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He Knows Goode Wine

He Knows Goode Wine
Photo credit: Nicci Fletcher

a Conversation with Jaime Goode

Interview by Tony (Bubbles) Mahavier

Jamie Goode, Ph.D., is a London-based, former biologist-turned-internationally recognized wine journalist, whose work has been featured in The World of Fine Wine, Decanter, Sommelier Journal, Harpers–you name it. He has been writing about wine since the late 1990s when he was posting on Web 1.0’s answer to long-form journalism: bulletin boards. His web presence and the medium’s sophistication grew when he launched his website, Wine Anorak, in 1999. To this day, the site serves as a compilation of his writing, including articles from his extensive worldwide travels (pre-COVID, of course). In addition to his journalism, he is a celebrated author. His vault includes several award-winning books on varying aspects of wine in addition to an aptly themed comic novel, The Wine Critics. Dr. Goode is nothing if not well-rounded.

CampestreMAG’s very own Tony (Bubbles) Mahavier was privileged to speak with Jamie Goode, at length, regarding a number of topics–wine mostly, with some classic rock, social media and fashion mixed in. As Tony notes, “Jamie was very gracious with his time and exceedingly easy to talk to (especially given that he had no idea who I was)”. Now that he knows who Tony is and what CamprestreMAG is, we are all confident that the wine community in San Diego and Valle de Guadalupe have arrested the good doctor’s attention.

Tony Bubbles, Meet Jamie Goode. Jamie, Meet Tony.

The subject of natural wine was on Jamie’s radar. He’s been a proponent of the movement well ahead of many other people in the wine world. Jamie was commenting upon this subject as early as the mid-to-late 1990s and continues to do so on his website and Twitter.

I brought up the recent French classification for natural wines and wanted to know his thoughts. His response was interesting. He thought it raised the possibility of certain wine producers who would claim to be natural but not be truly committed to the ethos or the practices of making wine naturally. He thinks these more conventional producers will be able to point to their mass-produced wines and say, “See? Here is a natural wine.” He felt that the movement had done well without classifications and rules. It seems he was disappointed to see this turn of events, as if the lack of classifications kept the winemakers honest. A bit of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” viewpoint.

My impression is that Jamie is not strictly dogmatic about adherence to natural wines and he noted that he also enjoys what he described as “conventional” wines. That said, it is apparent from his writing, as well as our conversation, that he is a firm proponent of low-intervention wine making.

I asked Jamie about the lifestyle of wine journalists and that led to an interesting discussion about winemakers. His experience with natural winemakers is that, not surprisingly, they are tied to their land and vines in a way that larger wineries with wealthy owners are not. He spoke about the opportunities he has had to stay with such wine makers at their own homes while on his travels. We talked about him staying with certain winemakers in South Africa, where he has been several times, and how much he enjoyed both the winemakers and the opportunity to spend time in their vineyards. His experiences seem to confirm that wine is truly enhanced by the people and the stories behind it.

Although not directly related to the natural wine movement, I had to ask Jamie about more traditional wine journalists in the United Kingdom and their views on the Grower Champagne movement vs. the Big Houses. One could even say Independent vs. Establishment, Natural vs. Conventional, David vs. Goliath. He confirmed my thoughts that certain well-known journalists who focused on Champagne pushed back against the growers and the use of low or no dosage Champagnes. Proof that tradition can still win out over creativity and, quite possibly, taste.

Bringing things closer to home, we talked about San Diego and the generally warm welcome that this community has given to the natural wine movement. I also brought up the subject of San Diego’s natural wine festival, NatDiego.  He was not familiar with it but he expressed interest and my hope is that he may attend if it was in conjunction with another trip to the best coast.

We switched to talk about his writing. As a wine critic he is well-known but as a novelist, not so much. With his first published piece of fiction, The Wine Critics, he says he wrote it in the style of comic novels, or, less diplomatically, satire. It was mostly written on planes during his travels (he has spent well over three hundred days a year on the road). I think he was rather surprised to find that I both owned it and had read it. If you want a fictionalized but gossipy account of the world of wine writers, give this book a go.

Wine fills the majority of Jamie’s interest and time but he is a man of several passions. Music is perhaps the greatest. Playing guitar is something of a lifetime passion for Jamie, having started playing when he was fifteen years old. Early influences were bands like AC/DC and Black Sabbath. However, by the time he was at university, he had made the rather significant change to folk rock. He joined a band and experienced a degree of success playing on the festival circuit. It is these many different lives and interests that inform and deepen his take on whatever subject he writes.

Now, let’s have some real talk. T-shirts. Jamie’s closet is full of the best. I know you’re thinking, “What the hell…?” Seriously, though, Jamie sports some great t-shirts. Just check out his Instagram page. It has apparently garnered a fair bit of attention, as people are now sending him t-shirts. He needs a Nat Diego shirt! (Hint, hint, Nat Diego…)

It was a privilege to spend time speaking with Jamie both because I have followed his wine writing for years and because of his stature in wine journalism. Plus, there’s an even more interesting man behind the wine. If you aren’t acquainted with his work, I encourage you to seek it out via his site, Wine Anorak, his Twitter and Instagram. Another sign he is one of the greats in his field is that other respected wine writers, like Elaine Brown of Hawk Wakaka Wine Reviews, have interviewed him. Though this CampestreMAG profile of Jamie is fantastic, her “Behind the Wines” video series featuring him is pretty good, too. 

Happy reading, happy drinking.