about        Paul White

I was born in a post- prohibition Des Moines where alcohol was only sold from state owned stores. To celebrate my 18th birthday, I sauntered up to the Iowa State Liquor store and bought my first ‘legal’ bottle of wine, a Bordeaux white. It had a herd of cows on its label and, although as sour as it was lean, it made me feel very sophisticated. It also brought a smile to my face and started a lifelong love-hate affair with Sauvignon Blanc.

Born a year and a mile away from Bill Bryson, like other curious Iowans, I left to explore the world outside.

Oregon was the next stop, arriving smack dab in the middle of its revolutionary Pinot Noir Pioneer period. All that orientated me toward cool climate, high acid wines. Although I adopted Oregon’s typical ‘don’t Californicate us’ attitude to wine, nevertheless, I drank a lot of trendy Californian varietals, including Mondavi’s ground breaking Fume Blancs, Cabs and Chardonnays. The 1970s were a heady time when American wines came of age.

Moving to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, my attention turned toward a more serious study of the European 'Classics'. I lucked out, landing a doctorate slot at Oxford, and an even luckier slot captaining the University’s Blind Wine Tasting Team for several years. Learning to taste for terroir, climate and grape types from the inside out of a glass, I quickly rrealised there was no better place on earth to study wine than Oxford’s daily trade tastings, 36 college cellars and the Tasting Team. I must admit my DPhil took a couple more years to complete than it should have.

I liked the Brits because they drank wine from everywhere and were able to tell you why, in detail. Equally important, I started judging IWC around 87-88 (yearly up to 2005) and learned so much judging alongside ‘old school’ merchants and MWs. It was around then that the newest wave of New World ‘Sunshine in a Glass’ wines appeared from Down Under. Aussies first in 1986, quickly followed by mind blowing Kiwi Sauvignon. And then I judged a revelatory Rippon Pinot Noir 1991 at IWC.

Doctorate in hand, having done America and European wine, I relocated to New Zealand in 1993 chasing Central Otago Pinot Noir’s potential, also intent on checking out the whole Australasian wine scene. I was pretty much the first Yank on the ground there, managing to visit most regions repeatedly. I wrote columns for NZ’s two main newspapers and Australia’s leading wine mag. It was a fun time sharing in the discovery of what Kiwis were capable of creating. Early Oregon, all over again.

In the 2000s I shifted back toward a European focus, writing articles for World of Fine Wine, Italy’s Slow Food/Slow Wine, Portugal’s Essencia do Vinhos and other publications. Slow food was especially influential. Around 2005 I became actively involved in its Vigneron d’Europe 2005, Vignaioli e Vignerons 2009 and Terra Madre congresses. These protest movements changed EU viticulture policy away from industrial subsidies towards small producers and tightened up organic rules that replaced proposed, heavily greenwashed, guidelines.  Since this I’ve mainly focused on little guy, underdogs, endangered grapes and wine cultures, and under known regions and producers. Talha culture is straight out of Terra Madre’s focus on reversing cultural extinction.

I realize I’ve been long winded here, but hope it illustrates the unusual path I’ve taken chasing wine around the world and the important influences that have shaped my views.