Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Wine Critic's Critic: Jamie Goode: The wine industry’s Anorak and Head Teacher. 87/100 points




'Jamie was born to teach. He has huge breadth and depth of knowledge, and he has that rare gift of being able to distil complex subjects into meaningful and easily digestible words, and do it in an interesting way. He doesn't possess the bigger resources of some other critics but his website and work are outstanding. He is right up there with the world's best critics, and often betters them'.

Jamie’s own sobriquet is the Wine Anorak which reflects his credentials as an expert in plant biology (he has a PhD no less) which is a useful entrée into the world of wine. His scientific background must make him one of the best qualified to write about wine. But don’t be fooled by his paper persona as a geek – his site appeals to all and his style is very personable.

Jamie was born to teach. I love his site and the way he imparts knowledge. Where James Suckling’s style and commentary are flamboyant and, some would argue, lacking in substance, Jamie’s is brimming with substance and science. It is full of juicy bits of information addressing such subjects as the science or otherwise of tasting, bottle closures, microbes, the science of wine making and its sustainability. These topics appeal as much to the professional trade as they do to the expert amateur like me.

But he is also adept at appealing to the average consumer too. Just in the last 6 months, he has covered wines of Stellenbosch, California, Alsace, Chile, Priorat, Georgia, Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, Portugal, Bordeaux and Israel to name but a few. All are written on subjects and in a way which would appeal to the average consumer. He is also adept at using social media to communicate with his thousands of followers.

He is a prolific taster and his tasting notes and vineyard visits, some combined with video, are simple to read whilst giving the reader a very good understanding of what is in the glass. He often combines these with restaurant reviews, bringing the wines to life (see his latest one on Chez Bruce, one of my favourite restaurants in the world and where I would take my wife-to- be 16 years ago when we lived in London).

His site also has features where he focuses on a specific area (e.g. Chile) or grower (e.g. Bruno Paillard and Eben Sadie) or topic (e.g. the concept of a noble wine and carbonic maceration). I like his ability to have a point of view on all subjects vinous as well as an array of other subjects – football, cricket, religion. This makes him a much more interesting writer and personality than some of the other wine critics out there who just seem to be writing for themselves and other wine bores.

On tasting notes, Jamie writes very clearly. Here is an example of one of his tasting notes from Chez Bruce. It is classic Jamie Goode – accurate, measured and evocative. He makes you really want to taste the wine.

Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2001 Alsace, France. Beautifully delicate but full flavoured at the same time, this is the special anniversary bottling. Citrus, melon, a hint of lychee, some creaminess. Delicate and precise with a lovely crystalline fruit quality, and with fruit sweetness that adds a rounded character. 95/100.

His depth and breadth of knowledge are very impressive and he knows how to communicate complex subjects. As we know from our school days, this is the real skill of great teachers. Knowledge is irrelevant without the passion and ability to impart it to the audience.

His site is the antithesis of Suckling’s and Jancis’ sites in terms of slickness, structure and functionality, but despite this, it just oozes class, passion, personality and knowledge.

Where jamesuckling.com is a boy band, jamiegoode.com is a real musician.

I know that Jamie has built this site himself, from the ground up, over many years which is testament to his dedication and abilities in web application development. He is clearly a very clever bloke.

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