Skip to main content

Jancis Robinson Transcript

cheers to wine world trailblazer jancis robinson

Jancis Robinson: People won't believe this, but in the '70s, the subjects of wine and food had zero social status, certainly in Britain. If I'd say to my fellow students, "I'm going to go and work in wine or food," they would have said, "What shocking waste of an Oxford education, you can't do that." They were really thought of as being utterly frivolous subjects.

Kerry Diamond: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast that's all about women and food, and today, drink. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond, coming to you from Brooklyn, New York. Let's raise a glass because today's guest is a world-renowned wine expert. It's the trailblazing Jancis Robinson, a wine critic, correspondent, and columnist. Jancis is the author of the Oxford Companion to Wine and the force behind, an online resource about all things wine that she launched 20 years ago. Jancis has received more than 100 awards over the course of her career, that is impressive, and no doubt more are on the horizon.

Jancis joined me to talk about her remarkable career, which even includes doing some wine work for the Queen of England. We also talk about how issues such as sexism and sustainability are changing the world of wine. Today's episode is sponsored by our friends at Kerrygold, the makers of beautiful butter and cheese, and by the Wines of Sicily.

Let's do some housekeeping. The Cherry Bombe Holiday Baking Extravaganza is underway. We've got demos and panels going on each day hosted by your favorite members of the Bombesquad. Check out for more and be sure to sign up. Thanks to our sponsors, Kerrygold and Amazon Home, all of our content is free and open to everyone. If you missed anything, you can find it on our brand new YouTube channel. We'll be right back with Jancis Robinson after this message from Kerrygold.

Kerrygold Announcer: Kerrygold is delicious, all natural butter and cheese, made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows. Our farming families pass their craft and knowledge from generation to generation.

Kerrygold Farmer: I'm fifth generation. It goes back over 250 years.

Kerrygold Announcer: This traditional approach is the reason for the rich taste of Kerrygold. Enjoy delicious new sliced or shredded Kerrygold cheddar cheese, available in mild or savory flavors at a retailer near you. Find your nearest store at

Kerry Diamond: Now here's my conversation with Jancis Robinson. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe.

Jancis Robinson: Thank you very much, it's a thrill to be here.

Kerry Diamond: It is a thrill to talk to you. You have had such a career. I would love to start at the beginning. What can you tell us about your childhood?

Jancis Robinson: I was brought up, spent the first 18 years of my life in a village of 40 people.

Kerry Diamond: 40? 4-0?

Jancis Robinson: 4-0, yeah, in the far north of England, nearly Scotland in the Eden Valley, just north of the Lake District. It was very quiet and most of the people there were farmers. I had a younger brother, but there were no children in the village to play with so there was a lot of reading. But I remember when I went to my interview at Oxford it was like a light switch was switched on because everybody there was talking very fast all the time and there were lots of ideas floating around. It was such a contrast to my very slow, sleepy country life that I was used to. But I loved it, I really thrived at Oxford actually.

Kerry Diamond: Staying on your childhood for a minute, did I read that you did not grow up in a family that was very interested in food or wine?

Jancis Robinson: We all liked eating. Honestly, this was the '50s and '60s, and it was very unusual for British families then to have wine as part of the normal diet. If ever anyone in my childhood mentioned wine, they would put audible quotation marks around it, "Wine." It was really something very exotic. For most Brits, that really only changed in the '70s when we start... two things happened, we had the start of cheap package holidays and people would go abroad and were offered wine as a natural drink. I ended up actually working for a holiday company, that was my first job, for three years. I remember seeing these people in these boiling hot dining rooms in Spain, and they would have their bottle of wine that they would eke out over a whole week. So by the end of the week, it had an inch left in it and it had been sitting on a side board in the -

Kerry Diamond: Oh, no, in the heat.

Jancis Robinson: ... 70 degrees, yes.

Kerry Diamond: I do want to talk about your Oxford years, but I would love to know the story behind your very original first name.

Jancis Robinson: It is funny, isn't it? So many people call me Janis and Genesis and Jaundice and all of it. My mother and her sister read this book called Precious Bane by Mary Webb when they were impressionable teenagers and decided the first one of them to have a daughter would call her Jancis. But unfortunately, my mother hadn't read the book for quite a while when my birth certificate had to be filled in, so she misspelled it. Actually, my birth certificate says C-I-C-E, and it wasn't until I was eight she reread, and I started to have it spelled properly.

Kerry Diamond: So you get to Oxford, were you overwhelmed by the chatter, the fast talkers, all the ideas?

Jancis Robinson: No, I loved it. When I was there, the male to female ratio was something like 12:1. You were overwhelmed in a good way in some ways. I don't know if you have the same sort of thing in the US, but in the UK, people tend to think if you come from the north you must come from some really impoverished, backstreet and the whole thing would be overwhelming. Well, that wasn't really the case. I just enjoyed it. I loved it. I had to do some work unfortunately while there.

Kerry Diamond: Did you go there with a plan as to what you would do post-Oxford?

Jancis Robinson: Absolutely not. No. What I read, because at Oxford you choose usually just one subject, I did maths and philosophy. I was in the very first year to do it, because unbeknownst to me when I sat the entrance exam, apparently I'd chosen some philosophical questions. I actually had applied to do maths only because you can either do maths or you can't, and I could and I was lazy and I could get good results by not working very hard. Thank the Lord I was saved from doing 100% maths because I was much better at the philosophy by the time I got to university. And everybody said, "You better go into computers." Because that's logic, it was the bridge between maths and philosophy. But I actually worked for a few weeks in the computer department of a carpet mill in Carlyle, Pennsylvania...

Kerry Diamond: No.

Jancis Robinson: ... as a holiday job, yeah. Because the man who was Carlyle, England was a family friend and he made sure he knew the man who was Carlyle, Pennsylvania. We did a little exchange, and it was great fun. I stayed with them, they were in their 80s, and I watched the moon landing with them.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, wow.

Jancis Robinson: It was just so magical. They were practically on their knees with delight. No, I hadn't a clue what I was going to do. In the end, as I said, I went into travel because I liked traveling. But it was a big company, and I knew I wasn't very good at sitting in patiently in meetings, so I dropped out after three years, which a lot of people were dropping out in the '70s.

Kerry Diamond: Did I read you spent a year in Provence?

Jancis Robinson: Yes, I dropped out for a year in Provence where I was surrounded by vineyards. Although at Oxford I fell in love with wine and food, those subjects, people won't believe this, but in the '70s, the subjects of wine and food had zero social status, certainly in Britain. If I'd to say to my fellow students, "I'm going to go and work in wine or food," they would had said, "What a shocking waste of an Oxford education, you can't do that." They were really thought of as being utterly frivolous subjects, so I didn't even think about working in wine and food. But of course once you're in France, you're surrounded by people whom eating and drink is what life is all about. So I was determined when I got back to London, which I knew I would after a year, to find a job in either wine or food. Fortunately, I was offered one in wine, and never looked back.

Kerry Diamond:  And you were a trade writer?

Jancis Robinson: Yeah, I started off on a wine trade magazine, which is a great place to start because not that many people read, so you can make all sorts of mistakes and it's not too obvious. Also, I think it's quite good to start in the trade press because it teaches you to find out how things really are rather than the consumer flimflam, frothy PR spiel really. So I've always been interested in how things work and what the truth is.

Kerry Diamond: At what point did you realize wine was your career?

Jancis Robinson: When I was offered the job.

Kerry Diamond: You did, okay.

Jancis Robinson: Yes, but I had this hilarious interview with the publisher who said, this was for an assistant editor of this wine and spirit magazine, "We've had a lot of applicants. We're having a great deal of difficulty choosing the right person because either we get a trained journalist and have to teach them all about wine, or we get a wine expect and have to teach them how to write." He looked down at my application and said, "You, of course, are neither of those things, but nevertheless you're the favorite for the job." I was surprised but I tried not to show it.

About a year later I said to him, "Why did you pick me? Was it the year in France?" "No, no, no, no." "Was it because I'd done some freelance writing for our leading restaurant guide, the Good Food Guide?" "No, no, no." "Was it," I said a bit nervously, "because I'd worked for this wine company temporarily?" Which was actually being a barmaid in one of their one bars but I didn't spell that out. "No, no, no," he said, "none of those things. It was because you used to be in charge the skiing program of Britain's biggest holiday company. We realized that you were talking a salary drop and you could clearly organize things well. So we thought you'd organize yourself to learn about wine and putting a magazine together." To a certain extent, he was right.

Kerry Diamond: Well, it's funny, I started talking about that before we turned the mics on, that one of my biggest questions to you is just, how have you organized this extraordinary life that you've had? Have you always been an exceptionally organized person?

Jancis Robinson: I don't know. I do like work. What do they say about mathematicians? They're economical of effort. I see what has to be done and go and do it rather than witter around. Oh, and I couldn't possibly, say for instance, spend the amount of time that I do on, say, my website if I had young children. I mean, I only started that in 2000 when the youngest was nine, so that's been a help. And also I think having a very supportive husband helps. He has always been very helpful and very participatory father and all that kind of thing.

Jancis Robinson: I must say, when I look back at the '80s when two of our three children were born and I just flip through diaries and my bio, I think, "How on earth did I do all that?" We did have to move, did up a house, three series of television programs, Nick had a busy restaurant. I don't know. I just don't know. And then I wrote about four or five books in the '80s.

Kerry Diamond: But maybe your next book can be an organization book. Okay, so you said you realized very early on that this was a career, that wine was going to be your life?

Jancis Robinson: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I was very lucky. So I started off at Wine and Spirit the 1st of December 1975, and in about '77 or '78, someone wrote an article about me in one of our national newspapers, "Here's a young female writing about wine." And that inspired someone to ask me to write a book, a beginner's guide to wine, and that was very well received. It was imaginatively called The Wine Book and it came out in 1979. So by 1980 I was offered the wine correspondence job on the Sunday Times, which was and is still the biggest circulation national newspaper in the UK.

Kerry Diamond: What was it about wine that captivated you so much that you wanted this to be your career?

Jancis Robinson: Well, it's perfect for me because it combines sensual pleasure with what's clearly a lot of intellectual stimulation. Clearly there's history, geography, personality, psychology, whatever, in every class. And so it wasn't dry learning but it was wet learning I suppose because wine is geography in a bottle really. It meshed well with my love of traveling and geography.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. All right, we are going to take a big leap in time from the '80s to 2000 because that's when you launched your website, You are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the website-

Jancis Robinson: Yes. Yes. Yep.

Kerry Diamond: ... right now which is remarkable, congratulations.

Jancis Robinson: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: I read that you have contributors from 80 countries.

Jancis Robinson: No. No, we have members from nearly-

Kerry Diamond: Oh, members.

Jancis Robinson: ... members in nearly 100 countries. We've got about... Yeah, which is great, amazing really. I think our second member ever was from Brazil and he's still a member. He featured in our anniversary get-together, practically online of course. No, we have contributors, about 15 members of the team, of whom seven are fellow masters of wine. And they are all around the world, Australia, two in California, the major wine-producing countries.

Kerry Diamond: Let's go back to the year 2000. What was the site like back then?

Jancis Robinson: It was bright orange and lime green. Rather strangely, I'd asked a book designer to design it. I really enjoyed it right from the beginning. I loved the fact that unlike writing books or doing television or something, there was no intermediary and you could publish straight away. But I was spending more and more time on it, so after a year I thought, "I can't just carry on doing this as a charity." But I was determined not to have advertising or sponsorship, so I thought I'd try making part of it for members only, a subscription. I think the same designer, I asked her to come up with the look for that and we called it because the color palette was completely different, not the citrus colors but various shades of purple, pink and blue sort of thing.

Kerry Diamond: Was it considered a bold move to put your name on the website back then?

Jancis Robinson: I didn't think of anything else really. I probably should have done. Yes, it all stemmed from... In 2000, the internet was just bubbling up and everybody was coming... because I had masses of contents, so lots and lots of people who wanted to launch websites where coming to see me and saying, "Please come into business with us. Give us your content, and we'll put it up." I think it was always thought that it would be called

Kerry Diamond: How has the site evolved?

Jancis Robinson: Much bigger. It's crazy, we've got, I think something like 13,000 articles on there. We've got lots of pretty stuff, especially all about learn, lots of sections like guides to regions and grapes and vintages and where to buy wine, where to store wine, all of that is free. After a while, we added the whole of the text of one of my best-known books, the Oxford Companion to Wine, which is a huge, huge compendium of alphabetically-listed articles about everything you can think of. But of course, if you're got the print version, it's all full of cross references. You read one article and you want to jump to the next. That's quite a business with a print copy, but if it's online, you just click on the link and there you are. So I have to confess that I hardly ever open, in fact, I've just opened my print copy before talking to you because I give too many way and I need to order some more, and I needed the ISBN for that.

But I can go for months without actually opening the print copy. So we let members of Purple Pages have a complete, the most up-to-date online version of the companion. They've got the maps from another of my big books, The World Atlas of Wine. Geography is so important to wine. And then we've got a forum, obviously. And then we've passed the 200,000 tasting notes in the database landmark quite recently. I mean, I've made a rod for my own back, we've published an average of two new articles a day, which is totally unnecessary.

Kerry Diamond: Don't go anywhere, we'll be right back with Jancis after this word from Wines of Sicily.

Today's show is sponsored by Wines of Sicily. If you are looking for the perfect wine to serve this holiday season, look no further than Sicily. The beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean is home to hundreds of wineries and passionate winemakers and, of course, thousands of years of wine-making tradition. Today, the best Sicilian wines are being produced from the ancient indigenous vines. The past, present, and future come together in every bottle.

I should also mention that Sicily is home to some amazing female winemakers, and you know we love that. Many of you, listeners, are busy planning your holiday menus and your wine pairings right now. Sicilian wines go beautifully with any new recipe or family favorite you're making this season. When you visit your local wine shop, be sure to ask for Sicilia DOC, that's Sicilia D-O-C. From Nero D'Avola to Frappato, Grillo, and Lucido, there is something different and unique for everyone at the table. To learn more, visit

Back to my conversation with Jancis Robinson.

So you recently expanded into product design.

Jancis Robinson: A very nice British young designer called Richard Brendon came to see me three years ago, I think. He'd had success designing china and whisky glasses and things, and he wanted to design wine glasses. He realized that's a specialist thing, he couldn't just do it on his own, and everyone said he should come and see me. I sent him away saying, "I don't do hardware. That's not my thing. Words are my thing." But he was very persisted and he introduced me to his very nice young team. And then I thought, "Hang on, I've got more than 40 years experience of tasting wine. I've actually got some pretty strong views on the ideal wine class."

My contention is that you don't need all these lots of different glasses. You don't even need a different glass for whites versus reds, because whites are just as subtle as reds. They need every bit as much capacity to encourage them into be enjoyed. The people in Champagne, all the champagne producers that I admire, well, they certainly don't like the coupe. I mean it looks fun, the coupe, shallow coupe, but it's not very good for getting the most of flavor. The really knowledgeable champagne makes like to serve their champagne in a wine glass, because the flute, the tall narrow ones, they're just too narrow to get enough of the aroma.

Kerry Diamond: You're rocking my world this morning, Jancis.

Jancis Robinson: Well, I'm sure you living in Brooklyn you haven't got an excess of storage space, so just having one glass is a boon for that. It's also very much in line with Marie Kondo, all the decluttering...

Kerry Diamond: Exactly, which glasses spark joy?

Jancis Robinson: Yes, exactly. My glasses definitely spark joy not just because they're wafer thin, but very durable, but also because they are specifically designed to be washed in a dishwasher.

Kerry Diamond: Hallelujah, read that.

Jancis Robinson: Most glasses are broken when people are hand-washing or hand-drying them.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, I'm so glad we're having this conversation because I get so freaked out washing wine glasses.

Jancis Robinson: I know.

Kerry Diamond: ... because they're like tissue paper.

Jancis Robinson: Yes. Yeah. Well don't. Stick them in the dishwasher. And don't worry if you have to put them at an angle in the dishwasher, that's fine. We do all the time.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. I'm very happy for all this practical advice this morning. Was it fun for you to do something different like that?

Jancis Robinson: Yes, it was. Being such a control freak and normally working from home by myself, which everyone on the team does, it was fun to work with another team, and very young enthusiastic people.

Kerry Diamond: I didn't include this in the list of questions, but have you ever been tempted to buy your own winery?

Jancis Robinson: Oh, gosh, no.

Kerry Diamond: No, never?

Jancis Robinson: No, no, no. Well, I'm sure I couldn't afford it, but I wouldn't. No, I've never been tempted to even make wine. I know I'm probably about the first wine writer to say that, but I'm not a gardener, I'm afraid. My parents were fiendish, obsessive gardeners, so I always thought gardening was the enemy. Gardening was what took my parent's attention away from me, so I've never really caught on to the gardening thing. And farming, I mean, the idea that you're enthralled in nature and the whole crop could be wiped out by a hailstorm, it terrifies me.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, so many things today; fires, weather, climate change. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jancis Robinson: Yes. Yes. So no, not for me.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. We've touched on some of your books and you've written so many it's hard to know where to start. But if our readers are interested in picking up one of your books and learning more and reading more about what you do, where should they start?

Jancis Robinson: The start is probably one which is certainly published in the US as well as the UK called The 24 Hour Wine Expert.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I was going to ask about that one.

Jancis Robinson: That is just the essentials of wine, nothing but. Not all the great varieties and the climate and the blah, blah. It's just the basics and lots of practical stuff. It evolved from our younger daughter who was then 24. She was between jobs and thought that she would write a wine book for her age group. She did focus groups with her contemporaries and came up with what they wanted to know. But then she was offered a job by Vogue and she she's a bit of a fashionista, so she took that. But I don't like waste and so I thought, "Okay then, I'll turn it into a book." It's gone down really well actually and it's in about a million different foreign language editions. You could read it in 24 hours. Okay, you wouldn't be a master of wine, but you would have absolute confidence in how you handled wine. The main thing with wine is not to be scared of it really and to find, if possible... A lot of people say to me, "I like wine. I want to know a little bit more about it, but I don't want to commit my life to learning about it."

I know that I ought to say, "Buy my books or visit or something." But actually what I say always is, "Find a local wine retailer whom you like and get on with. Tell them what you've liked so far, and it's in their interest to guide you and help you find something else that maybe might be similar but a little bit more interesting or better value or just give you a steer." It's a bit like a bookshop, going in, telling whoever's there which book you've liked, and it's their job to help you, isn't it, to help you find something similar?

Kerry Diamond: It's so funny, I've never heard it explained that way, that it's in their best interest for you to come back. So they're not going to steer you in the wrong direction, they want you as their customer for a long time.

Jancis Robinson: And also, people who work in wine stores tend to be wine geeks, so they love talking about it. If they've got customers who engage them in conversations, they prefer that to someone who just comes and grunts, is a bit scared by a label, grabs it and pays and skedaddles.

Kerry Diamond: But it's that intimidation thing, I'm sure you've grappled with this throughout your distinguished career that it just lingers.

Jancis Robinson: The same is true of sommeliers as well in restaurants, if we and when we ever see restaurants open again. But wine waiters love talking about wine and they much prefer a conversation than seeing it as a battle in trying to convince you. There's only a bad wine waiter who convinces you to spend more than you want. Tell them how much you want to spend, and what sort of wines you've liked in the past, and again, it's in their interest to steer you in the right direction.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, I have to ask you about this, and if you can't answer these questions, you can say I pass.

Jancis Robinson: I think I know what you're going to ask me.

Kerry Diamond: The Crown just started, the new series of The Crown. I know there's a lot of controversy around it. You received on OBE from the Queen in 2003 and advised on her wine cellar, which must be fascinating. Are you allowed to talk about it at all?

Jancis Robinson: I can tell you what I've written about it, which is there's a small committee of us. I'm the only non-wine merchant. Oh, and there's Michel Roux Jr. who's a chef, and then there are three wine merchants with the Royal Warrants. They put out a tender and wine bottles are sent in and we taste them all blind. I love it because I don't get enough of a chance to test similar wines, the same category but not knowing what they are. So it's a very instructive experience for me wherever it would take place, but the fact that it takes place in the bowels of Buckingham Palace is quite fun. I still get this childish delight pushing my way through the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace and presenting my pass and then crunching the gravel into the welcomed by a footman in a red waistcoat and a tailcoat. The Queen, I don't think is desperately interested in wine.

Kerry Diamond: No.

Jancis Robinson: But I tell you Camilla is. She's the daughter of a wine merchant and she's the president I think of the outfit that is responsible for English wine.

Kerry Diamond: Is Prince Charles interested in the natural wine movement?

Jancis Robinson: I don't know.

Kerry Diamond: Okay.

Jancis Robinson: I don't know.

Kerry Diamond: Given his interest in organics and things of that nature. Let me ask, you mentioned that you do blind tasting, so two questions for our listeners who don't understand what that is, can you explain what a blind tasting is? And then the follow-up question is, why are doing blind tastings for this?

Jancis Robinson: A blind tasting is when you're tasting a wine but you don't know what it is. Single blind is you might know vaguely what sort of wine it is, like it's a boudoir, but you might not know exactly who produced it. And then double blind is when you haven't a clue about anything about the wine. I think there are really only a couple of reasons for doing it, one, is if you get a group of similar wines together that you can judge how they actually taste without being influenced by the label, and "Oh, I've always liked that." You would tend to rate it higher than a label that you thought you didn't like.

Particularly with champagne, I think we have very, very strong image-dictated ideas about champagne brands for instance. And then there's the party trick element really. Blind tasting can be a party trick. I always say when I started out everyone expected me to get it wrong and only remembered when I got it right. Now, of course, it's exactly the other way around. I'm on a hiding to nothing to do public tasting. I qualified as a master of wine, and I was the first person outside the wine trade to qualify as a master of wine in 1984. Part of that exam, which is a whole week of exams, is three tasting papers so-called. In each of them you go to your place and there are 12 wines and 12 glasses in front of you, and you have questions that go with them. A lot of it assessing quality or working out how to open, that kind of thing. But part of it is identifying it and where did it come from and how old is it and what grapes is it made from, things like that.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Next question for you is about a charity you are connected to, it's called Room to Read. Obviously, from what I read, it's very important to you. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Jancis Robinson: Sure. It's a fantastic operation. It a global literacy initiative founded by an ex-Microsoft guy, John Wood, who went tracking in the Himalayas as was shocked to find in a Nepalis village a very bright child who's only books were locked away, no one was allowed to actually open them. And so he promised to send her a load of books. I think they were delivered on a yak initially. But it's just grown to the most amazing international thing, and now they fund schools and libraries. They fund the publication of children books in the local languages, which the big publishing companies of the world aren't interested in.

And they favor women, girls. They give girls scholarships, they don't give boys scholarships, because their argument is that it's women who teach children to read. It's just had the most wonderful snowball effect. I help them because a lot of their fundraising mechanic is at wine galas. And so I help them with those.

Kerry Diamond: I'd like to talk to you about a piece that you wrote recently about sexism in the wine industry. I want to ask, why did you decide to write that?

Jancis Robinson: I've realized that I had made a mistake that needed to be rectified. Because I'm a writer and have been freelancing since 1980, and I don't have to go anywhere really and sell stuff, and I've never been much in a hierarchy, I really hadn't encountered sexism or sexual harassment. But I did realize throughout the last century in the wine trade in Britain that most of the work was done by women and they never got either the power or the credit. But then this century in Britain we've seen quite a few very big wine companies run by women, women who've had the CEO positions and things. So I mistakenly thought, "That's great, obviously there's no problem for women in the wine business in Britain." But then just recently I've realized, thanks to articles not dissimilar to the one in your New York Times recently about sexual harassment in the sommelier business, that actually there is quite a bit of sexism and sexual harassment in the hospitality business in Britain as well.

So I suppose I partly wanted to atone for that misconception that I had previously given the impression that things were all right and they clearly aren't, and I've just been shielded from it.

Kerry Diamond: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but to paraphrase, I felt that you came to the conclusion that for the wine industry to thrive it needs to be a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place.

Jancis Robinson: Very much so, yeah.

Kerry Diamond:  So I was just wondering, you are in such a powerful position, I know you don't wake up every morning and think of yourself as a hugely powerful person in this industry, but I was curious just what you're doing to help make the wine world more so?

Jancis Robinson: I have quite a backdrop of connections and Zoom meetings and initiatives with one member of the BAME community as we call it in Britain. B-A-M-E is Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic. We started an equivalent to Julia Corney's site, Black Wine Professionals that you have, so it's called That only launched on the 1st of September and already we've had a really considerable head of steam of wine companies or other organizations offering wine education to the BAME community, and especially those who couldn't afford it naturally. As so often, education is the key and it gives people a way in.

Everything seems to be going well in that department. As for inclusivity and particularly making women safe, actually, just today, I've just literally in the last couple of hours just been reading a proposal for a system that would ensure that British wine, and actually drinks companies, not just wine companies, would have a system that encouraged genuine diversity and especially inclusivity and had sanctions against people who didn't.

Kerry Diamond: Are you hopeful?

Jancis Robinson: Yeah. Yes, I am. What I'm very glad about was that latest article about sexism that you mentioned. I had a lot of very positive feedback, lots of emails, lots of tweets, very supportive. I'd say almost as many from men and from women, which has to be a good thing.

Kerry Diamond: Jancis, before I let you go, I wanted to ask how the pandemic has changed what you do.

Jancis Robinson: Obviously much, much less travel. And so I've actually had to start writing articles about places that I've never been too, which is sad.

Kerry Diamond: Right, because you talked earlier about how much wine and geography are linked for you.

Jancis Robinson: Yes. Yes, absolutely. I suppose the big change is tastings. London is the most amazing hub for wine tastings. I know there's quite a busy calendar of wine tastings in New York, but London it's really massive. And, of course, we've had none of those. So nowadays, one is coming to me. I'm glad you can't see my office, which is just stacked with pre-Christmas samples. Some people have started sending out little bottles, having say a Zoom online wine-tasting with the participants tasting from not the full 75 centimeter bottle but much, much smaller.

Kerry Diamond: You make it sound it like an airplane liquor bottle.

Jancis Robinson: Oh, it's even smaller than that. I tasted Drouhin burgundies last Friday from... I have to do it in centiliters I'm afraid, they were in 10 centiliter bottles, which are rather nice, which is almost a serving actually and they are rather sweet little flasks. The Australians have been sending up 5 centiliter bottles which are like miniatures of spirits that you might get on a plane. And then my colleague, Julia Harding, another master of wine, had sent me a photograph. She'd been sent by some burgundy producers 2 centiliter.

Kerry Diamond: You have had such a long distinguished career, but you've obviously seen so many ups and downs, economic downturns and recoveries. Do you have any words of hope for folks in the hospitality industry?

Jancis Robinson: They've got to come back. But I just feel so sorry for everybody in the hospitality business. With the first lockdown, we offered any out-of-work hospitality person a three-month membership of and that went down very well. We just asked them to suggest a favorite food and wine pairing in exchange for the three-month membership. We had the most suggestions. They were really inspiring.

I get the impression that quite a few people have used the time for further education, to learn a bit more about wine or their favorite subject or maybe another language, I don't know. And think about the positive lessons that we've learned however difficult, appreciating nature. Vines don't know that the pandemic's going on. They've been flourishing. And less air travel has to be a plus, because we're very keen on sustainability.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Can you talk about that for a few minutes?

Jancis Robinson: Well, we were talking about bottles, weren't we? Of course, glass bottles are not a very planet-friendly way to transport anything. They're heavy, they're breakable, and they're a shape which is very greedy of space. So I'm trying to get across the idea that the less expensive wines, everyday wines doesn't have to come from a glass bottle. I mean, you're having great success with cans, aren't you? Canned wine is pretty big you, it's just starting with us, pouches, cardboard cartons...

Kerry Diamond: Box wines.

Jancis Robinson: ... box wines. Yeah. It makes sense. The glass bottle and the cork makes sense for wines you're going to keep for decades, but they don't make sense for the most basic California red.

Kerry Diamond: That's a pretty radical change.

Jancis Robinson: But it's getting some traction here, certainly. You certainly don't want a habit of... it drives me mad when marketing people are clearly telling wine producers to stick their wines in these really, really heavy bottles, which they emit so much carbon in their manufacture and their transport. They're heavy and they're stupid.

Kerry Diamond: Have you done blind tastings with canned wine versus boxed wine versus wine in bottles?

Jancis Robinson: People don't tend to put the same wine in different packaging, so there wouldn't really be... I'm certainly tasting as many of those alternative packages as possible. And none of them are meant for long-term storage anyway, so I don't think the issue really isn't, does the wine taste worse? Because all wines are designed to be drunk pretty young before the package would have any effect on it anyway. It's more just thinking about the planet, ain't it.

More and more of the brand owners in those packages are really putting effort into the sort of wine that they're putting in. I had a South African two-year-and-a-half-year-old Merlot in a can the other day, made by a very, very talented young wine maker in South Africa. They're a lot of them. That was a serious wine.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I'm going to bring this full cycle because I think there's so much of the romance associated with the wine bottle and I think that's what people will miss.

Jancis Robinson: And the cork.

Kerry Diamond: And the cork.

Jancis Robinson: People love the...

Kerry Diamond: People love the cork. But there are beautiful carafes like the ones you designed that people can decant the wine from, if they want to, the can or the box and put it into a beautiful carafe.

Jancis Robinson: Thank you, Kerry. I can't claim credit for those. That was my partner Richard Brendon who designed to my specifications. Richard designed these beautiful decanters, one for young wine, that exposes it to lots of air, and one for mature wine that way you don't want to expose it to lots of air.

Kerry Diamond: Well, there we go. Well, Jancis, I know how busy you are. I'm just so thrilled I have this opportunity to talk to you. I cannot believe everything you've done and achieved throughout your career. You're such a role model and trailblazer and just a remarkable person, so thank you.

Jancis Robinson: Well, thank you. It's a great moral booster. Thank you very much.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Jancis for having out with me and chatting all things wine. If you enjoyed our chat, be sure to check out for lots of great wine information and the link to her beautiful and carafe colab. Thank you to Kerrygold and Wines of Sicily for supporting this episode. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Goreli. Our theme is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Hang in there, everybody, and thank you for listening. You are the bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Anna Goldberg: Hi, I'm Anna Goldberg, one of the co-founders of Dough Dealer, an online baking platform that provides easy-to-make bread kits paired with instructional content and a community for new and experienced bakers. We want to share the simple joy of baking bread at home. Who do I think is the bombe? Abena Anim-Somuah. She's used her Instagram platform, baking beanss, to raise awareness for black bakers as the creator of the #5BlackBakers hashtag. She's also raised money as part of Bakers Against Racism, all the while gracing us with her uplifting bakes and tips. She's the Bombe.