue cheese; really great Malbec with a bloody steak) and then there are truly memorable pairings which can't be repeated - like when I was recently in the Piedmont and I tried a beautiful, old Arneis (a Cornarea 1983) which was just divine with this local cheese which has a mature, nutty flavour and is encased in straw. Those are the pairings, or perhaps the wine moments, that keep me awake at night drooling.
What are you coveting at the moment, wine wise?
Wine-wise, I covet everything all the time. It's harder to say what I'm not coveting. Although admittedly my biggest weakness is for bubbles, complex whites and elegant, light reds.
What's a wine experience you'll never forget?
I'm very lucky. I have many. One of my highlights over the last year was tasting through the big sherry casks with Pepe Blandino, one of the great capataz's of Jerez who has been making it since he was a young boy (and is now in his 70s). We tasted wines that had been under flor for decades - sublime.
What's your go to for:
Dinner with friends (who might not all be wine versed)?
Something interesting - I always try to pull out something that they will enjoy, that they might not have tasted before, and something that will go nicely with whatever I'm cooking. I spend just as long picking wine for dinner as I do planning the meal. And then, when I've had too much to drink, I always get excited and pull out bottles that are ridiculously inappropriate.
Don't watch it. But would probably require a stiff whisky.
Always red. Preferably old. Or an old Colheita (Tawny Port) if I have the choice.
Something fresh which works with the sea breeze - Rias Baixas Albariño, Muscadet Sur Lie...
Every wine tastes good at sunset.
What's a wine that best describes your personality?
I don't know if I'm the best judge of my own personality - I know all 12 of them. So I'd have to pick at least 18 different wines.
Tell me your three death row wines - if you were on death row and could only have three wines before you hit the electrical chair, what would they be?
I like intrigue, and so I would have a blind tasting of three extremely rare wine varieties (all native to their own particular place in the world, with few hectares surviving) of their best vintages (all outstanding, of course). And you don't get to kill me until I've guessed them correctly (on the condition I have unlimited top-ups available for as long as it takes). I think I would die happy once I've spent the years it would take to reach the right answer (or at least be deeply inebriated before the chair...)