Susie Barrie and Peter Richards aren’t your average married couple. For starters, they’re both Masters of Wine – a rare and highly sought-after qualification which only 369 people in the world currently hold. ‘Clearly, we need to get out more…’ jokes Peter. The Winchester-based couple are also familiar faces as broadcasters, print journalists and authors, having been wine presenters on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen for the past eleven years and with a long list of book titles and publishing credits to their name.
They describe themselves, quite simply, as ‘enthusiasts’. ‘Qualifications don’t really matter; we’re just really passionate about our subject – but then that’s not hard when it’s as brilliant and delicious as wine,’ laughs Susie. ‘We hope that our enthusiasm can inspire people to get into wine – and hopefully at the same time we can help them find the right wines to explore and enjoy. Wine is the most amazing, inspiring thing – we want to help people understand and experience that.’
One way Susie and Peter engage people in the magic of wine is at Wine Festival Winchester, their acclaimed annual event which takes place on the last weekend of November (24-25 Nov 2017). Within the glorious surroundings of Winchester Guildhall there are hundreds of wines to taste, from top-quality English fizz to vintage port, with fine spirits, Hildon water plus lovely local food on offer. The festival is now a firm fixture on the calendar and regularly sells out well in advance, such is its popularity.
‘We love the way that the emphasis at the festival is very much on fun, enjoyment and socialising,’ comments Peter. ‘That’s the way it should be! And we love clinking people’s glasses and being part of that. But equally, people come along to taste and explore new things. One way we help people do this is via our Follow Your Taste scheme, which is a simple colour-coded system to help our guests navigate the sea of wine and choose wines to suit their taste. Wine is a very personal thing so it always starts with you, what you personally like, and goes from there. Susie and I see our roles not as critics on high telling people what to like, but as guides to help people understand their own taste and find the best wines to match.’
Follow Your Taste neatly sums up the couple’s ground-breaking approach to making wine accessible. It’s simple but fun, with a cheeky tone to the straplines (from ‘Tickled Pink’ to ‘I’m a Big Smoothie’ and ‘Sticky Fingers’). They must be serious about it because they’ve even invested in making it into an app for the festival – a treasure hunt game that sends people off to find and rate wines at the event, based on their personal taste, with prizes to be won. There’s even talk of plans to do a Follow Your Taste Book. Watch this space…
Susie and Peter are also keen supporters of charity. Every year, Wine Festival Winchester supports a local charity and to date has raised over £6,500 for good causes. One other initiative with a charitable angle that Susie and Peter have recently launched is their Big English Wine Adventure. This project sees Susie and Peter teaming up with award-winning local producer Hattingley Valley to make a top-notch small-production Hampshire sparkling wine. They are currently seeking help from the public to help them find not just a charity to support – but also a name for their wine. A lucky few will win some of the new wine as a prize.
‘The project is meant to be fun – but also collaborative in nature, working to benefit a good cause,’ comments Susie. ‘We want to help people get more involved in the process, as well as make some noise about the fantastic job being done by the many brilliant winemakers in this country – and we’d like to thank Hattingley in this regard. Primarily, though, our aim is to make an utterly delicious wine!’
Susie and Peter have produced two short films documenting their attempts at harvesting (Susie focused on quality; Peter’s more of a quantity man) and blending (a critical decision, which is why Peter is largely ignored). The videos and voting forms can be found on Susie and Peter’s website.
‘We’d love to hear from people with ideas for charities we could support that are close to their heart,’ says Peter. ‘As for the wine name, we’re looking for inspired suggestions and hopefully we’ll come up with something a bit more original than Winey McWineFace. We’ve already had some great shouts, which have proved both amusing and thought-provoking, and we look forward to many more!’
For more information on Wine Festival Winchester, please visit the website; www.thewinefestival.co.uk
For more information on Susie & Peter’s Big English Wine Adventure, please visit their website; https://susieandpeter.com/watch/english-wine-adventure/