The incredibly talented Jane Anson has a new book coming out this month entitled The Club of Nine. The book, which is really the work of famed photographer Andy Katz is a pictorial of the most famous Chateaux in Bordeax: Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Petrus and Yquem.
However, pictures alone cannot describe these Chateaux or relay their history, which is where Anson comes in. Very few writers know Bordeaux as well as she does, and her style of writing can bring thousands of years of history alive to the reader. Combining a world-renown photographer with a Louis Roederer award winning writer makes for a powerful combination.
Anson and Katz will be in New York City on October 19th for a book release party and signing. The signing will be held at 25 Madison Ave and is open to the public. It is absolutely worth stopping by to listen to Anson speak and learn more about these great estates.
Details, and RSVP information are available in the invitation on the right. If you are in the city, definitely stop by and buy a copy of the book!
Anson was also kind enough to sit down for an interview with me…it is always fun to learn how truly great writers approach their craft:
1. How did you get started writing about wine, and what made you decide to move to Bordeaux?
Weirdly, I am just about to meet up in New York with the man that got me first interested in writing about wine! I first met him – Jabulani Ntshangase – back in 1996, while visiting the Cape wine lands in South Africa. He was the first black manager of Spier winery, having moved back to Cape Town from New York where he worked for Acker I believe. I was already a journalist at the time, visiting from Hong Kong where I was living, and it was through interviewing him that I first really understood just what a fascinating world wine can be – the whole intersection of politics, economics, history, geography and pleasure!
I didn’t move to Bordeaux until 2003 (and was in London in between), but by that point I had become more and more interested in writing about wine, and decided that if I was going to specialise in any one area, that Bordeaux offered infinite possibilities…
2. Many wine writers have a wine, an “it” wine that spurred their lifelong passion. Do you have one and what was/is it?
Not exactly the one moment… when living in Hong Kong in my early 20s I discovered Italian wine from Carmignano – not one of the most prestigious parts of Tuscany really, but the first region that I felt some sense of ownership over. At roughly the same time, when back in the UK on holiday, my godmother brought a bottle of Barsac (I think it was a Climens but honestly I may be projecting retrospectively!) over for supper and we matched it with an apricot crumble that I had made, and I clearly remember what a stunning combination it was.
Combine those events with visiting South Africa and its vineyards, and I just starting falling in love with wine in its myriad forms.
On moving to Bordeaux, it was a Lynch Bages 1996 that was my first utterly ‘wow’ moment with wine – drunk way way too young in 2003.
3. Tell me about “The Club Nine”, how it came about and what people can expect from it?
This is a project that was initiated by Andy Katz, a truly wonderful and multi-award-winning photographer who has worked in many vineyard regions over the years. He has produced a book on Tuscany with Hugh Johnson and on Burgundy with Nicolas Faith and Robert Parker. For this one, he spent just over a year working with the Club of Nine chateaux in Bordeaux – so Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux, Haut Brion, Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Petrus. Legendary wines that have a shared research and development grouping called The Club of Nine, hence the title. The book is truly full of just stunning, lavish photographs taken that bring these estates to life. Many are taken out in the vineyards, with a sense of the changing seasons, the magnitude of the natural world and its importance to wine – they are absolutely not the usual manicured side of the prestigious Bordeaux estates that you often see. Many black and white, some startling colour, just really wonderful, visceral images. And I was lucky enough to be asked to write the accompanying text.
4. When you write a book like this, what type of research goes into it and how do you prepare for writing a book like this?
This was one of the most enjoyable books I have written. Andy is such a talented photographer that I absolutely felt the need to raise my game and produce copy that was worthy of his work!! And I loved the process of taking all that I know about these chateaux, honed over nearly 14 years of living here and writing so frequently about them, and then distilling it down into their essence. I tried to look at the one essential thing about each property. And made it something that is not necessarily the best known aspect of them. At the same time, each section had to complement the others, so that the entire text formed a cohesive whole. It was like a jigsaw puzzle and both difficult and satisfying to produce.
I hope the reader learns something about the process of making an exceptional wine as well as about these individual estates – so Lafite looks at the process of blending one of the most eagerly awaited wines in the world, Mouton looks at why this particular piece of terroir may well have been the birth place of cabernet sauvignon, Ausone looks at the crucial role of its limestone cellars for both its own wines and the growth of Saint Emilion in general and so on. Each chateau gets only a small amount of text, but I hope every word counts.
5b. There is some uncertainly in Bordeaux with the Brexit vote. You are in a unique position because you are British and living in Bordeaux. From your perspective, what impact will the Brexit vote have on Bordeaux and on ex-pats living in France?
This is a huge subject and no one yet knows how it will eventually play out.. I am on the front line as a Brit living in France (and getting paid in pounds sterling!), one of the pawns that they keep talking about in terms of our rights, and those of EU citizens living in the UK. I feel the cultural loss as well as the economic threat, and worry deeply about the rhetoric from the British government. In specific terms, Bordeaux has long had a very close relationship to England, for close on 1000 years now, and is a crucial market particularly during the En Primeur season.
This will continue I have no doubt, but there will be some bumpy years ahead largely because of the pressure on the pound making the wine (if EP were to happen now), just under 20% more expensive than it would have been in June. Producers who are unsure if tariffs will be imposed in future years may well start to protect themselves now by looking at other markets. But it is in both sides interest to find a way through this, and we can remain hopeful that sense will prevail!