Published 1999, Thorsons.

This book came about after I had participated in a TV programme made in 1997 by a company called ThreeBM Television based in Beak Street, London. The crew consisted of Dan Korn, Zillah Watson and Emma Bowman, plus Stephen Forster (Lighting Cameraman) and Chris Barker (Recordist). We filmed in Bordeaux (Entre-Deux-Mers, St-Emilion, the Médoc) and Burgundy (where we interviewed soil microbiologist Claude Bourguignon), exploring why French wine-growers were increasingly going organic or Biodynamic. Zillah Watson, who was the producer, put me in contact with her husband Andrew Neather, who was working for environmental group Friends of the Earth (he eventually went on to advise British PM Tony Blair). Thanks to Andy, Friends of the Earth and Thorsons my first book, The Organic Wine Guide, was commissioned and published.

At the time I was house-sitting for a schoolfriend in Parsons Green, London who had put it up for sale as he was living in California. My job was to show prospective house buyers around. I’d signed the book contract in late autumn and of course the first person to look round the house decided to buy it. I had to move out but had nowhere to live. So I rented a flat with my then partner (we are still friends) in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain’s sherry region. I knew the area a little, having spent a bit of time there in 1993 when researching the Sherry region (which produces my favourite wines). Even in winter it was warm, rents were low, and the food and wine were exceptional. The flat we rented overlooked the beach and the mouth of the Guadalquiver (Spain’s second longest river) and its constant stream of large container vessels heading to or from Seville. There was no phone connection in our flat, so emailing each chapter of the book meant getting on a bus to the nearby coastal town of Chipiona where, as well as plentiful Moscatel Gordo Blanco (Muscat of Alexandria) vineyards there was an internet café owned by a former US Navy seaman. For those few months we were probably his best clients.

After the book was written I went to live in California for 7 months on Bobby and Jimmy Fetzer on the family’s Home Ranch in Redwood Valley, Mendocino. The was Demeter-certified Biodynamic. I was tasked with creating more biodiversity (planting a Biodynamic vegetable garden to provide food for the vineyard staff), making Biodynamic compost for the vineyard, running an apple orchard and selling the fruit at the farmers’ market in the local town of Ukiah. The experience informed my next bio wine book, Biodynamic Wine (2003, Mitchell Beazley).


Winner of the Champagne Lanson Awards, Wine Guide of the Year.