You’ve sipped so many different wines from around the world now – would you say you have a favourite?
You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy great wine. Wine is all about enjoyment and there’s a bottle out there to suit every palate and every pocket. The thing I love most about wine is that it brings people together, whether it’s alongside food around a table, or a convivial sip with an old friend, it’s a shared experience to revel in. If I had to pick a favourite wine moment it was during a splendid lunch halfway up the Eiffel Tower in the Jules Verne restaurant with Barbara Broccoli who produces the James Bond films. I was served a glass of fizz and asked to identify it. After a sip and a swirl, I declared it to be Champagne Bollinger R.D. 1975. I’m a huge James Bond fan and happened to know that was the bubbly served to 007 in the exact same restaurant halfway up the Eiffel Tower in A View To A Kill. I was given the empty bottle as a prize, and it proudly sits on my desk!
Any exclusive tips for how to jazz up a boring Sunday lunch with some fabulous drinks?
Be bold! Rather than select the usual bottle from the shelves on your weekly shop, or buying wines on offer, select a wine that offers genuinely great value as well as amazing quality. English fizz has been rising in quality and picking up stacks of awards the world over, often beating prestigious names from the Champagne region. Kick off with bubbly. I’d say for a bargain drop, Prosecco from Italy is outstanding, and you can customise it very easily into cocktails. Add a bit of peach purée for a Bellini, or create your own cordials – chopped rhubarb with equal quantities of sugar and water heated in a pan will give you a beautiful pink-red cordial to keep in the fridge, and added into Prosecco is yummy. With the main course, always match the wine to the biggest flavour on the plate – a bit of steamed fish is very mild but fish in a spicy curry sauce is a totally different wine match. And with your cheese course, experiment with white wines. Sauvignon Blanc is amazing with goat’s cheese, for example.
How did you get into wine tasting?
I was a student in Edinburgh and walked past the local Oddbins where there was a free wine tasting going on. I must have been 20 and tasted a simple white wine called Terret made by the Lurton Brothers and it was so zingy, crisp and affordable at just over £3 that I was instantly inspired to find out more. A year later I was writing for film and TV with names like Pingu, Charlie and Lola and even a single day working with Wallace & Gromit (which was ace!) and then I won a competition called Wine Idol... but that’s another story!
As the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is coming up, what drinks would you expect to see at the Garden Party?
English fizz! And probably a dose of Dubonnet in honour of the Queen Mother. The drinks should all come from somewhere in Britain – we’ve got amazing gin, whisky, fruit juices, mixers, beers, ciders as well as talented distillers, winemakers and brewers across the British Isles. And how about home brew? I bet someone in the Royal family brews a top drop under the kitchen sink at Buckingham Palace. Can I serve the drinks please?
What’s your favourite thing about the BBC Good Food shows?
It’s the audiences! I’m so lucky to host the Supertheatre with its fantastic atmosphere as well as top chefs cooking live on stage – and this year I’ve been given the chance to perform my very own solo show Cooking With Wine which I can reveal will feature the voice of Sir Roger Moore! The recipes I’ve created for the show are looking and tasting amazing – all of them have wine involved somewhere in them, and of course I’ll be sharing tips on how to match food and wine throughout the show. My first solo show is Friday, April 13, at 4.30pm - thank goodness I’m not superstitious! Come along and ask me any questions you like.
No promises, but if your question tickles me, I might even give you a bottle of wine! Huzzah!