Posted: Jan 08, 2017
The British wine writer clears out her attic and provides a windfall for the California university.
Source: Wine Searcher| Adam Lechmere | Posted Saturday, 07-Jan-2017
British wine writer Jancis Robinson has donated her archive – including correspondence with Robert Parker, Tony Blair and Elizabeth David – to the library of the University of California, Davis.
The university has taken delivery of over four decades worth of notes, letters, videos, photographs and published work. There are 275 notebooks recording the prolific critic's travels around the wine world, and tasting notes dating back to 1976.
"As the papers of one of the best-traveled and most observant chroniclers of the changing face of wine, this collection adds new perspective on how the world of wine is being written about and is an important complement to the papers of Hugh Johnson, which the UC Davis Library added to our collection a year ago," said the library’s wine specialist Axel Borg.
Robinson told Wine-Searcher she couldn't remember exactly what was in some of the letters. They are likely to be entertaining: she has always been forthright in her opinions, and her public rows with the famously thin-skinned Parker (their style preferences were polar opposites) were legendary.
In 2004, when she suggested the 2003 Chateau Pavie was a "ridiculous wine … reminiscent of late-harvest Zinfandel", Parker accused her of being a reactionary and said her comment was typical of the "nasty swipes" she was always taking at Pavie. The spat simmered on the two titans' websites.
Robinson told Wine-Searcher: "From memory, I think the main correspondence with Parker that is in the collection was my remonstrating with him over his blanket dismissal of all British wine writers as corrupt [Parker was quoted by Wall Street Journal writer Bill Echikson]. I felt this was unfair. To be honest I can't remember his response. He may have said he was misquoted."
The correspondence with former UK prime minister Tony Blair arose after the two families had met while on holiday in France. "We brought them a case of good wine local to us. I don't think there was extended correspondence– though we kept on getting Christmas cards!"
There is extensive material relating to Robinson’s friendship with the great wine writer Elizabeth David. "We spent a lot of time with her in the late 1980s and made a TV program about her for Channel 4. I was able to hand over all the paperwork and tapes for that program as well as quite a lot of correspondence. I admired her writing style, honesty, probity and uncompromising admiration for quality."
Of far more interest to wine scholars are the thousands of pages of notes. Jancis Robinson MW, OBE – to give her full title – is a wine critic of international standing. Parker is possibly better-known, and Johnson has another decade of writing under his belt, but neither are so visible as Robinson.
She continues to write her weekly column for the Financial Times, run her website jancisrobinson.com, and produce an impressive number of publications – most notably 2012's encyclopedic Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. She's also co-author with Johnson of The World Atlas of Wine, and editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine.
"Winemaking is an art — but so, too, is writing about wine," Borg said. "Having the work of world-renowned wine writers here at the university library also provides a valuable resource for students learning the art of writing."
The archive - the Jancis Robinson Papers on Wine Writing and Criticism – will take some time to catalog, the Davis library says, and won't be available to the public until April.
"I feel extremely honored that all my papers, notebooks, tasting notes and professional photographs have found a home in a part of the world that has been so important to me and my life's work in wine," Robinson said. "It is a particular pleasure to be in the company of such towering figures in the world of wine as Hugh Johnson, Robert Mondavi and Maynard Amerine in the famous UC Davis Library."
Ref: Adam Lechmere Wine Searcher
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