Max picks up an André Simon award

Max Allen with a whole load of drinks

We're thrilled that our Australian correspondent's latest book has won this major UK book award. Max is pictured above mixing an All-Australian Negroni, at home in Melbourne (photo: Arsineh Houspian for the Australian Financial Review).

Last night, at an online awards ceremony attended by interested parties on a least three continents, in very different time zones, the results of the 2020 André Simon awards were announced from our flat in London by your restaurant correspondent, who happens to be the chairman of the André Simon Memorial Fund.

The Awards, named after the most famous Pommery champagne salesman ever, who himself was a prolific author, and mentor of wine writer Hugh Johnson, were founded in 1978. They are the only awards in the UK to recognise the achievements of food and drink writers exclusively and are the longest continuously run awards of their kind.

Every year the trustees, advised by a food and a drink expert, come up with a shortlist which is whittled down to a very small number of winners. All judging had to be done online this year of course and the 2020 awards eventually went to:

Caroline Eden for her book about the Central Asian Republics Red Sands published by Quadrille (Food Award)
Max Allen for Intoxicating: Ten drinks that shaped Australia published by Thames & Hudson Australia (Drink Award)
Harold McGee for his doorstop of a book about aromas Nose Dive published by John Murray (Special Commendation)
Mark Kurlansky for another noble book about fish, Salmon published by Oneworld (John Avery Award)

This year’s advisors were John Hoskins MW of The Old Bridge at Huntingdon and Lisa Markwell, food editor of The Sunday Times.

This year’s shortlisted authors – selected from over 170 submissions – also included Ravinder Bhogal (Jikoni, Bloomsbury Publishing), Olia Hercules (Summer Kitchens, Bloomsbury Publishing), Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Falastin: A Cookbook, Ebury Press), Durkhanai Ayubi (Parwana, Murdoch Books), Jane Anson (Inside Bordeaux: The châteaux, their wines and the terroir, Berry Bros & Rudd Press), Lisa Granik (The Wines of Georgia, Infinite Ideas), Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew (Wine from Another Galaxy: Noble Rot, Quadrille).

John Hoskins MW remarked:There has been an astonishing range of brilliant drinks books this year. What made the shortlisted group stand out was their ability to break new ground, to give a really fresh interpretation of their subject. And what made Intoxicating the outstanding work in the group was Max Allen's achievement in weaving the minor world of drinks into a major historical and cultural context. His is a book that anyone with an interest in humanity would enjoy; it is a drinks book that will stand the test of time.’

Lisa Markwell commented, ‘In a year of vicarious travel and virtual feasts, Red Sands gave us the most sumptuous and delicious escape into other lands. Caroline Eden wears her 10 years of research lightly in this book, with its compelling exploration of the “stans” through their food, where it intersects with politics, people, geography and history.’

David Gleave MW of Liberty Wines, along with Sarah Jane Evans MW and Xanthe Clay, a judge and trustee, kindly donated bottles of Pieropan 2019 Soave Classico and Selvapiana 2018 Chianti Rufina so that participants in the ceremony could toast the winners, while Pommery Champagne donated bottles of their prestige bottling Cuvée Louise 1999 to each of the winners.