FEW people alive today know as much about the world of wine as Christopher Fielden. This book covers his six decades in the industry, mainly as a middle man, tracking down wines and then bringing them to the UK for people to buy. If you have ever drunk a bottle of Jacob’s Creek from Australia, or a Marqués de Cáceres Rioja, then Fielden has had a hand in that.
Some of his explorations brought rewards: he was the first British writer to write about wine from New Zealand back in the 1970s; other projects came to nothing: no great wine is yet to emerge from Paraguay, for all his searches.
In the same decade, he entered into an unlikely partnership with the cricket commentator John Arlott to co-write the first serious guide to the wines of Burgundy. He wrote a column for Decanter magazine before joining the Church Times, to which, until his retirement last year, he contributed a monthly column for nearly 20 years, recommending relative bargains with the emphasis on caring winemakers rather than industrial brands.
This memoir is also a testament to a career at a particular time and place. Take this sentence from c.1975: “One day I was walking along Jermyn Street at the end of the morning just about sherry time, so I thought I would call in to see David Gilbertson at Christopher and Co. . .” This is once how business was done and deals were made.
Fielden’s career has been the wine equivalent of a jobbing priest, who has worked in various international chaplaincies alongside classic parish ministry in England. It is not a ground-breaking piece of writing, but, for those with an interest, it gives an insider’s view on how the wine world has developed in the past sixty years.
The Revd Robert Stanier is Vicar of St Andrew and St Mark, Surbiton, and is captain of the Southwark clergy cricket team.
Full Bodied: The fading memories of a big man in the wine trade
Self-published £10 incl. p&p*
*Copies can be obtained from the author at email@example.com