The New Year will bring a new editor to Vineyard, as from January 2022 the magazine will be in the very capable hands of experienced drinks industry writer Christian Davies.
A career in drinks industry publications
I started off on local newspapers – The South London Press and then, after a stint living in Denmark, the Wandsworth Borough News. I came into the drinks industry on The Morning Advertiser which, at that time, was a national daily newspaper for the pub trade – a step up from weekly locals. So, I witnessed pubs starting to provide food – ‘pub grub’ and then supermarkets starting to sell wine with all the implications that had for the off licensed sector. From there I had stints in the catering/foodservice sector and retail – William Reed’s Convenience Store.
More recently, I worked on Harpers, the Wine & Spirit Weekly – deputy editor to Tim Atkin MW and then as editor. Finally, I took over Drinks International, the magazine for global drinks buyers. Historically, more spirits orientated, but being a wine lover, I beefed up the wine coverage, redressing the balance. Also, I improved coverage of beer and started reporting on soft drinks as the increasing popularity of gin and therefore tonic waters (Fever Tree et al) became significant.
Career highlights so far?
Working on Harpers… I am a wine drinker and enjoy covering the people who make wine. Thanks to Harpers, I managed to travel to virtually all the major wine-producing countries and regions around the world. My particular favourites are: South Africa and Australia and I think Chile makes fantastic value-for-money wines. The then owners were also enlightened enough to encourage career development. So, I was able to gain Wine & Spirits Education Trust qualifications, culminating in passing the WSET Diploma.
What are you looking forward to in your role as editor of Vineyard?
This is an opportunity for me to return to the sector I particularly enjoy. Unlike the spirits sector which is more corporate, people who make wine are far more open about what they do and how they do it. I am looking forward to learning about the production side and getting out and about meeting the sector’s characters and personalities and finding out what makes them tick.
The challenge for me is to deepen my knowledge of the more ‘agricultural’ side of wine production. It means I will not be sleep walking into this role. I have to learn about and be more hands on about tractors, harvesting equipment, presses, filtration units et al. At the recent Vineyard & Winery Show, seeing all that stainless steel, made me recall my time on Catering magazine when I used to visit a lot of factories making refrigeration units, regeneration ovens, hobs – you name it when it comes to producing food! Most people just think about chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing. But there is so much more to producing food and the people who toil in professional, industrial, kitchens working with modest budgets.
Viticulture and winemaking experience
I have been around countless vineyards and wineries. I helped a friend plant a vineyard up on the North Downs just south of Faversham. I have more than half a dozen vines in my garden. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but also Pinotage and Back 22A. So, I have done planting, pruning and canopy management, albeit on a tiny scale – but I have never actually made wine.
Developing the magazine With my more global background, contacts and knowledge of the marketing, merchandising side, I would like to broaden the coverage to include developments, initiatives which might, arguably should, be of interest to English and Welsh wine makers and producers.
Opportunities for the industry
I think the opportunities are huge! I like to think I noted the start of improved, knowledge, professionalism and the start of commercialisation of English wines.
A favourite story, is coming back from a tasting of English wines at the House of Lords and raving about the quality of the wines I tasted. Tim Atkin laughed and jokingly made me Harpers’ ‘English wine correspondent’. I did not have a problem with that. Far from it. With English consumers drinking more and more wine, I could see the opportunity for English/Welsh wines.
I think that climate change is one alongside the implications of Brexit going forward – such as the difficulties with importing/exporting; attracting people to work in the vineyards.
Also, all of the ‘green issues’ – recycling, packaging (light weighting, use of plastics etc), tax, duty, the list goes on…
At the Vineyard & Winery Show, I attended Matthew Jukes’ tasting. My overall favourite was a magnum of Nyetimber. It was awesome and, I think, good value at £85. I have always liked the Nyetimber sparklers. I also like Gusbourne wines. Simpson’s in Barham, near Canterbury, do an excellent Chardonnay. I thought their Roman Road Chardonnay was as good as a top Chablis. I recently bought a Biddenden Gamay from my local farm shop. I’m not a great fan of Beaujolais and the Gamay grape, but curiosity got the better of me – and I thought the Biddenden Gamay was very good.
Any spare time?
I love cycling and skiing. I used to play football, squash and badminton. Sadly, I can no longer do the former but I try and keep my hand in with my rackets. My Cocker Spaniel, Maisie, dominates my daily routine. A rescue dog, found wandering around Alicante in Spain, she sets my daily agenda in terms of walks and feeding. Undemonstrative, she nevertheless lets me know when it is time to get off my backside and feed or walk her. She will be accompanying me on visits… I like reading particularly, history, autobiographies and a bit of crime thrillers.
I am half Danish. My mother was a war bride, swept up by my father in his RAF uniform. I lived and worked in Copenhagen for about two years so I can understand and rustily speak Danish. With vineyards now springing up in Denmark maybe my Danish might come in useful in terms of covering cool climate viticulture!