I recently caught up with my idol, James Halliday, Australia’s most revered wine writer. Sure I could’ve asked the questions everyone asks, but who wants that! I wanted to find out James’ hangover cure!
Drew: You’ve tasted all thousands upon thousands of wines for the just released Australian Wine Companion, you more than anyone should know what is Australia’s best wine region with current release wines for sale?
James: Irrespective of cost, Margaret River
D: You get heaps of wine for free – when was the last time you actually bought a bottle of wine and what was it?
J: Dr Loosen 2013 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett from the Mosel Valley in Germany
D: Excellent, how much did you pay for that?
J: About mid 20’s, $25, but I’m lucky to get that at a wholesale price!
D: That’s a James Halliday price!
D: Ok, you’ve been a wine writer for a very long time, what’s the one thing people don’t understand about being a wine writer?
J: It’s bloody hard, unrelenting work! Basically, you start tasting at 7 in the morning, you have a very quick break for lunch, like 20 minutes, then back to the tasting table until 3pm. That’s when I stop to do a bit of housework for about an hour. Then I’ll come down and resume tasting till 7pm. So you start tasting at 7am and finish at 7pm.
D: Do you have to have a special breakfast to prepare your teeth so they don’t fall out?!
J: ha-ha good question, well, I just rinse my mouth out with soda water and chew on a green olive.
D: What’s the best thing about being a wine writer?
J: The fraternity, the wine fraternity which I call the Wine Mafia, which are based in Australia and the right around the world. It’s an incredibly inclusive group of people. Whatever their role in life is, they do tend to be very open. So as a winemaker, you can go to another winemaker and say, “tell me you secrets!” or “these are my problems, how do I solve them?”
D: Can a $20 wine taste like a $100 wine?
D: So can I take this wine that doesn’t cost a lot, slap an appropriate label on it and sell it for $100?
D: ALDI is selling wine at $2.50 for a bottle. Is that a good or bad thing?
J: Their wines are remarkably good, both the Australian and important wines. They are mind blowing.
D: Is $2.50 too cheap?
J: You do wonder how they can do it, If they’re selling you great wine for that price, well you’re not going to complain!
D: Last time you drank cask wine?
D: Did you ever play Goon of Fortune back in 1978? That’s when you peg cask wine sacks on the Hills Hoist clothesline and spin it around. Surely a young James in his university years would have played it?
J: [looks at Drew blankly!]
D: And finally, for a man who devotes his whole life to drinking, you must have an awesome hangover cure?
J: Vitamin B, Mega Vitamin B, but you’ve got to take it the night before, before you even go out and then double up in the morning. Those 2 things really help your liver function and make your hangover much less horrible than it otherwise would be.
D: Now we all know that James Halliday’s cure for a hangover is shit loads of Vitamin B!
And on that note, James was whisked out of the room to answer questions far more appropriate than the Wine Wankers could every dream of asking. James Halliday – you are a national treasure, and we love you!