Geoffrey Dean has been writing about cricket since the late 1980s and it was on some of those cricketing adventures abroad that he fell into the world of wine. Since completing the WSET Diploma in 2011, he divides his time between wine regions and cricket tours, writing for several sports and drinks publications in the UK today. Amanda Barnes interviews him for our Meet the Member interview, while he was en route to the wine roads of Sicily!
How did you first get into wine?
I covered a lot of cricket around the world in wine-producing countries, notably in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand during the 1990s. On my days off I would go to visit wineries, and my interest really developed from there.
When you have days off in Australia, you can only go to the beach so many times, so wineries are where I would spend my time. Cricket is pretty great actually in that respect, because you really can get around the countries when visiting.
Then I thought I wanted to learn more about wine, and started doing my WSET levels, and began writing about wine in 2010. I also did a vintage in South Africa and Australia, which have been very useful for writing about wine.
Are there any interesting parallels between writing on wine and cricket?
There’s a very strong connection between cricketers and wine. I guess it’s because they have plenty of time to drink wine and socialise on tours. They are probably more professional now about not drinking wine on tour!
If you look through the list of sportsmen who have become winemakers or lent their names to brands, there’s a clear connection. Ian Botham is one from England, but also South African sportsmen, including Ernie Els and David Frost. There are also a number of rugby players involved in wine, with many of the former Springboks, for example.
There’s always been this strong connection between wine and cricket in Australia, too. The members area is always full of winemakers!
What wine regions are close to your heart, and why?
Definitely the Swartland in South Africa, because of a vintage I did there, with Adi Badenhorst. The Swartland has a really strong community feel, and is quite different to Stellenbosch, with this close-knit farming community.
In Australia, Pemberton in Western Australia, where Bill Pannell and his son Dan make really good wine at Picardy. They make great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there. I’m also very good friends with the Pike family at Pikes Wines, and am very fond of the Clare Valley. However, there are so many great wine friends and regions close to my heart!
Beyond wine regions, are there any trends in the wine industry that are particularly interesting to you, or ones you are following?
I’ve always been fascinated by closures. I suppose it’s because I spent so much time in Australia, where screw caps are king. But I’m also interested in all the other closures people are using.
I’ve also recently been getting very interested in biodynamic and also organic farming. Those are the trends I’m really keeping an eye on, and have always followed with quite a lot of passion.
What are you working on at the moment, and most looking forward to for the rest of 2023?
I’m definitely looking forward to this trip to Sicily, which I am on the way to now. I’ve never been to Sicily before and I’m there for six days, which should give me a good look around. And later this month I’m going back to Italy to Tuscany, so it will be quite an Italian month!
I was also recently in Hungary and Provence, which were interesting. But as summer comes I have to balance it with the cricket world!
I also do travel writing, especially on wildlife conservation in South Africa, and finally some drinks writing. Rum and whisky are my other big passions, so they’re always on the radar.