Wine Communicator of the Year nominee: Tom Cannavan
Tom Cannavan is a wine writer, broadcaster, publisher, and founder of the hugely successful wine-pages.com and The Festivals of Wine. In 2017, he celebrated 22 years of publishing Wine Pages, and launched three sell-out consumer wine festivals in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Shortlisted by the IWSC for Wine Communicator of the Year 2018, category judge and IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2017 Joe Fattorini commented that “what shines through is the importance and loyalty of Tom’s community. People are brought together by his love of wine and his commitment to sharing his knowledge”.
Here, the IWSC hears more from Tom about his journey into wine, his favourite regions and the highlights of his extensive career.
How did you first become interested in wine?
I studied at Glasgow School of Art, and a small group of us became interested in cooking and wine. Once a month we’d gather in someone’s house and basically learn to cook dishes from scratch, whether making a beef Wellington or an Indian curry. We’d all research authentic recipes and get involved, and always try to match the right wine (or beer) with the food. I became ‘the wine man’ pretty quickly and still have my first record book from 1981, with all the wines tasted along with my notes.
How long have you been in the wine business?
Though I’d had the very occasional wine article published in local press, my ‘career’ in wine started in 1995 when I launched wine-pages.com. At that time, I was still holding down a day job teaching at the University of Glasgow, but soon the website really took off. I was offered regular columns in magazines and newspapers, and more freelance writing came along. By 2002, it was a fairly easy decision to resign from the day job and devote 100% of my time to wine and writing.
Which is your favourite region and why?
Impossible to answer. For both scenery and wine, the Douro Valley and the Cape Winelands are pretty hard to beat. Indeed, it is still always a thrill to travel anywhere in the southern hemisphere and I love Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. The relatively young quality wine industries there are full of excitement, and I love the different quality of light and the night sky. But so many parts of Europe are wonderful in terms of wine, food and scenery too. As a dyed-in-the-wool wine geek, I’m very happy pottering around even fairly uninspiring landscapes like the Médoc or Champagne: the excitement there is just in seeing such famous terroirs because I love the wines so much. Did I mention that I’m crazy for California, Oregon, Lebanon and Georgia too? I told you it was impossible!
Which winemaker do you most admire?
Well, all winemakers are heroes really. I know with modern transport it’s possible for a winemaker to experience two vintages per year, working both northern and southern hemispheres, but for the vast majority they will get their first head winemaker position at, what, the age of 40 maybe? So only another 20 or 25 chances to ever get it absolutely right, with all the responsibility of having waited a whole year for the harvest resting on their shoulders each vintage. That’s a challenge.
What do you do to relax?
Well, travel, food and wine play a huge part of course. Although that’s pretty much the same as my day job, it’s great to just enjoy without the professional pressures. Other than that, music is a big part of my life and always has been since playing in a band when I was a lot younger. In fact, my old band has recently reformed and we are having a great time playing our old songs – purely for fun I may add, in case talent scouts start hounding me.
What’s been your greatest triumph?
I guess 23 years of continuously and successfully publishing wine-pages and turning a hobby into a career has to be it, but I’m buzzing about the success of my Festivals of Wine. I launched those last year in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London and have been blown away with the success. They were supported quite wonderfully by the UK and global wine trade who took all exhibitor spaces, and wine lovers snapped up almost 2,000 tickets months in advance for three sell-out shows. We’re geared up for the same again this year.
And what’s your most embarrassing moment?
Ah… which one to choose? I’m normally a very organised person, but several years ago I was guest international judge at an Australian national wine show. I turned up at the airport all packed and ready for the adventure, to discover I was 24 hours too late. I still don’t know how I did it, but I’d put the wrong date in my diary. Understandably, the airline showed little sympathy. Making the phone call to Australia to tell them was just excruciating, but they generously offered to pay for a whole new flight. I flew out next day, missing only one morning of judging, but I still wonder what my hosts really thought of me!
The IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2018 will be announced at the Vinitaly Gala Dinner on 14 April in Verona.
French Wine Discoveries
London, UKAdd to Calendar
Flavours of New Zealand 2019
Etc Venues County Hall Belvedere Rd London SE1 7PBAdd to Calendar
Wine Paris 2019
Paris Expo Porte de Versailles - Halls 4 and 7.1 1 Place de la Porte de Versailles 75015 Paris - FranceAdd to Calendar
Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting 2019
Lindley Hall Everton Street London SW1P 2QWAdd to Calendar
- “As a start-up brand you focus hard on achieving credibility and creating awareness. Winning Gold Outstanding and the Mezcal Trophy provided us with a level of credibility and exposure that we simply could not have achieved on our own. The awards helped secure key listings in Harvery Nichols and Selfridges and certainly played a significant part in opening up dialogue with potential U.S importers and ultimately securing one. I thought hard about which competition to enter and what the return on that investment would be. I can say with absolute confidence that the IWSC was worth every penny.”David ShepherdFounder & Director, Corte Vetusto
- “IWSC is a very important competition to us in terms of showing consumers our quality. It's one of the competitions that we definitely enter on a yearly basis.”Ian ChangMaster Blender, Kavalan Distillery
- “Out of all of the awards, the IWSC is probably the most prestigious and most honest awards. You choose your judges very well and they're very good, honest, decent people. They do it for the love of the industry.”Sukhinder SinghMD, The Whisky Exchange
- “The IWSC is a very prestigious competition. The prestige is a great thing to be able to communicate to our customers who have great respect for it.”David PorterOperations & Buying, Lea & Sandeman
- “The IWSC represents everything, without a doubt. There's no better competition in the world where you can judge yourself not just against your countrymen but against the rest of the world.”Andy AndersonWinemaker, Takapoto Estate
- “Fantastic company and fantastic award . . . In the wine industry, having an award like this is such an accolade.”Claire GriffithsCommercial Director, Vina Cono Sur
- “It's one of the greatest international awards you can get. It's similar to an Oscar, if you like.”Lenz MoserWinemaker, Yantai Changyu Pioneer Company
- “Because of the number of international judges that are tasting the wines and the number of wines that are being entered, it’s a great privilege for us to receive this award. The history of the competition, the standing that it has amongst the international wine world and certainly amongst one’s peers, to be able to get an award at the IWSC means a lot. There are a lot of competitions around the world – this probably represents the top award you could get as a winemaker.”Gary & Kathy JordanWinemakers, Jordan Wine Estate
- “It’s a great honour to win especially as nowadays people are focusing on the quality not just the numbers, so it does mean a huge amount getting recognition from an institution as well sought after as the IWSC.”Chris BlandyOwner, Blandy's Wines
- “This will be a recognition that will help in building the brand further, and building its prestige around the world.”Victor FuentesDirector General, El Coto de Rioja S.A
- “The IWSC is a well renowned, well looked up to standard and a symbol of premium products so it’s a great achievement to win any award.”Andrea FreeboroughCellar Master, Nederburg Wines