The last French explorer to take on Tasmania was Nicolas Baudin in 1802. Unlike his English contemporaries, Baudin was more interested in observing than conquering, making extensive notes on Aboriginal people, plants and animals before flitting off to Timor and Mauritius.
More than 200 years later, wine explorer Jean-Baptiste Ancelot landed at Dalrymple’s cellar door, in Tasmania’s picturesque Pipers River region, with his team of French travelers dedicated to observing uncharted territories of the wine world. Pinosity caught up with the Frenchman about wine, food, travel and the philosophy behind WINE Explorers.
How did you start out as a wine writer?
Since studying wine business in Bordeaux a few years ago I’ve become fascinated (and scared) by wine writing. Reading a new article or wine book from my favourite authors provides such relaxation and enjoyment for me.
But when on the other side of the mirror, writing about wine is much more complicated. Is the subject interesting? New? Is my writing pleasant for the reader? Am I going into enough detail? Is it both fun and serious? Of course, I don’t have any answers to these questions, but it’s the unknown that gives me the energy to continue tapping on my keyboard with indescribable happiness.
I started writing about wine myself in November 2013, just before launching WINE Explorers.
Tell us about WINE Explorers?
WINE Explorers (as far as I know) is the only global wine inventory ever produced.
We started in January 2014 with the goal of exploring 92 wine producing countries over a three-year tour. The reason we are doing this is to gain a better understanding of the world’s wine in its entirety.
When I started studying wine I was concerned by how narrow the world’s view of wine production was. At the time, there were only 20 countries between Europe (the Old World) and the New World (USA, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and now China) represented in wine literature.
After six years of research I discovered that a total of 92 countries produced wine, and so the WINE Explorers project was born.
Our three years of travel and exploration will just be the foundation of a much broader global reflection on wine. We publish articles about the wine countries we visit on our blog and also send articles off to Le Figaro Vin in France and The Drinks Business in the UK. At the end of the tour we hope to publish a number of books and a documentary.
I deeply wish that all of us (wine geeks, wine lovers, wine professionals or simply wine beginners) might become wine explorers, so we can pool our knowledge, passion, sensibility and networks to collaborate together on a global scale.
When did you lose your Pinot virginity?
Haha! Thanks for asking. You’ve made me realise that I still get to lose my “wine virginity” for so many new grape varieties around the world…OMG, that’s exciting! As far as Pinot Noir goes, I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was July 2006, my birthday, and I was living close to Zurich. A good friend opened and decanted a bottle of Vinedos lo Abarca Pinot Noir 2003 from Casa Marin (Chile). It’s a very small production wine made by the magic hands of Maria Luis Marin.
Whenever I close my eyes I still have the taste of this nectar on my palate.
What are the top three Pinots you’ve ever tasted?
I don’t have a top three for anything in life, except maybe for my three top lovely ladies: my girlfriend, my mother and my sister.
For the rest, I just enjoy every new discovery of wine, food, music, people, and countries, for their differences in personality and unique qualities.
Instead, I will pick three delicious Australian Pinots, which I’ve recently tasted: Onannon Pinot Noir 2013 (Mornington Peninsula); Mietta 2009 from Lethbridge Wines (Geelong); and Dalrymple Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (Tasmania).
What’s the most expensive Pinot you’ve ever tasted?
Expensive? I honestly don’t know because I don’t like to put prices on my wine experiences, even if it is an important part of the equation.
I guess it was a 2011 Musigny from Louis Jadot, topped from the barrel. An unforgettable and fun moment, because it was so unconventional and delicious.
Is there a particular vintage of French Pinot Noir that stands out for you?
No, because what we call “the vintage effect” in France (like in many other countries) is completely part of the emotions I will have when tasting a wine.
Every vintage will have its own surprises, uniqueness and discoveries. Some are lighter, others are fruitier, bigger or riper, some have to be drunk in their early stages of life, and others have to be carefully kept in the cellar for years.
In the end, each of these wines will match perfectly with a certain type of food or moment. The most important aspect of wine is not the vintage but the timing.
What wines and/or regions are you the most excited about right now?
Last year we explored places like Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil. They all had something exciting to offer. There are many other regions we’re looking forward to discovering too. What will the wine look and taste like in Indonesia, India, Uzbekistan, Belgium, Sweden, Cape Verde, or Venezuela? The wine world is full of surprises and excitement.
If you could choose any food or wine in the world to have as your last meal, what would it be?
A dozen salty crepes with ham, cheese and mushrooms served with a magnum of Champagne Blanc de Blanc, to celebrate simply, with dignity and happiness.
If you had $1000 to spend on a bottle of wine, what would you buy?
I would never spend $1000 on a bottle of wine. Never. It’s the principle. We must always remember that wine is first a beverage made of fermented grape juice and nothing else. Is a $1000 wine any better than an $80 wine? Not sure.
However, if someone wished to invite me to open some of the most expensive bottles ever produced, I’m always up for a friendly tasting.
What’s the most embarrassing wine in your cellar right now?
The most embarrassing thing is the fact that my cellar is almost empty right now, as I will be travelling for the next three years!