My transatlantic archive


Really useful coincidence: our big move from family house to smaller flat took place recently just a few months after the world-renowned University of California at Davis asked whether they could house my professional archive. 

What larks! To think that the piles of papers that had been accumulating in our attic and in overflowing drawers and shelves in our study might actually be of use and value to others. 

As you can see from the shot below of a small portion of the material that awaited archivist Richard Taylor, who spent most of a November week sorting it out, it was varied and undisciplined. There were hundreds of reporters’ notebooks in which I recorded information and impressions during more than 40 years’ travelling to all corners of the expanding world of wine. (I certainly didn’t have time to read through them, so just have to hope that there is nothing too revealing there.)

In the pre era I recorded all my tasting notes from a heavy tasting schedule based on the busy London wine-trade scene, supplemented by tastings in situ, on printed tasting sheets, and so the suitcases full of these will presumably comprise a record of the evolution of the wine market.

There are posters, tapes and scripts from what was once a prolific television career, photographs aplenty (showing some very youthful versions of today’s wine luminaries), correspondence with some notable wine (and occasionally food) people, and a ridiculous number of cuttings books stuffed with articles by and about me. In my sorting out before moving I found many a document in my mother’s papers too – including the hilarious interview below with the local paper in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in which, as a 19-year-old Oxford student from Carlisle, UK, I am asked my impressions of life in rural PA.

I feel both bemused and honoured that the paper records of my life’s work in wine is thought worth shipping across the Atlantic (in even more boxes than are shown at the top of this article) to a part of the world that has been so important to me ever since I first visited California in 1969. In Davis’s famed Shields Library, described by Hugh Johnson as ‘the greatest wine library in the world', my archive will join that of Hugh, Robert Mondavi, Maynard Amerine and Harold Olmo inter alia.

Apparently the Library staff at Davis are already at work cataloguing (deciphering?) all this material and the plan is for it to be available from April this year. Nick and I will be spending the evening of Thursday 16 February at Davis, where, questioned by our American commentator Alder Yarrow, I will be discussing the evolution of the wine world over my decades observing it at close quarters.

The event is open to the public, but reservations are required by 9 February, apparently.

For more information about the collection, see here.