Thursday 2 April 2015

The (actually) award-winning Sediment

It is rare for both of us to be flabbergasted. Oh, CJ can get aerated, about the prices on the bottom shelf; while I have been left open-mouthed, at Americans calling their wine ‘claret’. But it takes an extraordinary event to flabbergast us both; an event such as that which took place this Tuesday evening.

The AndrĂ© Simon Awards are a legacy of the man Hugh Johnson described as "the charismatic leader of the English wine trade for almost all of the first half of the 20th century, and the grand old man of literate connoisseurship for a further 20 years". It was a delightful surprise and source of pride to us that Sediment was even shortlisted in their 2014 Drinks Books of the Year, among a clutch of serious, heavyweight wine books. But there were, as they say, two chances of us actually winning – fat, and slim.

Still, it did mean that we were invited with our wives to a reception to announce the winners, in the grand surroundings of the Goring Hotel. “Wear a jacket,” I warned CJ. “Don’t get drunk,” Mrs K warned me.

In the event, we had little time to assault the wine before the speech by the Assessor of the drinks books, Julian Barnes. Yes, that's the Booker prizewinning writer Julian Barnes.
And as he summarised the shortlist our prospects seemed to be evaporating further, if such a thing were possible. It was clear that we lacked the scholarship present in some of the other contenders; Sediment has written little and knows even less about “the infamous 1971 German wine law”.

But then Julian Barnes described Sediment as "one of the funniest wine books I have read…up there with Kingsley Amis and Jay McInerney”. It is, he said, “full of sound sense and wry, defeated wine notes”, and he summed it up as “not just laugh aloud funny, but snortingly, choke on your cornflakes funny”.

And finally, he announced that the John Avery Award, in honour of the late, great Bristol wine merchant, went to… Sediment. And we were both duly flabbergasted.

We chatted for some time after the announcement to Julian (as I think we can now call him). He had noted down (noted down!) his favourite passages from Sediment and, despite the fact that the majority seemed to be CJ’s, we were both equally flattered that such a respected writer enjoyed our book.

And we talked a little about maintaining a cellar. “We don’t have a cellar,” interjected Mrs K. “We have a basement. It just happens to be full of wine.”

AndrĂ© Simon himself believed that "a man dies too young if he leaves any wine in his cellar". No, no, said Julian. “You must buy more than you can possibly drink”. It was particularly helpful that this comment was made in earshot of our wives.

We are still reeling a bit from having won this award. And from celebrating having won this award. Even if w
e are no longer able to describe ourselves as "nearly award-winning". We’re enormously grateful to the judges, to our editor, and our extraordinarily tolerant spouses.  And we hope in the circumstances you will forgive this slightly self-indulgent report of our success.



  1. In the wilds of Hampshire, glasses are being raised in your honour. May your fingers never slip from their respective punts.

    1. Many thanks, sir - and fear not; the last time my fingers slipped from a punt was on the Cherwell...

  2. Congratulations, well deserved. I've accidentally snorted some of my drink out my nose by whilst reading this blog on more than one occasion.

    1. Thank you! And at least you were drinking while reading Sediment; Julian Barnes did not expand upon why he reads us over his cornflakes...

  3. Congratulations -the award is well deserved, your columns are a paean to droll hedonism in these straitened times

  4. Many congrats, not least on devising a new rating system. Your writing is consistently 5 snorts.


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