I have yet to convince my colleagues, wife and circle of friends that travelling to wine regions bears any resemblance to real work. The long hours, cold early morning tastings and smiling politely at producers whose wines you do not like don’t seem to count. They only register the frequent visits to restaurants and opportunity to drink great wine.
One area that I do not even bother to pretend is anything but sheer pleasure, is my annual visit to Burgundy. A region whose wine and cuisine I adore. Just as importantly Burgundy has soul. The most expensive wines on the planet are made here, yet by and large producers have a humility that is rare in the upper echelons of the wine world. It is quite common, at the end of a tasting, to find one casually drinking a rare bottle (the type that graces top restaurant wine lists for thousands of pounds) around an upturned barrel. The bottle is discussed briefly and then enjoyed, while the conversation moves on. Burgundians understand wine’s place in life.
The deluge that was the second half 2012 has perhaps made us forget that 2011 was not much better. It was a tricky year saved by a late burst of heat in the autumn. The result is the fourth good vintage in a row. Reds are a notch ahead of the whites and debate will centre on where they sit in the pecking order of the last decade - pretty high in my opinion. If you are a Burgundy lover 2011 is a vintage to stock up on, in light not just of its quality but the miniscule volumes that have been made in 2012. This will inevitably lead to shortages and price rises.
You can enjoy the fruits of my hard labour on Tuesday 29 January at Tate Britain when we will be showing a range of 2011s. I hope to see you there.