21st October 2016
Mailbox Sessions Takeover
5 minutes with: Joanna Simon
The Mailbox Sessions are back with a bumper weekend of non-stop events. Marking one year since the relaunch, there’s plenty to choose from, with celebrations being hosted by Aluna, Gieves & Hawkes, Toni & Guy and many more. We’ll also be catching up with some of the guest hosts and stars of the events, as they take some time out of their busy schedules.
This weekend, award-winning wine specialist, Joanna Simon, joins us at the Mailbox for our very own wine tasting event – we caught up with her for five minutes:
1. Hi Joanna! Let’s start with a little about how you got to where you are…
I was very into food and cooking in my teens and I happened to pick up a book on wine. Something just clicked and I thought this is what I’m going to do. By the time I graduated from university, where I’d been heavily involved with the wine society (my parents probably thought a bit too heavily), I’d lined up a job in the wine trade.
From there, I moved pretty swiftly into writing about wine, editing a couple of specialist wine magazines before becoming The Sunday Times wine critic, which I did for years.
Along the way I wrote several books including Wine with Food, Discovering Food and The Sunday Times Book of Wine.
I’ve presented a wine series on BBC Radio 4, co-founded The Wine Gang, thewinegang.com – an online monthly wine review magazine and wine events company that’s going from strength to strength, edited the food and drink pages for House and Garden Magazine, and travelled extensively to vineyard regions.
I also have my own website, www.joannasimon.com which has weekly wine recommendations, recipes, restaurant reviews and so on. And of course, I love sharing the fun and excitement of wine, and wine and food, through hosting tastings and events.
2. The wine tasting session you’re hosting alongside Harvey Nichols sold out in a matter of hours. What can lucky ticket holders expect?
I’ve chosen six wines from around the world that are delicious in their own right but which we’re also going to pair with Harvey Nichols charcuterie and cheeses. There’s a nod to classic wine styles but I’m also going to be introducing people to some really exciting new wave wines that they might not have thought of trying.
3. We’ve heard you’re a fan of the wines at the Harvey Nichols Wine Shop. What’s your personal recommendation from there?
It’s such a good selection of wines, it’s almost impossible to choose just one but I highly recommend Harvey Nichols own-label wines. They come from leading producers around the world and the labels are very stylish. If I was going to pick one, I’d say try the dry Australian Riesling. It’s a very underrated style of white wine and food-friendly.
4. If a novice walked into the Wine Shop and wanted to shop to impress an expert such as yourself, what advice would you give them before they went in?
Be adventurous! Instead of heading for the famous, recognisable names, go off piste and pick out wines that you don’t know anything or much about.
5. You’re part of a busy weekend here at the Mailbox. What other events have caught your eye and why?
The Cocktail Masterclass – for new ideas and inspiration, and I’d love to see the dishes Richard O’Connell is cooking up at Tom’s Kitchen.
6. Obviously, there’s a different wine for every meal. With Christmas on the horizon, which wine should be on the table for turkey and the trimmings this year?
I think red goes better with turkey, so I recommend Pinot Noir because it’s good at coping with all the trimmings as well as the bird. Also, white wine drinkers are usually happy with it because it’s not a heavy, tannic red. I’d go for a New Zealand or Chilean Pinot Noir.
7. You’ve been lucky enough to travel with your work. Where’s your favourite spot on the whole globe? You don’t have to say Birmingham…
There are so many lovely wine regions but I’ve been on two trips to Italy recently – Bolgheri, close to the Tuscan coast, and to Valpolicella near Lake Garda. It reminded me how beautiful Italy is. I also spend a lot of time in southwest France in a remote spot not far from the Cahors wine region.
8. You’ve presented on BBC Radio 4 – let’s hop over to another show on there and play Desert Island Drinks – one wine, one cocktail, one non-alcoholic drink, one book (or boxset, it’s 2016) and one luxury item (we’ve given you a corkscrew).
Champagne. Negroni. Freshly squeezed blood-orange juice. I don’t think I can claim to need any of my own wine books but I’m hoping to find some vines growing on the island and so I’d like Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. It covers more than 1368 vine varieties and tops 1200 pages so it’ll keep me going for a long time.
As for the luxury, I shan’t need the corkscrew (but thank you anyway). I’d like a supply of vintage Champagne. I’ll find a cool cove, cave or stream in which to chill it.
9. Imagine we’ve given you a £500 gift card to spend on a new autumn/winter wardrobe at the Mailbox, but the rule is that you can only spend it at one shop. Where do you head for your shopping spree?
I’d be off to Armani Collezioni!
10. And finally, if you could share a bottle of wine with any celebrity, living or dead, who would have the other glass and why?
The Reverend Richard Coles! He was one half of the band, The Communards, in the 1980s and now presents BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live (when he’s not being a vicar).
He always sounds such fun and so grounded. He got to the semi-finals in Masterchef, so I know he likes food and cooking, and I’m assuming he likes wine too.