Andrew of Spittoon, Andy's Scribblings, and Slashfood has been working on an article for that last website. Here, I'm going to give his full list of questions, along with my responses. And while I haven't changed any of my answers, with Andrew's blessing I'm going to elaborate more here. Questions in bold, responses in normal text.
1) unoaked chardonnay or sauvignon blanc?
Sauvignon Blanc, but particularly those from New Zealand. I also love the Coppola Diamond Sauvignon Blanc for entirely different reasons. This was a tough question, because I love unoaked Chardonnay, but find that the citrus qualities of NZ SB make it a great companion for seafood and spicy dishes. As far as France is concerned, I'd say that I like their implementations of Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay equally.
2) should you/do you/should we write-up poor quality wines?
I think this is important, as it helps steer people away from (to us) obviously bad wine. To avoid snobbery and to be even more helpful, I think it is wise to suggest a similar wine (varietal, price) with much better quality. Let's face it--there are some wines out there that just taste like crap. Granted, if you can taste at least two identical bottles you can mostly rule out any unintentional flaws, but some wines are just bad. But like I said, I think it's very important to offer a reasonable alternative. This is the same thing I do with friends. Oh, you love white zin (but I quietly hate it)? Try this comparatively priced Late Harvest Riesling. You like this (sour) Aussie merlot? Here, try this introductory level wine from the right bank of Bordeaux.
3) where would you say is the epicentre, the spiritual home, the crux of the wine world?
(I was proud that Andrew used this in his article, so I'll leave it as is.) On the tongue of every budding wine enthusiast when he first learns to unlock the various flavors and complexities of good wine. Metaphysics aside, I'd probably say Italy. So many grapes, such great food, and a culture that makes wine a part of everyday life but also provides unlimited opportunities for the most serious wine lovers.
4) have you ever been there?
Yes, and while I drank a lot of wine, I didn't study it much or visit any vineyards. I was 20 at the time, not legally allowed to drink the US, though I'd had my share of wine thanks to the parents and family friends. This was the first time that I was able to drink wine with meals on a regular basis, and was amazed at how it made the food taste so much better. The great thing about Italy is that even the cheap vino della casa is often quite good, and doesn't cost much more than bottled water, so why not? And while I didn't really study wine over there during my three week tour with the girlfriend of the time, I was introduced to Prosecco, Moscato d'Asti, Vin Santo, and other joys that I've recently been able to share with friends. A lot of times, while eating at small trattorias, the wine was served in an earthenware crock and was made by the proprietor's cousin. There's nothing like plopping down $10 for three handmade courses of Tuscan delights along with a half litre of something that's probably part Sangiovese and part unidentified grapes that have been growing wild since the time of the Roman empire.
5) How many corkscrews do you own?
"Three, stationed strategically around the house." For some reason Andrew found this hilarious. Allow me to elaborate. I live in a two story townhouse, with the living room and kitchen downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs. I keep the rabbit-style corkscrew in the kitchen, the two-handles-that-you-force-down-and-bonus-beer-bottle-opener in the living room, and in my upstairs bedroom (or in my pocket) is my 1986 Swiss Army Knife, the Huntsman model which features a bone saw and corkscrew. Believe it or not, I've been opening bottles of wine with that almost since I got it at the age of ten. At parties with my parents or relatives, somebody would be searching for a corkscrew and I'd march up and open the thing. As an adult, I rarely use it, but always bring it along just in case. That knife has been with me on many trips--both overseas and into the backwoods for a long backpacking trip. And all of the utensils still work perfectly.
Seriously, though, why would you only have one corkscrew stashed in the kitchen? One is bound to break at some point, and I think you should have at least one stashed at each place where you normally drink wine. (For me, my bedroom is not the site of romantic wine drinking but more a case of me working on the computer with dinner resting on my lap and a glass of plonk by the mouse.)
6) food blogs - how many do you subscribe to(RSS) or read regularly?
None, really, though I read a dozen or so wine blogs weekly. You can glance at the list to the left for the ones that I read on a regular basis.
7) can you lend me twenty quid, guv?
Original response: "No pounds in my wallet. I've got a lot of defunct Dutch guilders on top of my dresser, will that help? ;)" I was tempted to make some comment about the American Revolution, but didn't want to be an ass.
8) do you read slashfood?
Once in a while, I should read it more often. I have been an avid reader of Slashdot since 1998. Here I let my geek flag fly. Yes, I've installed Linux on more than one machine. Yes, I've argued about the GPL. Yes, I've made my livelihood e-commerce and graphic design and other digital delights. Back to the wine.
9) food and wine matching - is it important?
In a general sense, but it's a lot of fun to break the rules and experiment. I'll give you an example. Here in the Mid-South (a region around Memphis that includes parts of northwest Mississippi, northeast Arkansas, and southeast Missouri), we eat a lot of pork. But it's prepared a lot of different ways: baked, smoked, cured, grilled, boiled, etc. Pork is a difficult meat to match with wine, and I've found that depending on the preparation you can use everything from the most delicate white to the strongest red, with things like an inexpensive California sparkler showing up as an ideal companion for a pulled pork sandwich. I think there are some delicate presentations of beef that would go quite well with a mature, mellow Chardonnay. And there's some hearty chicken dishes that really need a red. While there are some great classic combinations, it's most important to play around and have some fun, like when I found out that sparkling wine and fried chicken are a perfect match.
10) South African Pinotage or Argentinean Malbec?
Argentine Malbec. I like Pinotage, but more in a blend--on its own there's an ashy quality that bugs me, but I can drink Argentine Malbec by the gallon if given the opportunity.
11) bag in box wines - can they ever look stylish on the dining table?
No, especially since you have to hang it over the edge of the table to pour a glass. Though I am fond of the Australian technique of taking the bag out of the box, tying it to a revolving clothesline, and spinning it around. Wherever it stops, that person has to take a drink. Continue until the bag is empty or all participants have passed out. I've tried a lot of boxed or "cask" wines, even supposedly high end ones, and just haven't been impressed. I think that screwcaps or similar synthetic enclosures are a much better solution--at least you can still pour normally, and there's something wonderfully decadent about the sight of several empty wine bottles on a table. It's like the tangled sheets and covers on a bed after several rounds of great sex. Sure it's a mess that will need to be straightened up later, but by God, you're proud of that disorder that displays a great deal of accomplishment.
A box looks the same whether or empty or full, and even if you manage to empty one in a single evening, you've succeeded in just drinking the same wine all night. Moving away from graphic references, I'll state that I really enjoy drinking something new and different as opposed to tried and true. That, and the fact that I don't really have a good storage spot in my house, is why I never really buy wine by the case. I'd really rather try 12 different wines than a dozen of the same. In the future, I'd love to be able to stock away beloved treasures, but I figure there's too many grapes and too many producers out there to stick with one bottling for more than two or three times.