Wine talks with Richard Baudains, author at Decanter

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A native of the Island of Jersey, Richard Baudains is one of the most reputable wine writers currently living in Italy. 

He’s been writing about Italian wine on Decanter every since the late 1980s, and served as the Regional chair of Veneto for the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards. He is also a Slow Wine Guide Editor, and teaches at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. That’s where I should have met him in person.

Unfortunately, the pandemic accelerated its pace from Mid-October, and Richard was forced to go into self-quarantine after having contact with a positive person. At least he didn’t get the virus!

The lecture was still held online, and for once I didn’t really regret not being in presence. Baudains is an excellent educator – he acknowledges the importance of interacting and asking questions instead of wasting time in boring monologues, the content of which wouldn’t be memorized by anyone. 

At the end of the last lecture, I asked him to answer a few questions about both his career and wine writing in general. He replied promptly, and made two interesting points about wine writing. The first is the excess of rhetoric – especially in Italian wine publications. Being poetic and solemn is not bad per se, but clarity and accuracy are fundamental. After all, the main goal of wine writing is advising, not showing that you could easily join – and perhaps win – a poetry competition. The second is an unpopular statement that controverts what most professionals in the wine industry believe, namely that good tasting abilities aren’t all it takes to become an excellent wine communicator and/or writer . You must write even better than you taste! 

Here’s the Q&A:

1. So, could you tell us something about your background? How did you develop an interest in wine and when did you move to Italy?

R.B. : I came to Italy in the late 1970s to teach English in a language school in Piemonte. I started to explore the shelves of the local supermarket (Standa) which in fact was very well stocked, then progressed to a traditional enoteca for my wine buying, which involved learning how to speak about wine (I didn’t speak a word of Italian before I came to Italy) I learned to read Italian through books and magazines about wine and since a car came with the job, I began to visit wineries in the Langhe and Monferrato. I spent a year in Liguria and time in Tuscany (a three-month cycle tour of the wine districts) and a long period in the Trentino and the Alto Adige. I was lucky that I always found jobs in regions that make interesting wine.

I returned to UK to study in the late-1980s. One day I picked up a British wine magazine where I found an article about Italian wine which was full of errors. I thought to myself “I can do better than this” so I wrote a piece and sent it to the magazine. I then called them every day for two weeks until they read the article. They didn’t accept it straight away, but they sent me another commission. So when I returned to Italy, I had become the Italy correspondent for Decanter.

2. You currently live in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Why did you decide to live in that specific region? Is it because you prefer FVG to any other wine region in Italy?

R.B. : I came to Friuli-Venezia Giulia to take up a job as a school director, not for wine, but I am very happy with the move. The wines are great.

3. During the classes, we’ve been talking a lot about the purpose of wine writing. Now, what kind of writer do you think you are? What’s your mission?

R.B. : For myself I write for the satisfaction of meeting interesting people and hearing their stories, travelling to beautiful places and tasting great wines. I would be glad if I entertain the people who (I hope) read my articles, tell them something interesting they didn’t know before and possibly raise awareness of the virtues of artisan winemaking.

4. You work for both Italian and British publications? What are the main differences in the way Italians and British wine writers approach wine? Do you follow different approaches when you write for different publications?

R.B. : Stylistically I think British wine writers are perhaps less rhetorical than my Italian colleagues. When I write for Italian publications, I try to write in the British style in Italian.

5. How did Covid change your job?

Drastically. One of the big parts of the job is attendance at wine fairs, tastings and events, which naturally have been cancelled. I have done some seminars and tastings online, which is interesting and an area for future growth. I also do a lot more tasting from home.

6. Just a couple suggestions for young wine writers who want to transform their passion into a profession.

Work hard on your writing. If they have the motivation, most people can become competent tasters; not everyone can write at the same level at which they taste.

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