Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a career in wine, whether as a TV or radio personality, writer, author, podcaster, event organizer, speaker or consultant? Well, our guests tonight have done it all and you’re in for a treat with colourful stories from their brilliant careers!
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, Masters of Wine for part one of our two-part conversation.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
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Just pick your favourite social media channel from below and post a wine you love before March 10th:
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- When did Susie decide she wanted to change her career from acting to wine?
- When was Peter’s unorthodox introduction to wine writing?
- Why should you always keep a bottle of wine in your bag?
- What was the hardest moment in Susie’s journey as a wine expert?
- What did Peter learn about himself and his writing style from the low points in his career?
- Why is food such a great place for you to start learning about wine?
- What have been the highlights of Susie and Peter’s careers so far?
- How do Susie and Peter simplify wine by breaking it down into categories?
- How did Peter come to recognize the impact of their work?
- When did Susie develop her Michelin star-worthy cooking style?
- How has wine impacted Susie and Peter’s relationship?
- What effect does a career in wine have on your children?
- What has been Susie and Peter’s experience with wine-fueled marathons?
- Why should you wear fancy dress when running a marathon?
- I loved listening to the journeys that brought both Susie and Peter from such different backgrounds to the world of wine. I feel we all sort of stumble into this world, and then never want to leave it.
- I couldn’t agree more with their take that a great place to start learning about wine is through food pairing and to heck with those who scoff at the notion. That’s why my online Wine Smart Course focuses on pairings.
- I enjoyed hearing how wine has affected their relationship beyond the shared passion and the stories about running the Medoc marathon that were so amusing. Wine bridges so many cultures, regions and moments.
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
If people can understand food, then, of course, they can understand wine. You might not understand every intricacy but you can certainly “get it”. - Susie Barrie Click to tweet
We are the conduits. We are here to help you find and enjoy good wine. - Peter Richards Click to tweet
So much of wine is working with other people… not just opinions about wine but what we do with wine and how we communicate it best. - Peter Richards Click to tweet
I do firmly believe that the more you normalize alcohol with children, the less likely they are to see it as something they’re desperate to go and try and binge on. - Susie Barrie Click to tweet
We should never lose sight that wine is about enjoyment. It’s about fun. - Peter Richards Click to tweet
About Susie Barrie and Peter Richards
- Connect with Susie and Peter
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Peter Richards 0:00
Wind shouldn’t be constrained in just pure wine senses; but like you do brilliantly, so much stuff with food, wine should be about food; it should be about art; it should be about architecture where they can be enjoyed together.
Natalie MacLean 0:10
I agree with you completely. Bring people into wine through these other avenues which the two of you do. I think far more people are less intimidated with food, like a chicken as a chicken. I’m not going to worry about vintage charts and where did the chicken grow up? And I think that is a way to make wine a little bit more relaxing and less uptight as a subject.
Susie Barrie 0:28
I think you’re right and frankly, how often do any of us drink wine without food? It’s so much part of drinking wine, isn’t it, and sharing wine. You share it with food. So if people can understand food, then of course they can understand why you can’t understand every intricacy. But you can certainly understand that. That tastes really nice with that. So that’s a starting point, isn’t it?
Natalie MacLean 0:59
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey, as I write my third book on this subject.
Natalie MacLean 1:32
I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 117. Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to have a career in wine, whether as a TV or radio personality writer, author podcaster, event organiser speaker or consultant? Well, our guests on this episode have done it all. And you’re in for a treat, with their colourful stories from their brilliant careers. In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with the dynamic husband and wife team, Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, who are both Masters of Wine. I’ve got a bonus for you in addition to this podcast; I’d love for you to join me in the première watch party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live streaming for the very first time on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube on Wednesday, March 3 at 7pm Eastern. The video will show you the pictures and other visual elements that we discuss in this podcast. I’ll also be jumping into the comments on all three platforms as we watch it together, so that I can answer your questions in real time. It’s like the Netflix version of the podcast; so good. Plus, you can talk to me and ask questions in real time, as I said as we watch it together.
You can also see what other people thought of this conversation and the answers to their questions. Before I introduce Susie and Peter, I want to let you know that you could win a prize pack that includes a personally signed copy of their book on English wine, a lovely linen polishing cloth for your wine stemware and a very cheeky chef’s apron that says on the front, “Like it Fresh and Racy?” I’ll select the winner from those who participate before March 10. I will share your stories and posts with my followers whether you win or not, so that you get to connect with more wine lovers. All you have to do is pick your favourite social media channel, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and post a wine that you love before March 10. I’ll post this in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com./117. In the shownotes you’ll also find a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online video wine and food pairing class, where you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube live every Wednesday at 7pm, including this evening and next week. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean./117.
And now on a personal note before we dive into the show. I’m still watching the Girlfriends Guide to Divorce on Prime. Blissfully there are five seasons; what else am I going to do when I can’t get together with my real life girlfriends? Hmm. One of my favourite scenes is when Abby is drinking wine, while brainstorming titles for her next book, on her computer. She’s furiously typing away; it is so Carrie Bradshaw. That’s Sex in the City if you’re a millennial or a man. It also reminds me of the struggle I had in naming my first book, “Red, White and Drunk all Over”, which actually came from the printer, not the publisher or me. Some guy in the printing department kept saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s that book, you know what’s Red, White, drunk all over.” And my editor said, Hey, hey, let’s go with that. Anyway, on with the show.
We have with us a wonderful couple; she’s Suzy Barrie; he’s Peter Richards. And they are both Masters of Wine who happen to be married to each other. Amazing. They were presenters on the flagship BBC television show Saturday Kitchen for more than a decade. And in 2014, they launched the wine festival for Winchester. It’s now an annual event that attracts thousands of people, lots of great wines, and they’ve raised more than £16,000 (pounds) for charity. So I think that’s around $35,000, not sure where the foreign exchange is lately, but they’ve written for the Sunday Times, Decanter magazine and many others. They’ve published six books to date, received many prestigious awards, including the IWSC communicators of the year, EWP as well, lots of acronyms, but very prestigious. Not only are they among only a handful of Masters of Wine in the world, but they both passed this gruelling exam on their first try. So they’re very smart. And they’ve also launched their own podcast called Wine Blast, which has hit the top 10 charts in multiple charts, heard in 130 countries. It’s got glowing reviews and I have to say personally, it’s become my favourite wine podcast. I love their wit, their charm and their energy. And I’d like to welcome them now to join us. Hello, Susan and Peter, Susie and Peter. I’ll get that right.
Susie Barrie and Peter Richards 7:02
Natalie MacLean 7:03
I’m so glad to welcome you I love your dynamic, the two of you. But before we jump into wine, specifically. Susie, you were an actress. Tell us what got you into the world of wine.
Susie Barrie 7:10
Well, funnily enough, I was an actress for a few years before I got into wine. It was when I was working. And I was thinking back about this. It was when I was working at Oxford Playhouse. And I was in pantomime, as you always are when you’re an actress, because that’s when you can get some work. And I was playing Dandini in Cinderella at Oxford Playhouse and I was walking around town one day, and I saw this poster for a wine tasting. And I thought, “Oh, that sounds like fun.” It was with Oz Clark, who I’m sure a lot of your listeners will be familiar with. And so it happened to fall on a night off. I dragged Cinderella along to this wine tasting. And we just had so much fun. I mean, I’m sure you know what Oz is like, he just makes it all so much fun.
Natalie MacLean 7:55
He’d have you drinking out of that glass slipper I would think. he would. You know, he’s
Susie Barrie 8:01
He would you know, he’s a thespian himself. You know, he loves his singing and acting and he has that background himself. And he was just lovely. And so I suppose that was the moment when I thought, do you know what? I really would love to have my career not in acting and in wine. Now, it took a long way for that to actually happen. It was a long journey. But if I was looking for a moment, that’s the moment.
Natalie MacLean 8:24
Oh, wow that’s a great story. I love that. And Peter; now you came at it from a different angle after graduating with a first class degree at Oxford University. Wow! You went into journalism. How did you make the transition to wine?
Peter Richards 8:37
Well, I think the first class degree was largely fueled by industrial quantities of rosé, cheap rosé. What I would have given to have seen that performance. I haven’t really thought about it until now. But Dandini
Susie Barrie 8:52
Sapping my thunder
Peter Richards 8:53
Have you still got the costume? Yeah, so I studied languages, French and Spanish. And really no idea what I wanted to do. I definitely had aspirations to be a journalist, and to use the languages somehow. So when I graduated, I did a series of unsuitable jobs, and was just casting around for ideas, happened to go to the library and read a book about Chile. And so hang on, I could be a journalist in South America, why don’t I do that? And basically, because of this book on Chile, that I happened to read, it was a library with not many books so it was a completely random choice. I saw this advert for a job for an English language newspaper in Chile. And I thought, Wow, that sounds great. And I knew it made wine as well and there was always that little seed of interest there, even though I knew nothing about it. So I headed out to Chile and ended up becoming editor of that paper. It was a smallish outfit, but it was brilliant for learning. I learned, first and foremost, how to write, how to write for a paper, and also how to be edited, which as you know, it’s one of those things that often happens in a journalists career but doesn’t often happen to wine people, who come into writing from other backgrounds. But for me, the background very much was writing in journalism and having those skills and editing and being edited. But one day my boss just came into the office. He said, Do you want to write me a book on Chilean wine? And it’s one of those moments in life you just don’t say no.
Natalie Maclean 10:06
Peter Richards 10:07
So I said yes. But I don’t know anything about wine. And he said, doesn’t matter. You know, it’s gonna be a tourist guide, because he wants to encourage more tourists to come over and sort of use his services, from both the States and from Europe. And so I said, Absolutely. So I took myself off. I borrowed his car and his laptop and I visited about 110 wineries I think back in those days, it was in 1990
Unknown Speaker 10:26
Wow, thorough, you were dedicated.
Peter Richards 10:29
You know, that was my introduction to wine. It was not the usual introduction to wine. I made it clear I knew nothing about wine. But the reason I learned was because the Chilean winemakers were so lovely and so hospitable. They took me in and gave me tastings. And they basically taught me the basics. So that was my, you know, learning period. That was my instruction. That was my gateway into wine. It was a bizarre one, but it was absolutely magical. And yeah, after that, there was no looking back.
Natalie MacLean 10:52
Oh, well, and you learned something about carrying a Chilean bottle of wine and a bag?
Peter Richards 10:57
Yes. So the most important life lesson here, naturally, I learned in Chile. It has served me well ever since. Always carry a bottle of wine, a bottle of fine wine in your bag, if you don’t want to lose it. Because the night before I set off on this epic journey to go and visit 100 Chilean vineyards all across the country; I went out for some celebratory drinks with my pals. And I had a bottle of wine in my bag and all my documents, my passport, my money, wallet; everything was in there. Of course, enjoyed the night a bit too much, left the bag in the bar, woke up the next morning in a cold sweat thinking I can’t go anywhere because passport I haven’t got, driver’s licence gone. I went back to the bar. It wasn’t there. It’d been stolen. I couldn’t go anywhere. And I went back to the office and I said to my boss, Look, I’m sorry, this is not going to work; I’ve let you down. And at that moment, he got a phone call from an old lady saying “Are you Peter Richards. No, but I know he’s here.” And she said, I believe I have your bag. And then what happened was, the thief had been so overjoyed at finding a bottle of wine in my bag, that he completely didn’t look for anything else. He didn’t look for the passports and the money. It was a king’s ransom in there at the time, he just took the wine and he threw the bag over the wall into this old lady’s garden. So there you go; to keep your valuables just keep a bottle of wine in your bag always
Natalie MacLean 12:13
That’s great, the decoy strategy, I love it. That’s great, Peter. So this may be a similar answer for both of you or different. But take us to the worst moment of your wine or wine writing career.,
Peter Richards 12:28
Oh gosh, this is a really tough one. That’s a really tough question. Because I think as wine people, we naturally think about positives, don’t we? We always say, generally speaking, your wine career is positive
Susie Barrie 12:38
It is and you know, you feel a bit of a fraud if you start complaining about being a wine writer.
Natalie MacLean 12:43
Why? Might those tiny violins come out?
Susie Barrie 12:48
I mean, I think one of my memories of feeling terrible, was actually to do with the Master of Wine course, I’d only just embarked on it. Natalie, I hadn’t got a clue what I was letting myself in for. And the first thing you do really, is go off on your study week to Rust in Austria. And I just remember getting there and feeling so excited. And within minutes, realising I knew nothing. And this was going to be the hardest week of my life. And it genuinely was the hardest week of my life. I felt sick for the entire week. And it’s there etched in my memory. I mean, everything got slightly better from there on in. But it was tough. It wasn’t really part of my, as it were, my career, but it was part of my journey as a wine expert, if you like as an MW
Natalie MacLean 13:35
Sure, wow. Yeah, that must have been nail biting. I mean, we’ll talk more about the Master of Wine process in a bit. But Peter, do you have different memory or anything come to mind?
Peter Richards 13:45
Yeah. Well, I have a memory of Susie coming back from that trip actually.
Susie Barrie 13:50
To pick me up off the floor.
Peter Richards 13:52
Yeah, I’m sure we even talked about it a bit. But Susie was the one who first said she wanted to do an MW and I tried to talk her out of it. I said “No, you don’t need to”, she was already a well established journalist. But she was adamant. And part of that was to do I think with women not being taken seriously
Susie Barrie 14:10
You know, without getting too serious about it but I just felt it was, you know, it wasn’t that I was treated badly in any way. I just always felt I had to slightly prove myself a little bit more. And I thought, you know, if I just could get this, if I could do this, get it and say right, I’m Susie Barrie, Master of Wine. Hopefully, that initial having to prove myself, that hurdle will be got over. And then if I fail, that’s my doing, but at least I’m not one step behind before I even begin.
Peter Richards 14:49
I tried to talk her out of it but she was vehement. She didn’t listen to me, as ever, story of our relationship. But she did it. And I was so lucky doing it after, I came after her, that I was already prepared. When I had those, I can understand exactly what she meant, when I got to Rust to do my first residential course. But because I was pre-prepared, it was so much easier. So I’ve got her to thank for that. But no, I mean we all have downs in our careers. And I think it’s important to be open about this actually. And it’s sort of two things that come to my mind. First was, I’ve only ever received a kill fee once in my career, and a kill fee for those who don’t know, is for an article that never gets printed. So you write it and submit it and never gets printed because the magazine or whatever, doesn’t like it. I’m not going to name names, but it was for a magazine that was setting itself out to be super high level, super intellectual, super kind of up there. And, you know, I’ve done the Oxford thing, I learned how to write in a highfaluting style when necessary, but I couldn’t bring myself however hard I tried. They specifically asked for footnotes and figures, you know, in an article, and I tried to write that kind of article, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I guess wine, I just felt wine was such a fun thing. And it was something to make easier for people rather than kind of talking it up and making it deliberately erudite. So anyway, that ended with me just saying, you know, this isn’t going to work. So pay your kill fee. So that was quite a low point in a way. But with a good learning, in the sense of that was my style, okay, maybe I can’t work for certain people, maybe certain magazines aren’t gonna be me. But that was kind of an important learning point for me, even though it was hard to get my head around, because in a way it was failure, and I hadn’t really done failure
Natalie MacLean 16:08
Hadn’t done failure.
Peter Richards 16:11
Now, you know, with the kids, we’re learning that failure, every day, is something to embrace. And this is the teaching mantra, isn’t it, it is something you embrace, because you learn so much from it. I suppose the other thing was to do with my first book called Wineries with Style, which is on the architecture of wine, and wineries all around the world. Now not in the sense of a dry sort of architectural treatise, because I know nothing about architecture, it was more kind of just a chance to tell the story, the history of wine, if you like, through the amazing places, we all get to go and visit you know, from Châteaux to castles to super modern, funky places. But it was sort of at a Christmas party and the publishing executive said, “You know what, your book really should be doing better, but it’s not because we don’t really know how to sell it. Because we don’t know whether it’s wine? Is it architecture? Is it travel? Is it history? So you know, we can’t really sell it.” And that was a really profoundly difficult moment, because I thought, well, I’ve got no power here, I can’t really affect this. But it made me learn two things. Firstly, never go into writing a book until you know how to sell it and you know who your market is, which I think as wine people we often tend to just think, boy, because we can do this and we’re excited, we should do it. Well no, what purpose is it serving, and how are you going to get it to those people to help them? And secondly, you know, wine shouldn’t be constrained in just pure wine senses, it can be, it’s a lovely subject unto itself. But like you do, brilliantly, you know, so much stuff with food, wine should be about food, it should be about art, it should be about architecture, you should enjoy these things. These are all things to enjoy, and they can be enjoyed together. So it kind of made me more determined in a way, just to sort of try and prove that point in the later career. And that was 15 years ago, so it hasn’t hurt too much.
Natalie MacLean 17:55
Wow. And I agree with you completely, like, bring people into wine through these other avenues which the two of you do. You know whether it’s food, especially leading with food, I think far more people are less intimidated with food, like a chicken is a chicken, I’m not going to worry about vintage charts, and where did the chicken grow up and all the rest of it. And I think that is a way to make wine a little bit more relaxing and less uptight as a subject.
Susie Barrie 18:19
I think you’re right, and frankly, you know, how often do any of us drink wine without food? You know, it’s so much a part of drinking wine, isn’t it and sharing wine, you share it with food. So if people can understand food, then of course, they can understand wine and you know, yes, you can’t understand every intricacy. But you can certainly get it, you know and understand that that tastes really nice with that, you know? So that’s a starting point, isn’t it?
Natalie MacLean 18:45
Yeah, definitely. I love your approach. And now I believe in happy endings. So we have to go to the best moments of your career in wine so far I should say. You’ve got many more ahead of you, I’m sure.
Peter Richards 18:55
Susie Barrie 18:56
First of all, I would say passing the MW was an amazing day. So that was a real high point. But you know, one of the big high points in recent years, was launching the wine festival, you know, that first year because, you know, Natalie, it took so much work, and it was so unknown to us. And it was also our own project. You will definitely appreciate that, you know, some things you do and a lot of things you do are for other people. And most of the time other people are in control. And actually, this was all ours. And so we were in control, but then that obviously comes with the jeopardy of not knowing quite what’s going to happen. It was really successful. It was such a happy and uplifting experience that I think that would have to be a high point.
Peter Richards 19:39
I think it didn’t it didn’t happen overnight. That’s the other thing. It took a couple of years. And you know, when we launched this really big festival, we wanted loads, thousands of people to come. I remember the first people coming through the door, and the looks on their face was just what have I got myself into?
Natalie Maclean 19:53
Why were they looking like that?
Peter Richards 19:54
Well, because they thought it was gonna be really serious, you know, and it was only when they walked into this massive hall with like hundreds of wines for them to taste, they suddenly start. And you can see the light bulb come on in peoples minds. And this was the important thing about the festival. It wasn’t us trying to impose, which is what you do really well as well, wasn’t us trying to impose, say, this is what you must do. It’s just look, we are just the conduit. We are here to help you find and enjoy good wine. If we had a mission statement, that would be it. That’s what all of our mission is, isn’t it? What’s the simplest way of doing it? Well, doing this festival allows people to come and have fun on their own terms.
Susie Barrie 20:27
So we did also as part of the festival, we created something called Follow your Taste. I was very, very keen when we decided we would do the festival, that it was not going to be intimidating. So that person we talked about walking in and looking a little bit lost, we wanted to find a way for them to start: Where do they begin? Which wine do they start with? And so we did this thing called Follow your Taste, which was very tongue in cheek, which the apron that we’re talking about, this Fresh and Racy apron, is all to do with and it was really breaking wine down into five simple categories. Now we’ve got seven categories, very, very simple. So and they’d all have a strap line. So like Fresh and Racy or Mellow Yellow or Feeling Fruity, and they’d all have a colour. So they’d have a strap line in the colour. And you would go to one of our Follow your Taste people and say, “Well, I know I like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and you’d get a green Fresh and Racy sticker.” So I really liked the stickers. And then as you went around the room, the bottles also had either green or yellow or red neck tags. And so people could automatically go to a table and go, “Well, I’ve got a green sticker, I’m going to try that green wine.” And once you’ve tasted two or three, you’re into it, and you don’t really mind, you’ll go to any table. But you’ve got over that first hurdle of not knowing where to start.
Peter Richards 21:46
So we had to, by popular demand, introduce a new category the next year, which is one with all the colours on it, saying “I’m easy”.
Natalie MacLean 21:53
I love that.I love that.
Peter Richards 21:55
I think some of my highlights as well going back to the festival will be one where obviously putting on a festival is phenomenally expensive. So just in terms of covering costs, to make it commercially sustainable, we had to get funding from a number of different sources. Obviously, ticket sales is one and the exhibitors; but sponsors were absolutely key in making this happen. But I you know, as you know, it’s not always easy to get sponsors to endorse wine stuff. But one of our key sponsors was Rathbones, an investment management company. One of the lovely things and this is kind of where, I think for us wine people, sometimes everything can be so lovely but it can be slightly detached. We help people, but we sort of don’t help them as well
Susie Barrie 22:30
Peter Richards 22:33
Intangible. That’s the word. So Tony who helped set the sponsorship up, he was an investment manager, and they carried on sponsoring, he came to the festival because he got free tickets as part of a sponsorship deal. And now he’s developed this complete other passion and he’s coming to a really high level and I’m joking to him, Tony, you’re going to be outclassing us Masters of Wineic. But it’s those sort of things, isn’t it? Those tangible things, that’s where it’s just lovely. It’s like a teacher. And I know you’ve got teaching in your blood; that feeling you know, as a teacher, when you help someone genuinely become passionate about something and change the mode of doing it. That’s what it’s all about.
Natalie MacLean 23:03
Starting that spark; like that just seeing people turned on to
Peter Richards 23:07
Turned on to wine and as we know, the subject, it’s easy to get passionate about. But on that note, just one little, little anecdote story of a moment, which is maybe wasn’t the greatest sort of moment in wine, but its made me realise along similar lines that you’re making a difference to people, was when we’d been doing Saturday Kitchen for a couple of years and I was just walking along in London, in quite a dodgy part of London, it was a bit dangerous, one of those areas where you just you know, you check your wallet just a bit more than usual, your bag
Susie Barrie 23:32
Natalie MacLean 23:34
As long as you’ve you got a bottle of wine in that bag, you’d be fine.
Peter Richards 23:37
Of course, that was my other strategy. These two quite threatening guys, big hoodies, low slung jeans, sort of approached me and I thought I’m just going to keep my head down here and one of them said, “Oi, hey you, ain’t you that wine guy off the telly?”
Natalie MacLean 23:57
Peter Richards 23:57
I thought they say oh, these guys are hoodlums. I said Well, yeah. They said that Rosé you recommended the other day, that Rosé that was well dirty.
Natalie MacLean 24:12
That’s great. I love that.
Peter Richards 24:16
You know, I think I you know what? Just the fact you’ve watched this programme, and you obviously, I didn’t realise, I mean that was actually a compliment; well dirty apparently. They tried the Rosé, they liked it. Oh, this is all my Christmases come at once because if you’re reaching people from all across the social spectrum it’s just fantastic.
Natalie MacLean 24:36
It is indeed and it reminds me Peter. This young girl was standing at a bus stop and she’s reading a book and then I realised, as I was walking on the other side, she was reading my book Red, White and Drunk all Over. She had a nose ring and she had pink hair like this, and she was laughing and she’s like Doc Martens on and it was like Alright!
Peter Richards 24:56
Did you say hello?
Natalie MacLean 24:59
I was too shy
Peter Richards 25:01
Did you take a picture? They are wonderful moments aren’t they?
Natalie MacLean 25:07
They are and the reader letters that you get sometimes, they’re just so moving, you realise it’s just wine. I’m not like, you know, out saving children, as you know, Médecins Sans Frontières. And anyway, those moments, Yeah, are what we live for. So what do you think you’d be doing, though? I guess? Well, I guess what you’d be doing if you weren’t writing about wine it would be your original careers, I guess you would have continued along those paths.
Peter Richards 25:29
I think pretty much so.
Susie Barrie 25:31
Yeah, probably. Yes.
Peter Richards 25:32
Yeah. I mean, you’d probably be in panto.
Susie Barrie 25:34
Who knows, who knows. I don’t think I would actually, I think I would have moved on and done something else and actings such a tricky career. It really is. I mean, I’m sure you would be writing. Well, I think you would actually be writing your novel. Peter keeps telling us he’s going to write a novel Natalie. So maybe if I say it now, he has to do it
Natalie MacLean 25:55
Maybe you can involve wine somehow?
Susie Barrie 25:56
Peter Richards 25:58
Yes. Idea welcome.
Peter Richards 25:58
Your family was sort of hotel, restaurants.
Susie Barrie 26:02
I mean, I was brought up my entire childhood all in pubs, hotels, restaurants. So it’s unlikely that I wouldn’t be in that world somehow. I think I would have moved on from acting. Yeah, yeah.
Natalie MacLean 26:13
Oh, perfect. Okay, well, let’s look at some photos, because you’ve shared some great ones with me. And I want folks to see this.
Peter Richards 26:20
You’re slightly nervous as to what’s coming.
Natalie MacLean 26:23
Well, you both sent photos separately. So, I’m kidding. It’s what you said together. So this is you at home I assume
Susie Barrie 26:32
Yes. That’s in our kitchen. It’s a few years ago. I think you can always date the photos, can’t you by my hair?
Natalie MacLean 26:37
Yes, that’s right.
Susie Barrie 26:40
This is a few years ago, but it is in our kitchen. I hadn’t realised that that label, that pink label, do you know that’s a Valpolicella Ripasso; that majestic style, just delicious. We’ve actually, this is a few years ago, we’ve literally just used that in a master class in our online Wine Festival. And that shows you how much we liked that wine. was a bottle geek
Peter Richards 26.59
She’s such a bottle geek. She can spot a bottle from 100 yards and tell you what it is. It’s got a nice, nice label. So that’s our kitchen.
Natalie MacLean 27:06
Oh, lovely. And Susie, are you always pouring for Peter?
Susie Barrie 27:11
That’s a very good question.
Natalie MacLean 27:14
It looks like he might give you a good tip or something.
Susie Barrie 27:16
He’s sitting there as if “Come on wench, pour me a glass.”
Peter Richards 27:21
I’m just, I’m a man, Natalie, I can’t multitask. I think the photographer had said something like, you could look at the camera, look at the camera and smile. That was all I could do. So I can’t do anything else.
Susie Barrie 27:33
To be really fair, it’s usually the other way around. But I am usually on cooking, so Peter would be doing the wine.
Peter Richards 27:39
And so I’m on, I’m on service. I am sous chef. But that is a mistake.
Susie Barrie 27:42
Which if I’m correct from having a little look at what you do Natalie, I think you might be the other way around, don’t you? Yes, exactly.
Natalie MacLean 27:50
Yes, exactly, I just pull corks, I’ve never cooked. That learned helplessness has been terrific. It’s a strategy that served me well. But yes, my partner Miles is a great, great cook. But I hear you cook Michelin star type recipes, very complicated, Susie,
Susie Barrie 28:05
That’s a lot that came from Saturday Kitchen actually because we used to have chefs on every week who were often Michelin starred, or in a less unusual kind of dishes, eclectic dishes. And the only way we really felt, we could definitely match the right wine to those dishes, was by cooking them. Because I think as a wine expert, you know, you can have an idea of maybe half a dozen wines depending on the dish. I mean, sometimes you think I haven’t got a clue. It could be red, it could be white, it could be sweet, it could be dry. But often you’ve got an idea. But you still don’t know exactly which wine is going to pick up on exactly that amount of spice or that amount of sweetness. We would try always, or I would try always to source the ingredients, which is often comical, actually and then cook the dish. And so that did mean some crazy dishes.
Peter Richards 28:55
I remember searching for some edible moss at one time. I got some moss, but I don’t think it was edible.
Susie Barrie 29:01
Dug out of the garden
Peter Richards 29:02
Yeah, no, she definitely got the reputation of being a difficult wine matcher, because she would demand the recipes. And often these recipes would arrive in unintelligible format and she would have to make sense of them. I think some people just start with cooking. They have a sense of cooking. And I think she does, I don’t
Susie Barrie 29:16
Well, I mean, I love it. So you know why they probably do or don’t. And so for me, it’s just time when I just drift off and go and do my own thing. And then people around in the kitchen really, and I just enjoy it. Yeah.
Peter Richards 29:27
But also in terms of the wine matching. You know, I think what’s lovely is to be able for both of us to sit down and try them. Often one of us would say I love this and the other one would say “Nah”, you know and then it would say for one wine to actually satisfy both of our palates, meant that we knew it had a very good chance of working for a lot of people out there who were watching the show.
Natalie MacLean 29:46
Yes, indeed. Is wine sort of all over your house? I mean, are you filled with bottles?
Susie Barrie 29:54
It is actually. I sometimes wonder when we ask somebody maybe to come in, like a plumber to come and do something for us. They must just think, if we haven’t told them what we do, you know, what is this? You know, they must be a pair of alcoholics because there are literally empty bottles, full bottles, half bottles, maybe some fortified wine that we’ve just kept in case I want it with some cooking. And it just goes on and on. So yes, the house is slightly riddled with bottles. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 30:20
And I’ll get deliveries of like four or five cases. And the delivery guy will say, “Wasn’t I here just last week?” It’s like just bring it on
Peter Richards 30:30
Personal relationships and careers is the way forward. I did a tasting piece for Decanter magazine at the beginning of lockdown. And they said to me, you know, it’s fine. We weren’t going to bring you in to the offices to do it here. But you can do it at home, it’s fine, we’ll just get the deliveries to home.
Susie Barrie 30:43
And normally bearing in mind, normally, you would probably only get about 60 or 80 wines submitted by people in times when people are not in the pandemic lockdown. So it was quite unusual. We had, I think it was getting on for 300 wines arrived, which was 2 bottles of everything
Peter Richards 31:02
But it wasn’t, it wasn’t the wines. And I’m never going to complain about being very kindly sent all these samples, which was absolutely fascinating tasting as well. But it was the packaging. And this is the key thing, isn’t it? You know, the waste of resources, they kind of can be used for wine. We’ve got to be so careful about this. Well, obviously, we are trying to find solutions. We were in lockdown. So we couldn’t get rid of it either. Because the dumpster was closed. So basically the kids couldn’t move in the house, you know, for packaging, there was a sort of labyrinth system around the house where you could move amongst the kind of cardboard boxes, but we never got the odd polystyrene but
Natalie MacLean 31:34
But maybe make some interesting forts or something like that. But what do you think wine has done for your relationship? I mean, obviously, it’s a shared passion. But anything else in terms of how it’s helped your relationship?
Susie Barrie 31:47
I think it regularly helps our relationship. A glass of wine at the end of the day? That’s a really interesting question. I mean, it’s hard probably to separate the relationship from wine really. Its our careers
Peter Richards 32:01
That’s a very fine line she is treading; very interested in what she says next to be honest
Susie Barrie 32:08
Why would we still be together? Because I honestly think it’s one of those things that a lot of couples, they’re married, they have a normal life, I think maybe go out to work, they meet at the end of the day, they might talk a bit about work, they might talk about other things. You know, for us, wine is just in everything. And it is what we talk about, but it’s mixed with everything else. So it’s just a shared passion that we feel quite lucky to have. And I don’t know, would our relationship be different without it, it’s impossible to say because it’s got it and it always has had it.
Peter Richards 32:41
I think I think it just gives us something to talk about really all the time and Susies’s right. It’s sort of it’s the work and there’s projects and stuff, but then we can switc,h and it’s something we’re enjoying at the table. And we can discuss it in non geeky ways. It’s something we’re just enjoying. So we’re very, very lucky in that sense. It works. It’s a nice symbiotic relationship all around.
Susie Barrie 32:56
And maybe you’d slightly flip it and say, Well, actually, maybe our relationship has helped our career in wine because we bounce off each other the whole time.
Peter Richards 33:04
Yes, that’s a good word. Yeah, that really does help. Because I think so much of wine, as you know, is working with other people, talking to other people, bouncing ideas, you know, not just opinions about wine, but what we’re doing with wine, how we communicate it best. And yeah, that’s definitely helped a lot.
Natalie MacLean 33:18
Sure. So are your children interested in wine?
Susie Barrie 33:23
I love this.
Peter Richards 33:24
Oh, that was just Susie after a big night. That was our daughter. I don’t know how old she was when she did it.
Natalie MacLean 33:34
But it says, I love your job in a bottle. So for those who are listening to the podcast, this is great.
Susie Barrie 33:42
It is, it’s a big bottle. Its filled with red wine. Its an unusual shape of bottle as well?
Peter Richards 33:48
Actually ,I don’t know how old she was when she did this. But yeah, seven, eight. I mean, it was a surprise because generally speaking, they take a healthy disregard of everything that we do, as is normal for children. And they certainly haven’t shown any massive sort of interest in wine
Susie Barrie 34:00
They’re getting more interested though. You know, that thing where they see it a lot, and now they’re realising it’s actually something that might be quite interesting. The other night, we gave our daughter a sip of something, and she just went Riesling 2019. And we went that’s bizarre. And you know the thing? It is Riesling, but 2018, but that’s very good. But then she went, I just heard you saying it , not that she’d heard it about that wine, but ,because I’ve heard you say that grape name before. So we knew it wasn’t really that she knew the wine
Natalie MacLean 34:29
A wine savant!
Peter Richards 34:31
Some Riesling tastes of apples and it was one of those. It was a Plan B Riesling from Western Australia. It was just lovely. It was one of those ones that you smell and Bang! apples. It’s almost like osmosis. It’s going in, because we’re talking about it so much. And I think the one way we’re seeing the results, is both the kids are really interested in cooking and especially our daughter, is taking a real interest in cooking and flavours and tastes and making her own stuff. And I think that’s coming partly from your interest in cooking but also the fact she sees us every day, taking a real interest in what we taste.
Susie Barrie 35:00
I think they both do. You know, we’ve got a little boy who’s a bit younger. On a slightly more serious note, I know not everybody agrees with this. But I do firmly believe that the more you normalise alcohol with children, the less likely they are to see it as something they’re desperate to go and try and binge on and, and have a bad relationship with. So we believe that they should be allowed a little taste and to listen to us talking about it and to see the bottles and you know, to kind of try and understand it a bit more and see it’s quite a civilised thing.
Peter Richards 35:35
I mean, it’s difficult because I think the scientific understanding, is that, you know, alcohol, taken or drunk before a certain age will impair brain development to a certain extent. So you’ve got to be so, so careful. But I think from our perspective, it is about as Susie says, not making it this big thing and just explaining the risks, the benefits, what we know, how it can be part of a healthy lifestyle, as well as, as well as how it can be dangerous, especially for younger people. So it isn’t a, I mean, I have to say to end on it on a slightly more jocular note, you know, we were convinced that both kids were going to be teetotal given the way that they’ve, you know, chosen react completely against what their parents do, but I’m not sure it’s going to turn out that way. We’ll see. We’ll do another interview in 10 or 20 years.
Natalie MacLean 36:12
That’s right, the follow up. It just reminds me of my son, who’s now 22. But when he was three, I said, “Would you like to taste the wine and he was kind of looking at me suspiciously because it’s treats that I kept away, it was vegetables that I gave him. What I gave him it was a Shiraz, I made sure it was not a sweet wine so he wouldn’t get hooked early. So he just tasted that Australian Shiraz, he said it’s yuck, it’s total yuck.”
Natalie MacLean 36:38
He doesn’t even drink now. It’s like I think I just scared him permanently. What happened is we used to go to the same liquor store a lot. You know, I have this three year old with me. And he was calling all the store staff by their first name. So I thought Child Services, is going to, I’m going to get a call, like, Hey, Joe. Anyway,
Peter Richards 36:58
That says something about that generation as well, though, I think that they’re very aware, aren’t they? They are a wonderful generation. And I think they have a lot of responsibility, or they feel often they have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but they’re very, very worried about what they’re eating and drinking. And I think we’ve got a lot to learn from them actually, as a generation. I do slightly worry as well, I’m slightly concerned for them in the sense of, there’s a danger of taking life a bit too seriously. And I just wonder if sometimes we do as humans need to just unwind sometimes and enjoy, let ourselves go a little bit. And I hope that, I’m sure it’s not the case, but I hope that as that generation grows up, they’ll feel that they don’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders, that they are good people and they’re going to do good things, but they can enjoy themselves and that hopefully will involve some nice wine and food at some stage.
Natalie MacLean 37:41
I hope. We’ll have to get them all together. So you folks look like serious runners here? Is this part of the Médoc? I’ve got more Médoc marathon photos coming up. Tell us about this
Susie Barrie 37:55
So we did which year was it? 2014?
Peter Richards 37:58
That’s a different run actually. There’s so many occasions in which we just, in very silly attire, run races Natalie, which will have a twist. The first one was the Médoc in 2014. That was our first big one.
Susie Barrie 38:09
Yeah. And the Médoc marathon, which is ,for anybody who may not be familiar with it, is around Bordeaux’s vineyards. It’s a full marathon. But I was very unlucky. I’m not going to make this a very long story. I we got to France the day before. We stayed overnight, had supper and clearly something didn’t agree with me in my supper. And I started running and thought Ohh,this is not good. I was unwell for the entire course of the marathon. It was 30 degrees heat. It was so hot. So this was me crossing the finishing line. Peter was unbelievably kind. We’ve trained so hard for this. And I was being abysmal when we were, you know, hopeless. And he stayed with me instead of going on and getting a good time, he did stay with me, which was above and beyond the call of duty.
Peter Richards 38:57
What I love about that is. you know, she runs about three times as fast, she runs like the wind. So for me to say, Oh, no, don’t worry, honestly, I’ll thank the Lord for once I can keep up with it. We did this in 2014. And we did it in memory of a great friend of ours, Michael Cox, who was head of wines of Chile in the UK and had a long career in the wine trade. He just very, very sadly died of cancer shortly before this and his wife Lynn was a great long distance runner. So we thought well, why don’t we do a positive thing with Lynn and we got a team a team of runners from Chile and all over. We raised about 16,000 pounds for charity as a result of this, but it was great fun. We had a really good laugh. We had the best. We had a great glass of wine at Lafite but the ice cream. Well, you sort of have some , they’re not serving Lafite.
Susie Barrie 39:48
With the Médoc marathon there’s oysters, there’s steak. There’s wine everywhere.
Peter Richards 39:54
The only thing that was good, the glass at Lafite was okay, but the cheap chocolate ice cream at mile 28 whatever it was, the last stop
Susie Barrie 40:01
The last kilometre before you finish, was ice cream and I’ve never enjoyed an ice cream more in my entire life.
Natalie MacLean 40:10
Peter Richards 40:12
If I could have offered Susie a bottle of Lafite or another one of those ice creams at that stage, she would have taken the ice gone for the ice cream.
Susie Barrie 40:016
I would have gone for the ice cream
Natalie MacLean 40:18
Terrific. Well, Lorna, one of the folks on social media and who actually contributes to my site. She’s a marathon runner, too. And she was asking me, how did they manage to run this with wine and ice cream and she said, “I couldn’t make it, like my stomach would be so upset”
Susie Barrie 40:35
Funnily enough, we have very different approaches to running because we’re not crazy, serious runners, but it’s probably our form of exercise. And we tend to do runs, sort of half marathons and things. So this was, there’s a picture here of Peter dressed as Richard the Lionheart, he loves fancy dress more than I do, running around the vineyards of Denbies in Dorking, an English vineyard, and every year thay have what they call the Bacchus half marathon; there is a marathon but it’s basically the half run twice. That’s me doing it in a rather silly outfit as well. And it’s just a brilliant, brilliant half marathon. But again, it’s wine all the way every time you stop. In fact, there are no loos, but there is wine everywhere. One toilet on the entire course and about twenty wine stops
Natalie MacLean 41:25
Is wine a diuretic?
Susie Barrie 41:26
It yeah, it flushes the system
Peter Richards 41:28
It does. But you also you know, you get thirsty running. So there is an optimum balance
Susie Barrie 41:35
But what I was going to say was, I’m always the killjoy about these things. And I just like to get running and run and you know, I don’t tend to stop for wine or food or anything. Whereas Peter is brilliant and stops everywhere, has a glass of wine at every station, has his food, has a chat, and just enjoys the run, which I think is really the spirit in which you’re supposed to do these things
Peter Richards 41:56
And I think my guru in this logic is Henri Lurton of Brane-Cantenac, who sponsored. We were part of the Brane-Cantenac team in the Médoc marathon. I remember sitting next to him the night before the Médoc marathon and he tried to convince me, in that beautiful Gallic way, that obviously you know actually it was better to drink wine round a marathon than not drink wine. And I was not believing any of this. But then I did the Médoc marathon. And I thought well, okay, and actually, there was a chap who we met up afterwards, from the British wine tradey, who was about 20 years older than us, he’d done it in half the time we had, and he’d drunk at all the stops. So I thought maybe there’s something in this. So at the Bacchus half marathon since I’ve definitely tried that theory. And there’s something to it Natalie, I don’t know what it is. But you definitely have to be in fancy dress. And this is the key, okay, Everyone misses this bit. But even if it’s a serious, long run, wear fancy dress, because that gets you out of everything. Everyone says, gosh, that’s a really bad time. But if you are wearing that, that’s amazing. And you can drink and no one worries about your time. So the key is just fancy dress.
Natalie MacLean 42:55
Absolutely. And I walked the Bordeaux or the Médoc marathon once. I’m not a runner at all, but I was dressed as a Canadian, I guess. But first, these eight guys, each holding up this massive wedding cake and one guy was at the top, so they were carrying him so they passed me, you know, and all these people in Mega fancy dress and I’m optimised for being cool. And then finally, the last straw was when this elderly woman, was pushing a catheter. She sort of crawled up past me I thought, oh my god, I’m just, I’m not made for marathons. So anyway,
Susie Barrie 43:34
I shouldn’t really be laughing at that.
Natalie MacLean 43:37
But she was in better shape
Peter Richards 43:42
The Médoc marathon was eye opening, isn’t it in that sense? Firstly, for how much the French clearly relish dressing up, and especially how much French men like dressing up, like racy women.
Natalie MacLean 43:51
There’s a lot of ballerinas, a lot of moustaches and ballerinas, very intriguing.
Peter Richards 43:55
I think that needs exploring, somehow, in a national psychology programme or podcast. But also, you just sit up and on a sort of more serious point, we’re so used to the being in Bordeaux, being very straight laced, very buttoned up, very smart, very serious. But you go for the Médoc marathon. And you look around and you’re on the square on the Quai side in Pauillac, you know, the headquarters of serious Bordeaux. And you know, there are gigantic stages with Samba dancers and 10,000 people dressed like idiots and have just having a great time in a wine part of the world. And you think Yeah, you know, this is good, we should never lose sight of this. Wine is about enjoyment. It’s about fun. And this kind of thing and getting together is just exactly the kind of thing that wine should be doing. This is exactly kind of thing that Bordeaux needs to do particularly.
Natalie MacLean 44:44
Absolutely, I agree and is this Médoc as well where you’re Santas?
Susie Barrie 44:49
Funnily enough, I,mean, this is a little one, it’s in Winchester, which is where we live and it’s the Santa fun run and it’s just a 5K that everybody does with their kids. And it’s in the beginning of December, I think it is, and anyway, it’s in aid of a local charity, which is Naomi House it’s called. So it’s just a really lovely Fun Run round Winchester. And you dress as Santa
Peter Richards 45:10.
So you get a Santa suit and you run, you can’t see there, but I think I’m with one or two of the kids. And it’s just yeah, it’s just, as you can see, I make a really bad Santa.
Natalie MacLean 45:22
I think you’ve lost your beard. Anyway that’s great.
Natalie MacLean 45:32
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Susie and Peter. Here are my takeaways.
One: I love listening to the journeys that brought both Susie and Peter from such different backgrounds to the world of wine. I feel that we all sort of stumbled into this world and then never want to leave it
Two: I couldn’t agree more with their take that a great place to start learning about wine is through food pairing. And to heck with those who scoff at the notion. That’s why my online Wine Smart course focuses on pairings.
And three: I enjoyed hearing how wine has affected their relationship beyond that shared passion. And the stories about running the Médoc marathon that were so amusing. Wine bridges, so many cultures, regions and moments. I love it.
In the shownotes you’ll find how you can win a prize pack that includes a personally signed copy of their book on English wine, a lovely linen polishing cloth for your wine, stemware and a cheeky chef’s apron, if you post your favourite wine on your favourite social media channel before March 10, as well as a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, where you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the shownotes @ nataliemaclean.com/117.
You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our lively discussion with Susie and Peter for the final part of our conversation: more juicy tips and stories. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 22 go back and take a listen. I go behind the scenes with my own process of tasting wine and writing about it. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Wine has given me an excuse to be extremely nosy and to ask impertinent questions that I would never ask. I’m an introvert, which is great for writing. But I also need a crutch and wine is my crutch, not just personally, but professionally. It allows me to go into people’s homes, to sit at their family dining tables, and to ask really blunt and sometimes embarrassing questions. And so wine has taken me into places that I would never have access to. Nor would my readers. And when I was on a book tour for my last book they said “How on earth did you get into Domaine de la Romanée-Conti?” It comes out on sale at about a couple of thousand dollars a bottle. It’s not me who’s getting access. It’s the fact that I bring you, my readers, with me. They want to reach you. They can’t accommodate all of you. So they let me in and that’s how I get to ask those juicy questions.
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the tips that Susie and Peter shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week; post on social media about it, and you could win a lovely prize pack.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers!