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Heard it through the grapevine

Meet the Jamie Oliver of wine – and he's on mission to take it away from the middle-aged, dinner-party bores and give it back to the people.

by: Food24: Ilze Dreyer | 10 Sep 2008

"If you think of the wine industry as a pie," says Matt Skinner, "then the snobs are a tiny slice of it. But they're the slice that f***s it for everyone." So says the author of Heard It Through The Grapevine, a book that answers the 100 most commonly asked questions about wine.

Some of the questions, such as "do screwcaps mean cheap wine?", have short and simple answers; others, such as "how do I taste wine?", have longer answers illustrated with photographs and illustrations. The book features photographs from several countries and has an innovative design to reflect Skinner's refreshingly relaxed approach to wine.

Skinner is the sommelier of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, and potentially the world's first ever super-sommelier – with a mission.

"You don't need a rulebook for this – just a healthy appetite and an open mind. Take some risks: drink great champagne with fish and chips on the beach, or cheap red with expensive meat. Learn from others: befriend a sommelier; read a little; or, better still, hunt down the person who made the wine and ask them what they would eat with it. And think a little too – who knows, you might just surprise yourself," he told The Guardian.

Skinner wasn't born into the profession but rather found it by accident. He left school at 17, and dedicated himself to three important pursuits: drinking beer, girls, and surfing. His biggest aspiration then, was to find a bar job but lucked out and ended up working in a 'bottle shop'.

The owner of the shop introduced Skinner to wine and after a wine course – the scruffy kid who actually just wanted a wanted a bar job, got hooked on wine. After more courses, prizes and mutual friends – Skinner met Oliver and the rest is history.

He joined Fifteen in 2002 – since then has established himself as writer, contributing to various magazines including GQ and Decanter and he's also a regular face on various cooking show in the UK.

He's approach on the industry and a knack for making wine simple seems to work. His first book Thirsty Work was awarded 'Best Educational Wine Book UK' at the 2005 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards and to date has been published in sixteen countries and ten languages

If you've always wondered, "How to deal with tricky corks?", "How to cure hangovers?" or "How long will and open bottle last?" – then buy Heard It Through The Grapevine.

Matt Skinner talks about his latest book.

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