In the very deep past [1990s] I used to write freelance pieces for Decanter and Wine Magazine in the UK and The Wine Enthusiast in the US. I also contributed to BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme with the great Derek Cooper. In 1992 I won the Literati Club’s Martell Award for wine writing for a piece in the International Journal of Wine Marketing on the privatization of the Tokaj’s vineyards in Hungary. It was written with friend and fellow wine nut Brendan Pearson over a few wet Sunday afternoons.
My passion for wine grew out of a TV profile of the cricket commentator and wine lover John Arlott. Jancis Robinson’s wonderful and ground-breaking ‘Wine Programme’ broadcast in the early 1980s was also an inspiration. I bought my first wine in 1983 – three bottles of Château Haut-Marbuzet 1978 from the original ‘Bottoms Up’ chain. I spent my first wages in 1986 not on a stereo, an obvious choice as a sales assistant in the ‘Sound & Video’ department of Boots the Chemist [I would have got staff discount] but on a case of Château Les Ormes de Pez ‘82 [£79] and later Vieux Château Certan ‘82 [£192]. Both were purchased just as I started tucking into Robert Parker’s first seminal book on Bordeaux [I’m honest enough to hold my hand up here], thumbing through the dog-eared copy in the local WH Smiths.
At the same time I started flogging home made wine to my mates from sixth-form. This growing interest in fermentation led me to spend my summers working as a cellar rat in some interesting estates in various parts of the world – in the Napa Valley [Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars], the Adelaide Hills [Petaluma] and Bordeaux [Château Palmer]. After university [I ran the University Wine Society and Blind Tasting team at Cambridge] I ended up working in television. It’s what I’ve done, on and off, for the past twenty years. Mostly it’s been observational docs and current affairs with a bit of factual thrown in. I’m really proud of the docs I’ve made at Landmark Films, October Films and Quicksilver Media. I’ve just finished up on a seven-year project with Normal Life Pictures. Called On a Knife Edge the doc follows the coming-of-age of a teenage boy from an exceptional Native American family in South Dakota. The film premiered at the 16th San Francisco Documentary Festival in June 2017. If you want to read a piece about the film on MovieMaker then click here. There is a review on Film Inquiry here. On a Knife Edge has since been to a further 15 international film festivals, been screened on America Reframed on the PBS World Channel and on the Al Jazeera English Witness strand.
Filmmaking is very much like winemaking. You harvest the material and make the most you can of it. The best documentary films are made in the field, like wine, though they can be saved [and made] in the edit too, unlike wines. If you want to see some of the docs I’ve worked on then take a peek here:
Restless Flights: The Literature of JMG Le Clezio
In the mid 1990s I took a break from TV and did a winemaking stint for Hugh Ryman down in the Languedoc. I also did a wonderfully enjoyable vintage with James Halliday at Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley in Australia. Halliday is such a great man. He was wonderfully generous with his own cellar during the vintage. After another spell back in telly, in 2000 I took six months off with my wife Altina and lived in friends Annie and Chris Dodds’ large and ramshackle house in village high in the Languedoc. There we made twelve barrels of Faugères [60% Syrah/40% Grenache] in the local co-op with my mate Olivier Hickman. We sold this to friends, family and a pallet to Weaver’s of Nottingham. Olivier now runs a wine tours business in the Rhône: www.wine-uncovered.com
Enough about me, back to the site. It will get bigger and better with a broader sweep over the coming year (s) and, who knows, may even feature some of the videotape suggested in the title. Anyone who fancies advertising here is welcome to contact me, either on the e-mail on the home page jeremyleewilliams (at) hotmail.com or via twitter @Jeremyonwine. I can supply stats on the many thousands [amazing but true] who visit the site each month according to Google analytics.
I’m delighted that David Rowe has started contributing pieces to the site. I’ve known David for years and first met him when he was editor of Decanter Magazine. David is now a wine consultant and winemaker and has lived in Bordeaux since the early 1990s.
Let me know about any glaring factual errors and do post comments, rude or otherwise…