Peter Richards MW from BBC's 'Saturday Kitchen' discusses the best ways with wine

  • Sharebar
image from shutterstock

Susie Barrie and Peter Richards are wine experts from BBC1's Saturday Kitchen and the youngest married Masters of Wine.

They both are often to be found on various TV and radio food programmes and are regulars at hosting events, such as the BBC Good Food show.image from susieandpeter.com

Peter became a Master of Wine in 2010, a year after his wife Susie and as a result won three awards, including a double whammy of the IMW Outstanding Achievement Award (formerly the Tim Derouet).
As well as this, they have written their own books, Peter’s being the Gourmand World Award-winning 'Wineries with Style' and the Andre Simon short-listed 'The Wines of Chile', and Susie’s 'Champagne and Sparkling Wines' and 'Discovering Wine Country – Northern Spain', the second of which picked up a Gourmand World Award in 2006.
Further writing (and photography) credits for Peter include Decanter, Times Online, Food & Wine, The World of Fine Wine, London Lite, Daily Mail and The Guardian, and Susie has written for Decanter, Wine and Spirit, Harpers, Drinks International, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, The Glasgow Herald Magazine, Spain and In the Know.

Together, Peter and Susie run their Wine School and Wine Club to share their expertise and enjoyment of wine; both their events and wine choices prove to be regular sell-out successes.
They also head up the What Food What Wine competition to find the best wines to go with classic dishes from fish’n'chips to chicken tikka massala.

Here we speak to Peter Richards who gives us a taste of his day job and MW married life.

What sparked your initial interest in wine?
Thirst! For something different, unusual and intriguing. We both came to wine via circuitous routes – Susie originally trained as an actress and then caught the wine bug. I was starting out as a journalist in Chile and was given the chance to write a tourist’s guide to the country’s wineries (I didn’t look that particular gift horse in the mouth – 100 wineries and a thorough wine education later, and that was me in the wine world for life). What’s great is that now we still use those professional skills in our day jobs, for example when we do TV or host events or write.image from susieandpeter.com

How did you get to working in the position you’re in today? Again, a very healthy thirst probably helped! That and a healthy dollop of good luck, hard work and some wonderful people who have helped us along the way (take a bow Julia Harding MW, James Winter, Mark Robertson, Steve Anderson, Oz Clarke, Robert Joseph, our wonderful parents and families, Tim Atkin MW, David Kelly, Sarah Kemp, Hillary Lumsden to name but a few). Sorry, this is beginning to sound like a Kate Winslet Oscar speech…

What is your favourite aspect about the job that you do? The amazing people we are lucky enough to work with and come into contact with day in, day out. It may be someone asking us for a bit of advice on Twitter, or filming on location with a crew, or inspiring wine producers the world over, or the audience at an event, or our brilliant colleagues. The world of wine is a truly fascinating, compelling, absorbing place to live and work. We thank our lucky stars for that every day.

How many wines do you taste in a day? As many as humanly possible. We both have an insatiable curiosity about wine. Also, much of what we do relates to putting wine together with food, and that needs constant experimentation and taste testing to get it right. So we constantly have a few bottles on the go at home, to make sure we give every wine a fair crack of the whip. If we’re judging in competitions, or big wine tastings, it can be as many as 150 or even 200 in a day – but that’s probably pushing the limits of endurance.

What are you looking for in a wine? Above all, drinkability. The refreshment value in wine is so often overlooked, but it’s absolutely essential. Wine needs to slake the thirst as well as stimulate the taste buds and fire the imagination. But when you have all those things going on at once…that’s when the fireworks start.

What should the average wine drinker look for when purchasing a wine? A credible story. Ultimately, you want satisfaction from a bottle of wine, so that’s difficult to quantify or put a specific recommendation on. But you need to buy into the story of a wine, the unique feeling that it will give you when you drink it. There’s far too much cynical, bland dross out there. Life’s too short. Wine is about more than just form and function. It’s also about fun and real people who are striving hard to make great wine from the land in which they work.

Do you think social media and the changing landscape of media has changed the influence of wine critics? It’s changing everything! And that’s both very exciting, but also very difficult to predict. Certainly the changing media landscape has changed the traditional role of a critic. Where before a book and a broadsheet column was the be-all and end-all, now it’s much more of an instant conversation with your readers/viewers/peers. I think it’s great. And the potential of online content and conversations is mind-boggling. Wine critics now have the chance to interact as well as inform, on a global scale and almost instantaneously. I think that’s made influence much more tangible and far-reaching. But it’s also very democratic in that it gives a voice to people beyond the elite few of the past. And that’s got to be a good thing too.image from susieandpeter.com

What are your thoughts on newer processes such as natural wine? I’m not sure I’d call natural wine ‘new’! I think it’s an interesting phenomenon, harking back to a time before (and almost a political and ideological reaction against) commoditized, homogenized wine production on a mass scale – and, crucially, the critics who champion a certain predictable wine style of sweet fruit, new oak, high alcohol etc above all. It’s great to see the unfolding story, people getting hot under the collar and passionate in equal measure. But for every mind-blowing natural wine that lifts the spirit, there’s another which is faulty or just lazily made and clearly riding on the bandwagon. So I guess we’re ambivalent about it. On a personal level, though, we’d far rather drink something light, esoteric, and beautifully flawed than yet another rich ripe overblown monster.

If you come across a particular wine you don’t like, is it difficult to critique? It’s true to say there probably isn’t enough negative criticism in the wine world. It’s a small world and people are naturally wary of burning bridges. There’s also the view among wine critics that it’s best to devote your energies and allocated space to praising the good rather than damning the bad. But I think it’s necessary and healthy to highlight shortcomings too, so we try to do that as much as we can. We’re certainly very direct and honest when it comes to evaluating wine, and we pull no punches – as many a winemaker will tell you! But we think it’s ultimately in everyone’s interest to be like that.

Which regions in your opinion produce some of the best wines? The Rhone, Elqui, Tasmania, Hermanus, Champagne, Mosel, Russian River, Salta, Jerez, Piedmont, Martinborough, Bairrada, Burgundy, Sussex, Bekaa….don’t get us started!

Do you argue about which wine to buy at home?! Of course! Though we’d prefer the term ‘discuss’.

What do you think is one of the best food and wine matches? Maybe something from Saturday Kitchen? Tough one…there are just too many to pick just one. We recommended a Southern French Vermentino recently with a creamy tarragon chicken dish that James Martin said was ‘one of the best matches we’ve had since the show began’. We’ve also had quite a few at our What Food What Wine awards – like Chassagne Montrachet with cheddar, champagne with fish and chips, succulent rosé with chicken tikka massala… But really for us it would be something quite simple. Like a good Beaujolais with charcuterie.

What advice do you have for the average and unpretentious wine lover? Go for it! Experiment and enjoy yourself as much as you can. The best wine critic in the world is yourself, because only you know your unique taste. But you need to build up the knowledge and context. See it as the most enjoyable challenge in the world. The only three things you need to become a proper expert are an open mind, a sharp memory and a healthy thirst.