Wine best buys: Sunday Brunch wine expert, Edinburgh's Hannah Crosbie, releases book, Corker

The book recommends drinks to suit situations
Corker book jacketCorker book jacket
Corker book jacket

Food and wine pairing has become passé.

Indeed, when Sunday Brunch’s resident wine expert, Edinburgh-born Hannah Crosbie, had followers sliding into her DMs to ask questions, they weren’t wondering what to team with, say, halibut or cheesecake.

Instead, they were asking what would work with events, whether they were birthdays, new jobs, anniversaries, or other life occasions.

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Most of these people are part of an enthusiastic ‘new generation of wine drinker’ who, Crosbie explains, had perhaps got into the genre during lockdown and were ready to experiment.

And, so, the idea for her first book, Corker: A Deeply Unserious Wine Book, germinated.

“I suppose it was born out of necessity. I get a lot of Instagram messages and emails from people asking me for wine recommendations,” says Crosbie, who’s based in East London and founded the Dalston Wine Club. “It wasn’t really food based anymore because there's a wealth of experience and lots of other places that they can go to to get that info. Instead, it was situation recommendations. So, I’m meeting my girlfriend's parents for the first time and what do I bring, or what do I take to a barbecue. It also became very apparent that people are likely to experiment with different styles. And they want to know what fits the moment”.

Corker was written over the course of 18 months, and Crosbie went pretty wild with the theme. It sounds as if it was an enjoyable process.

“Wine writing usually involves a great deal of travelling, but the most I had to do was from my desk to my fridge,” she says.

Crosbie has included obvious events, like what to buy for a picnic (warm, or a Scottish-style chilly one) and what to order at the pub.

Also, alongside a glossary of terms and invaluable explanations of which names are places or grapes - ie. Soave is a region, and Semillon is a white grape - you’ll also find tips for what to drink when you’ve been ghosted (Ploussard), have just had sex (Chablis) or want to drink by the sea (Chenin Blanc). The chapters include Love & Sex, A Night Out and Holiday, and it’s all very unpretentious and irreverent, which may be one of the reasons, looks aside, that Crosbie, who also hosts podcast I’ll Have What She’s Having, is often described as the ‘Nigella Lawson of wine’.

“That’s massive. I mean, I hate to draw parallels because she's such an icon, but I kind of want to do a similar thing to what she did to democratise good, non fussy ways of consuming in a domestic setting,” she says. “I think that for a lot of people, that’s their only experiences with wine. They’re not in a tasting room and haven’t paid hundreds of pounds to experience it, but they should still feel empowered to create the best experiences for themselves and those discoveries at home”.

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There are other writers and authors who Crosbie rates, when it comes to learning more about the modern world of wine.

“Oh, my gosh, there are so many,” she says. “They include Victoria Moore and her The Wine Dine Dictionary. I think Victoria, who's the wine columnist at The Telegraph, does such a great job at breaking down complex concepts - talking to everyone rather than a select few. Henry Jeffreys also wrote a fabulous book about English wine and he kind of blends in storytelling aspects, but Noble Rot’s Wine from Another Galaxy was a huge inspiration as well. They’ve done a great deal to make wine cooler and more accessible and romantic to a younger generation. Also, in terms of using humour to talk, whenever I had writer’s block, I’d read a passage from Raven Smith’s Trivial Pursuits and feel inspired”.

She isn’t snobby about drinks like the ubiquitous Prosecco, either.

“Who am I to say who is right or wrong?” she says.

Crosbie is refreshingly unpretentious in a world that might otherwise be regarded as a bit forbidding to newbies.

“Fortunately, I am very lucky to be surrounded by a wealth of amazing sommeliers, writers, buyers, and professionals who are incredibly supportive,” she says. “Sadly, the stereotype that the average person has about the wine industry is that it’s snobby and, if you get it a bit wrong, they’re very quick to point the finger and laugh. While I'm lucky to be surrounded by amazing people in the industry, I still do feel that there's a small part of the industry that will wag the finger, make you feel small and that you don't know enough about wine to enjoy it”.

Even though Crosbie has plenty of experience and, in Corker’s acknowledgement, she thanks former colleagues at Berry Bros. & Rudd and The Wine Society, she is continually learning.

“That's one of the most compelling things about wine and I think that's why it attracts so many,” she says. “It’s like never leaving school or university. There's always something new in the world of wine, and everything is always changing just so much”.

Her current obsession is something we might associate with Christmas.

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“I’m entering my sherry era,” she says. “When you think of sherry, you might think of your gran falling asleep on the sofa, but there’s such a wealth of styles to discover. The really dry, almost spritzy, nutty styles, like manzanilla are absolutely incredible as an aperitif. So I would urge more young people to dip their toes into the world of sherry”.

Corker: A Deeply Unserious Wine Book by Hannah Crosbie, £16.99, Ebury Press, March 28

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