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Featured Publication
June 2003

Wine Fact & Fiction
by Andrew Jones
The Flying Wine Man

Wine Fact & Fiction
published in 2003 by Wine on the Web Ltd (
ISBN 0 9544571 0 8
In Andrew Jones's latest book 'Wine Fact & Fiction' there is a section on wine books. Amongst the trivia that appears is the first written reference to wine, the first wine writers, the first published wine books, the smallest, largest and heaviest wine books, the best selling wine book, the number of wine books known and curious wine titles. He also alludes to the failure rate. 'Although no official figures are available it is believed that around 50% of wine books lose money for their publishers, many edition by unknown wine journalists selling only about 500-600 copies. Few books ever reach 30,000 copies."

Is Andrew Jones's 'Wine Fact & Fiction' going to fail? I doubt it. Jones has self-published this, his 5th book, yet can still afford to fly business class on long haul flights around the world to promote it.

He's just been in New Zealand en route to Australia, the current target markets along with Singapore.*

Appropriately the book has sections specialising in wine with Maori names and wines with Aboriginal names - names that are native to our respective countries. "Using native names speaks for your countries", he said. "It waves a flag and nobody from South Africa, California or France can have one".

How much fiction is there in Wine Fact & Fiction? "Not much said Jones when I met up with him on a break in his busy appointment schedule. "On checking the stories and legends, most of them turned out to be true". But there is a section called 'Unsubstantiated Stories" where a little fiction might fall.

Given the size of our little country, New Zealand features well in the book with trivia ranging from absolute fact to almost unbelievable. Was it the newsletter #18 that the 'exploding bunny' story came from? Quite possibly!

Jones is a great teller of stories, the fascinating allegories about wine and wine people slipping out easily, his soft voice a pleasure to listen to. That's obviously one of the reasons his weekly radio show that ran from 1984 - 1994 was so successful. He no longer has a permanent show but still makes heaps of radio appearances around the world in person on book promotions and with his 'radio postcard' from vinous locations far and fanciful. There's the occasional TV appearance too (55 in US in 2002). That's how I recognised him when we did meet up - I'd seen him on TV earlier that morning - right here in New Zealand.

"What do you want to do?" I had asked him on the phone the day before. "Perhaps we could take a drive through the local vineyards", I had suggested. I'm all for promoting the wines on my own back doorstep. So many people fly to New Zealand thinking that Marlborough is where it starts and ends. Not Jones, however. He was keen to put a sense of place to the names he knew of.

So that's what we did, driving past vineyards, into vineyards and around vineyards, not stopping anywhere until we detoured to Muriwai Beach on Auckland's fabulous west coast. Here we sat in the car park above Maori Bay watching the wild surf and the gannets gliding in to land on their land-based colony. It was late afternoon. Jones was 'coffeed-out'. Fortunately I had a couple of bottles of wine in the car and he had the glasses and corkscrew in his bag.

We sipped on a fruity Melness Waipara Riesling 2002 but first Andrew said a Wine Grace. Grace is something one might say before a meal but Andrew likes to say Grace sometimes when enjoying wine on its own. All the Graces in the book are original and some are even funny - he likes tongue-in-cheek humour. His favourite is 'Let us remember Cana in Galilee and drink the worst first'. It relates to the story of Jesus turning water into wine.

"What's your favourite story in the book", I asked.

It turns out Andrew has many favourites and I listened him tell me of them. One is a personal story, the story of Madame Doucet at the Chateau de la Guimoniere in the Anjou region of France and her favourite sweet wine, the 1921. Another is the wine tasting dog at Spier Estate in South Africa. There's the Papal Supermarket at the Vatican, where discounts are given for slower moving wines, and the story about the mid-18th century 'Harem Lady' from France.

Jones has even invented words in the 'Vin' section - all words starting with Vin. While 'Vintitulist', meaning a label collector, is for real some of the other words, such as 'vinjest' are made up.

It's all a lot of fun.

The 154-page book can be opened randomly for an interesting story or a useful tip.

I like it. In fact I hope to build a wine tasting around it. There are plenty of wine stories relating to wines available here that I can use.

Wine Fact & Fiction costs $19.95 in New Zealand and should be found at all major bookstores. If they don't have it, ask for it. It's a book you can pick up and read while the ads are on telly. Perfect for a lazy winter evening.

Find out more about Andrew Jones and his books on his website

You can also read a review of one of his earlier books - "The Stories Behind the Labels", right here on this website.

* Wine Fact & Faction will be published in the US, UK and Eire in 2004.

© Sue Courtney
15 June 2003

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