Jo is House & Garden's wine expert, the training for which included 22 years as wine correspondent of The Sunday Times (five in tandem as one of its cookery writers), presenting a BBC Radio 4 series, being editor of two wine magazines and winning various writing awards. Her books on wine and matching wine and food have been published in many languages she can’t read, although she can spot her East European surname, Simonová. She judges wine, chocolate and photography competitions and gives talks and tastings as often as possible. joannasimon.com, twitter @joannasimon, instagram joannasimon_wine
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Question:What’s your favourite wine?
Answer:It’s hard to avoid saying Champagne, although I prefer not to drink it all the way through a meal, so I’m allowing myself a second: great red Burgundy.
Question:What do you like to eat?
Answer:I’m pretty omnivorous, but when eating out I like trying things I can’t or wouldn’t cook myself. Last year it included fried rabbit ears (yes, chewy) and goose barnacles with caviar (sensational), both courtesy of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. In principle, I love eating local wherever I am in the world, but I never rule out a pilgrimage to a glittering temple of gastronomy.
Question:What’s your favourite wine holiday destination?
Answer:My favourite place on earth is the Lot department in south west France. My particular corner of paradise is outside the Cahors wine region, but within spitting distance. Rome is another favourite – and the wines are better than you think, or they can be. And I must go back to Sicily.
Question:Is there a wine that really sticks in your memory?
Answer:There’ve been eureka moments with the wine world’s greats, but one of the most memorable was a much less exalted bottle in a small restaurant in Montauban in France many years ago. It was a Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Sec, chosen because it was local and I thought it would go with the fish. It was a revelation of precision, clarity and intense and vibrant flavour. I’ve loved Jurançon and the two Manseng grape varieties ever since.
Question:Other than wine, do you have any secret or not-so-secret passions?
Answer:Dark chocolate. Also insects and amphibians, although I’m emphatically not talking about eating them. I just mean that if I hadn’t been diverted by wine and food I like to think I might have been an entomologist or a herpetologist. Somebody’s got to.