I’m a wine writer, wine historian, and wine judge based in Ottawa, Canada, where I’m also a professor of history at Carleton University. (I teach courses on European history and the history of alcohol and food.) I was born in New Zealand and grew up there at a time when New Zealand wine was pretty dreadful; much of it was fortified and sweet, and suitable only for pouring over ice cream. But I got into wine as a teenager, and by the time I emigrated to Canada in 1966, when I was 19, I had a modest cellar and a small library of wine books.
Wine remained a secondary interest until the late 1990s, when I wrote A Short History of Wine. It was published by Penguin Books in the U.K., by HarperCollins in the U.S., and in several foreign translations. I was then encouraged to write about modern wines, and I started writing articles for Vines (Canada’s main wine magazine) and a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen (the capital’s main daily newspaper). I now also write the wine features for NUVO Magazine, Canada’s leading luxury lifestyle publication, and I contribute occasionally to The World of Fine Wine (U.K.), which I think is the world’s best wine periodical by far. I also write for GuildSomm.com, the Guild of Sommeliers’ web site in the U.S.
In addition, I judge in wine competitions in Canada, and have judged in competitions in France, Italy, New Zealand, and Chile. I regularly visit wineries around the world and in 2016 I travelled to wine regions in France (five times), Germany, Spain, California, Australia, Turkey, and Ecuador.
I write on all wines, but I also do an annual best-seller, The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO, a guide to the wines in the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which is Ontario’s provincial liquor retailing system. The current edition (2017) is the ninth. Many of these wines are available elsewhere, of course.
I also write on the history of wine and other alcohols. My most recent books are French Wine: A History (University of California Press, 2016) and Alcohol: A History (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), which has been published in several foreign-language editions. In 2017 a new, updated edition of A Short History of Wine (first published in 2000) will be published as 9000 Years of Wine: A World History, from Whitecap books, Vancouver. I’ve been commissioned by a U.K. publisher to write books on Canadian wine and on the place of wine in historical change; they will appear in 2017 and 2018, respectively. I’m also the General Editor of a six-volume Cultural History of Alcohol, to be published by Bloomsbury Books in the U.K.
What drives me forward is the pleasure I get from drinking and talking about wine, meeting winemakers, winery owners, and wine-lovers all over the world, and introducing people to new wines and wine regions.