Click on the player below to listen to the Jancis Robinson talk or follow CW's live blog reporting on "Writing about Wine: Impossible or Imprudent?" at the Shanghai International Literary Festival click here to save the mp3 to your computer.
Audio courtesy of the Glamour Bar. Sound recording by Tom Lee Pettersen at Meta Music Media
6:40 | The battle of the sexes Whites are for women and reds are for men? asks a member of the audience. "Who says that?" responds Jancis. "What I have heard is that women, on average, are more accurate and consistent when tasting wines than men are." [ Raucous applause from the female crowd ] Enough said? Jancis, a lover of all wines, seems proof that white and red are gender neutral. Guys, the next time you buy a girl a drink, buck against tradition and get her a nice red.
6:34 | The character of wine A curious participant asks Jancis who the most interesting character is that she's met in journeys into the wine world. She launches into an account of Jean-Francois Coche, the winemaker of Burgundy's Coche-Dury, who spends the entire day out in his vineyards and will not give the time of day to any writers, reviewers and so forth till the evening when he's finished with his vines.
6:27 | When the price tag doesn't apply A wine critic saying that the price does not always correlate with the product? Gasp. It's true. At the end of a longwinded answer to a question about the prominence of Portuguese wine on the market, Robinson says the best range to look at is in the middle (not just in Portuguese wines but in general) as the expense of the wine is not a dead marker of a great sipping experience. Forget all that those snobby sommeliers ever told you, the one who really care about you getting the best experience won't steer you toward the highest priced bottle on the shelf (right away, at least).
6:21 | There's no good wine in China One would-be Chinese vineyard owner asks whether or not Jancis thinks it's possible to produce good wine in China. Robinson again, eloquently, affirms her optimism for the wine scene in China, and says that she's sampled some good wines from Grace Vineyard. "I think there's a huge amount of work to do in this huge country to find where is most suitable. It's hard to believe there is nowhere in the country that could produce quality wines. I'm sure that even in my time we'll see some really challenging wines coming from China."
6:12 | Forget the Baijiu
Jancis admits that a few years back, had she been approached about going to do a discussion about wine in China, she would have bawked at the prospect. "They'll never drink grape wine in China!" But Jancis has changed her tone, now seeing China (and the abolition of the wine tax in Hong Kong) as a sign that Asia is soon to become a key player in the fine wine scene. A friend of ours, Aubrey Buckingham, leaned over and pointed out that this is a bit of a sore spot for Mainland China--they're worried that people will buy their wine in Hong Kong and bring it over to the Mainland to skirt mainland taxes. Watch for plenty of bottles in airport luggage from now on. We're currently in the market for a large suitcase ourselves ...
6:07 | The Iron Lady We're sorry, did she just say she can't taste more than 20 wines before she gets a bit hungry? Holy iron stomach, Batman. We're still padding our stomachs before (and after) 3 or 4 glasses to avoid the wrather of Lady Vino the next morning. Congrats Jancis, you're our idol.
6:04 | Third time's a charm We think this is an interesting approach, honest and genuine in its attempt to truly offer people a glimpse into wine tasting. To move beyond the changing sensibilities of wine, Robinson says she posts wine tasting notes on the same wine several times, documenting how the taste itself evolves for her.
6:02 | Forget the Perfect Match With an overwhelming emphasis on wine dinners and wine pairings these days, Robinson posits taht really, this is a minor issue. In the end it's about enjoying yourself. Her advice? Don't worry about finding the perfect pairing, your own senses will be able to figure it out relatively well on their own--"Life is too short!" she exclaims. "The gods are not going to strike you down for not finding the perfect pairing."
5:59 | Succumbing to Popular Demand The act of criticism is hard to avoid, and Jancis herself has had to succumb to boiling down the liquid of life to a star rating / number system. Though if our own critics feel such ratings are rather arbitrary, is there really a point in assigning ratings? Or should we, as foodies and critics, trust that the publishing of our tasting notes will be enough to allow discerning readers to make up their own minds about whether or not something appeals to them? What is our obsession with numbers and stars?
5:53 | Sense and Sensibility Writing about how a wine tastes is difficult, says Jancis. Why? Because people's senses are different. They like different tastes, scents, and so forth. A wine will taste different for one person than another. Different bottles also taste different. And wine, she says, is a living thing. The flavor of a wine changes with time. As foodies and folks that review venues and assign ratings, the concept of rating in and of itself comes up in our discussions regularly at the CW office. Jancis speaks to this point, saying she dislikes assigning ratings to things because of the variations she has mentioned.
5:51 | Coming out of the Cellar "Wine is not a natural topic for words." Why would you talk about a wine that you're saving in your cellar? Shouldn't it be on your table instead?! she jokes. We agree with Jancis, it may not be an interesting evening spent talking solely about wine, but she hits th enail on the head when she says that wine promotes discussion in general. It's main function is to provide a sensuous experience.
5:47 | Erodite, Elegant and Prolific Michelle Garnaut uses the above words to describe wine writer Jancis Robinson. Given the number of people that have turned up for this event, we'd say a number of people agree. Jancis comments on the oddity of a wine writer being at the literary festival. "I can't claim that my work is literature," she says humbly. It seems to us, given the popularity of her discussion and the number of people here, that Jancis' works are of interest to people. The wine is the thing.