The Vintners Company – Vintners Hall

2010 - Derek Mossman

The 2010 applications for the annual Geoffrey Roberts travel award were the strongest set for a long time and for the first time in six years the Award went to a winner in wine, Geoffrey’s original speciality, rather than food.  Derek Mossman Knapp of Chile plans to spend his bursary encouraging artisan wine production from dry-farmed old vines in the undervalued Maule region in the wake of the earthquake there in early 2010, spending a year travelling through old vine country ‘in a beat up red truck that blends in’ in an attempt to publicise, and engender respect for the proper use of, the grapes produced by these historic vines.

‘I believe many who live with very little, and now have much less,’ he says, ‘would be better served to develop their fruit into a something the higher-end modern wine industry needs instead of a commodity where they will always be slowly losing out against the powers of the market economy.  I will be looking for Carignan, and also Malbec and Cabernet Franc. I will also be looking for old-vine Pais/Mission worth grafting to noble varieties. I have seen this happen to more than one family with only a few hectares of Carignan and I think it could be coaxed into happening more often to benefit more families.’

At his own Garage Wine Co, part of the MOVI group of small Chilean wine producers, his aim is to ‘try and be an example for Maule growers of how they might, on a similarly small scale as ours, produce their own wines as their forefathers did before them’.

Runner-up for the 2010 Geoffrey Roberts Award is American wine writer Alice Feiring who is hard at work on a book Naked Wine about her speciality, ‘natural wines’. According to this dancer-turned-wine-writer, whose first wine book had the provocative subtitle, How I Saved the World from Parkerisation, ‘Right now the world of wine is definitely at a crossroads, not just for organic or biodynamic viticulture but also for a more pure way of wine making. Why is wine so important? Because in its highest form, the creation of a fermented grape juice is where nature, art and man come together in a very special and magical place. We’ve been through its industrialisation and now we are on the brink of a return to the past, to wines that are artisanal and driven by passion.’

The judges also gave a special commendation to two eerily similar applicants.  Mary Buschell of Michigan and Wendy Johnson of California both work with goats on a farm.  Both applied for a Geoffrey Roberts Award to help them travel to north west Italy to research farmhouse techniques for making goat’s milk cheese. They have been put in contact with each other and with Patricia Michaelson, proprietor of La Fromagerie in London and author of the authoritative Cheese.