Hello. I have been very quiet all summer and there is a reason why. For some time an idea for a new book on food and wine has been buzzing about in my head and I thought it was about time I got on and did something about it. So I wrote a short proposal and sent it to my agent, Lizzy Kremer, who is very brilliant and beady (just don’t try to kiss her hello while wearing lip gloss, you’ll get trapped in her magnificent hair).
Lizzy got in touch with a few publishers and, before I knew it, we were in the midst of a bidding war with five imprints competing for the rights. It was a whirlwind couple of weeks. When you go for meetings with prospective publishers everyone is interviewing everyone else. The publishers want to work out what you’ll be like to work with and how much they think your book might be worth. As an author, you’re looking for a team who ‘get’ what you’re trying to do, and who will also be able to pick up your idea and make it better than you ever imagined it could be. Each editor will shape the content of the book in a different way. Each designer will visualise it in a completely different way.
Then there’s the fact that, as an author, what you really want is to sell gazillions of copies. So there is another,more hard-headed, set of decisions to be made. Will the corporate might of a large publisher be more effective at getting your book into the shops where people can see it? Or will they be more focused on their long list of TV authors whose books routinely top the bestseller lists? Is it better to go with an established publisher of food and drink books? Or do you have more chance of creating a breakaway title if you opt for a boutique publisher with vision? And so on.
In the end the auction for my book went to sealed bids. I cannot even begin to tell you what a fizzy stomach I had the morning they all came in, or how thrilled I was when my agent passed on the news that one sneaky publisher had phoned her to say, “We really want this book and just to let you know, we are prepared to match the highest offer if anyone bids more than us.”
So, we sold the book. And then, as the excitement died down, I remembered that this meant I had to write it. I have spent all summer glued to my laptop tapping away at The Wine Dine Dictionary: An A to Z of Suggestions for Happy Eating and Drinking. The first draft – which will then go through an editing process – is very nearly finished. I am tremendously excited to say that it will be published by Granta next year.
Granta published my first book, How to Drink, and did a terrific job. Despite this, I had actually sworn I wouldn’t sell The Wine Dine Dictionary to Granta because the editor who is now there is a good friend of mine from way back, and I didn’t want to put an important friendship at risk. In the end, though, I couldn’t help myself. The Granta team is brilliant. And I couldn’t be happier to be working with them all. (And no, in case you’re wondering, this is not the publisher with the sharp auction tactics).
Here’s the bottle of wine I celebrated with. It isn’t in the usual price range, but when you have good news, I think something special is called for. Also, I shared it six ways. So it worked out at about the same cost as a round of rubbish G&Ts in a London bar. Also, in honesty, it isn’t actually easy to find a properly special bottle of wine even at this price. Not one that has some age, and just the right amount of age. This nails it.
Domaine Trévallon 2004 VdP de Bouche du Rhone, France (The Wine Society, £39; yapp.co.uk, £50)
Legendary red from Provence. A blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon, it has structure as well as ease. An incredibly complex wine, that unfurls in your glass like a perfume, and smells of wood smoke and the dried herbs and scrubland on a craggy, sun-baked hillside in the south of France and warm fruits grown in the south of France. I opened this over a dinner at home with wine friends and a winemaker, and it proved completely arresting. A wine with emotion. We sniffed it happily, we wallowed in it. We fell in love.