'A hint of buttercups on the nose'...'A lively little wine with a winsome sense of humour'...'Oh, you can't drink this with that'...There is a certain, all-too-widespread way of talking and writing about wine that is both enormously infuriating and utterly incomprehensible. Why can't someone cut through all the pretension and the flowery language for once, and tell us the things we really want to know? Do you actually get a much better bottle of wine if you pay much more for it? Do the supermarket chains, with their vast bulk-buying power, really offer the best bargains? Why are classic wines like Chianti. Muscadet and Rioja so often disappointing? Is champagne worth the money? Can you truly taste the difference between some of the world's most popular wines? And does it honestly matter which wines you drink with which foods? In You Heard It Through the Grapevine, one of Britain's most iconoclastic and witty wine writers takes the wine industry to task, and provides answers for everyone who stands in Sainsbury's wondering what to buy. But Stuart Walton's acerbic study goes further, for such issues are merely symptoms of an industry both adapting to, and sometimes taking advantage of, our huge and still-growing interest in drinking wine. He looks at how the industrial quantities we now drink necessitate industrial production methods, with sometimes a consequently industrial taste. He argues that the rise of the globe-trotting "wine-maker", offering his or her consultancy to wineries from California to Australia, risks a homogenisation of world wine. He questions the lucrative profession of the wine critic, posing as an impartial authority while unable to resist the high fees offered to plug the big retailers' own selections. And he takes a decidedly dim view of the pitiful choice on offer and outrageous prices charged for the privilege of having wine in a restaurant. Waspish, satirical and frequently very funny, separating the premier vintage from the frightful slosh, You Heard It Through the Grapevine applies the acid test to today's wine business, and finds all too often a very nasty taste in the mouth.
I have been writing about wine, other drinks and restaurants since the beginning of the 1990s. In the past decade, my work has included a widely acclaimed cultural history of intoxication, Out Of It (Penguin) and the multi-disciplinary Humanity: An Emotional History (Atlantic, published in the United States as A Natural History of Human Emotions). My work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese and Korean. I write for the Guardian Books site, as well as a number of specialist drink publications and websites, and I review books for World of Fine Wine magazine.
In 2010, after 16 years of living in Brighton, I headed southwest and am now in beautiful Torbay.