Talking Wine With...

Talking Wine With...

Jon Wyand, Wine Photographer

In our interview series Talking Wine with... we are talking with interesting people from the international world of wine about their love of wine.

How did they become wine lovers? What are their favorite wines? And which producers and appellations should we keep an eye on?

Today, we had the honor to talk with Jon Wyand. Jon is a wine photographer and is traveling all over the world to capture the most beautiful vineyards and wine regions. But, there is only one region that holds a special place in his heart… Keep reading to find out which region it is. We also talked about special encounters at renowned châteaux, his most memorable visit, and he shares which country is still on his wish list. 

 

WINE PASSPORT JON WYAND

Favorite producer: The one I’m with!


Favorite wine region: Burgundy, wherever I am ...


Favorite music: When I travel, I sometimes pick up on local music so that can add to the memories when I drink my “souvenirs”. Otherwise, it’s all about mood, my consumption is generally with food or company.


favorites from the Best of Wines:
Agricola Querciabella Batâr

VIÑA SEÑA 

Louis Roederer cristal 

I deliberately ignored Burgundy to widen the field!

Since 1975, you are an independent travel photographer who is specialized in wine regions, vineyards, and cellars. What made you decide to choose this specialization?

When I first photographed wine, I was not really a wine drinker and knew nothing about it. But in seven weeks I found out a lot, not least that it was an environment I enjoyed, be it château or small domaine. And to be honest the pictures reflected this. The move to specialization took time and happened almost without a decision, it just became my thing. Being given assignments by Wine Spectator’s then London office under Tom Matthews and James Suckling has set the foundations. A relationship that started in 1988 and I still get calls!

You have photographed many great winemakers and you have been in lots of different cellars. What was for you the most impressive visit? At which winery was this and why?

Being any sort of photographer has its challenging and memorable moments and they usually happen when you are out of your comfort zone. My first wine trip was like that. I was faced with a seven-week trip through three countries. I was visiting great estates but knowing literally nothing. But I took to it “like a duck to water”. It was just shooting landscape, portraits, and work as I had been doing for a while. One of my first visits was to Château La Mission Haut Brion where I stayed as a guest of the then owner’s husband Francis Dewaverin. Only after I had arrived, I was told there were two other guests for dinner that evening: Mr, and Mrs Edmund Penning-Rowsell. Edmund was THE Bordeaux expert back then (1979). He was given the cellar keys to choose a white as aperitif and 3 reds for dinner. He returned with La Mission 1961, 1949 and 1929! Edmund was dining with a pen and notebook beside him making constant entries. Very kindly, I was not only allowed to share the wines, but I was also tutored through the tasting. So, I could identify each by taste, smell, and colour. Not hard when the vintages are twenty years apart, but for me something that I remember forty years on. My favourite, as a complete ingenue was the ’29 for its softness. Besides, I still have the bottle!

When you are shooting at these wineries, are you also lucky enough to taste some of their wines?

I am very upfront with growers about my level of wine knowledge, they can spot a fake very easily. I almost never refuse an offer to taste and only then because of my schedule - I’m occasionally compensated with a bottle to take home! I remember sending Michel Ampeau in Meursault prints of his father who had recently died. As a consequence, I was invited to taste at my next visit. It was all old vintages, bottles that he produced like a magician from behind a barrel we were standing at. It went on for over an hour! A barrel tasting is more usual, and I suggest only 3 appellations, that’s all I can manage to register and to be honest my mind is still on the winemaker, watching for a picture.

You have multiple ‘Roederer Champagne Artistry of Wine Awards’ on your name and this year you won the Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year Award for the third time as well. What is according to you the secret to capture the perfect picture?

I often hear the camera does not matter, it’s the eye that counts. Well, a good eye needs to work with a camera that can capture what that eye sees, particularly in cellars! For me the sense of place is important, wine is about people and place. Lighting is the key for place. I am always up early for landscape and get close for portraits using a widish angle to include environment. Winemakers won’t like the constant click of the camera during a tasting. So, while you are tasting, observe your location and the winemakers’ expressions. When you get a break, ask for a photo. That will be appreciated... I always shoot three frames quickly to combat blinking. And smile, you are there to enjoy yourself, it’s the winemaker’s vocation to bring pleasure. Besides, relaxed and engaged photographers take the best pictures!

Is there a winery or region in the world that is still on your wish list to capture? Which one would it be and why?

If anybody has got a couple of tickets, I’d love to go to New Zealand, but my wife would have to come too! It’s great place with great people and wines. Also, I’d want to meet Kevin Judd, he is not only a great winemaker but great photographer too. Actually, I have never had a wish list, I’m just happy in the vineyards anywhere.

Could you take us on a virtual tour through your own wine cellar? What are the classics or out-of-the-box wines we will find here?

My passion is photography, wine is my pleasure. Combining the two is my good fortune and the basis of my “cellar”. So, the contents reflect my travels and the generosity of winemakers. So, most often when I open a bottle it is the only one of its kind. That can be an exciting but perhaps not ideal situation... Better to be in control of your cellar with several bottles to look forward to. On the plus side I get to drink Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Majorca as well as Burgundy Grand Crus, gems from Bordeaux, the Mosel, Rioja, Tuscany, and a healthy amount of Champagne. One lesson I’ve learned is not to horde them for a “special occasion”. Opening the bottle will make the day special!

Can you remember your first wow-moment with a bottle of wine? Which wine was it?

I’m afraid that moment has been repeated so many times over the years that the first experience has been buried by all the others! You see, it’s what I taste that wows me, not the label. I admit to being very easily satisfied and will argue with no one about wine. Ignorance leaves you unbound by what you are expected to like. Of course, I’m disappointed from time to time but I remember being wowed by a Chadwick Carmenère in Chile, by a Chardonnay & Albariño blend in Uruguay from the delightful Bouza family, by an Egon Muller Schartzhofberg Auslese, and by a Roederer Cristal Rosé. I’ve just been too lucky! Perhaps having favorites can get in the way of a new discovery.

As you have seen many wine regions in the world, you must have some recommendations. Can you share with our readers a wine region (or maybe more) that is a must visit?

I know Burgundy very well but the Côte d’Or. While having the “wow” factor if you sit on the wall at Romanée Conti, it gets very full of wine aficionados. Therefore, I’d advise people to drive half an hour south from Chagny into the Côte Chalonnaise for a more varied and relaxing time. Chalon-sur-Saône is a very friendly city with a very friendly population and plenty to see. I always enjoy Chile and Argentina, and nothing ever goes wrong in Champagne. Tuscany does not need me to say anything. Galicia is charming, Rioja very special and Bordeaux. Well, its Bordeaux as you’d expect it would be. If you want to go you won’t be disappointed. The Douro River is breathtaking in Portugal, it makes more than Port and is much more accessible these days. I’m making my first visit to Austria soon and looking forward to new views and wines but the same winemaking passion.

The wine world is full of wonderful stories, which you are normally telling via imagery. But for now, what would you say is the most striking, uncommon otherwise entertaining anecdote you can share with us?

I remember a tasting at Château Loudenne early on during that extraordinary wine odyssey forty years ago. It’s not about great wines but ordinary people confronted by them. My first morning at Loudenne I was invited to join an American couple I had met the previous evening at dinner. The couple were bar owners from Boston, both in their middle years. The woman a petite quiet type, while the man was tall and broad shouldered, looming above all of us, his loud Northeast coast drawl booming out whenever he spoke, which was not often. I guess he was more familiar with Bourbon than Bordeaux. We strolled through the vineyards to the Château’s tasting room to try three recent vintages. I was unsure how much of a pleasure it would be, but I knew I was on a steep learning curve. The Bostonian bar owner had no such qualms and tasted eagerly and swallowed enthusiastically as his wife sipped and struggled to look as if she was enjoying herself. The first glass was offered as our tutor described the vintage. The second wine went the same way until the bar owner’s wife said plaintively to her husband, “Gee honey I think you’re supposed to spit it out”. The response boomed back immediately: “Hell no! I did not come all this goddamn way to spit out anything!” I could have laughed if my mouth had not been in shock from the tannin, it was unaccustomed to meeting…

On your website you are mentioning that wine regions are your specialty, with Burgundy in particular. Why is Burgundy so special for you?

I’m afraid initially the choice was a commercial one. I needed somewhere I could visit regularly, and to sell the pictures after all. I really thought I might move on after five years but nearly twenty-three years later I’m still turning up at Dijon station! Once you have got to know a place, have been welcomed and experienced every month, all the events, the ups and downs, and realized what a privilege such contact is then it’s hard to walk away. It’s a place of many strata, sophistication, and simplicity. It's many different places to different people with a lifetime of discoveries to make, but Burgundy is grounded in its own history as generations come and go. It’s fascinating to watch these generations change and soon I will be photographing the grandchildren at work while reminiscing with the grandparents. It’s where time flies by and you hardly notice and never regret a minute of it.

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