Confessions of an alcoholic wine writer

By Joelle Thomson

British wine writer Alice King recounts her descent into alocoholism in her scarily candid memoir High Society, by MiNDFOOD wine editor Joelle Thomson.

We all know wine writers live the good life.

The early morning thud of unsolicited wine arriving via courier on their doorsteps. Four course lunches that linger over champagne, canapés and great food. Wine after good wine served in glasses so large they look like fish bowls. The bubbles, the pinot noir, the rieslings…

Thankfully, all of the good wines make up for the uninteresting round of pinot gris, trebbiano and hot climate chardonnays.

So who better to pass time with than a wine writer who can spot a great bottle from 10 feet; whose constitution is attuned to late nights and whose personal wine shelves groan under the weight of good bottles?

Wine writers might be fun to hang out with, but to avoid the slippery slope, most learn to sip, spit or abstain at least some of the time.

Alice King is one exception.

King’s confidence in wine blossomed from a very young age. She was just ten years old the first time she ordered a second bottle of wine for dinner on a family holiday in France.

It wasn’t because she had consumed vast quantities of the wine that she ordered more, but because she really liked the small sip she had been allowed.

Her mother was shocked. Her father was impressed. The French family they were staying with were amazed. She has plenty of examples of how, from a young age, she could pinpoint specific flavours as well as being smitten with the taste of wine and its effects.

Her tell-all memoir, High Sobriety, begins as the story of how she slides smoothly into a high-class career as a wine writer in her early twenties in the United Kingdom.

A Champagne tour guide, wine journalist and deputy editor of Decanter magazine, King’s outstanding palate, outgoing personality and intelligent mind led her to some of the swankiest tastings in the United Kingdom – and to marriage with a like-minded man in the wine trade.

The only trouble was that as their drinking increased, their marriage and their careers unwound.

King is now a recovered alcoholic. Her honesty in High Sobriety is admirable and her story is a great read, but her alcoholism is my idea of a nightmare.

Every now and then we are reminded that terrible things can happen to talented people.

Bring on the spittoon.


High Sobriety: Confessions Of A Drinker by Alice King is published by Orion and distributed in New Zealand by Hachette Livre New Zealand, $60 in hard cover.


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