Meet the judges: Q&A with Richard Mayson

Richard Mayson at DWWA 2022 judging week.

Richard Mayson is one of the foremost fortified wine specialists of our time. The author of five books, including Madeira: The Islands and their Wines and Port and the Douro, Mayson is a regular Decanter contributor, also writing for the Oxford Companion to Wine and his own website.

In 1999, Mayson was made a Cavaleiro of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto in recognition of his services to the Port wine trade and has lectured on the region for many years at Leiths School of Food & Wine and the WSET school in London.

Graduating with a degree in geography from the University of Sheffield, Mayson commented, ‘ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by maps and geography.’ His interest in wine specifically began during these university years, completing a dissertation on the micro-climate of the vineyards of the Douro.

‘That indirectly took me into the wine trade where I worked at the Wine Society before turning freelance. I have always thought that wine is the most wonderful synthesis of different strands of geography, both physical and human. Good wine encapsulates a strong sense of place’ he explained.

Currently series editor for the Infinite Ideas Classic Wine Library, Mayson will return to Decanter World Wine Awards judging week this May as Regional Chair for Port and Madeira, a position he has held for more than a decade.

With DWWA 2024 entries closing this week (15 March) and judging week approaching in May, we get to know more about Mayson: what inspires him most in the wine industry, his proudest achievements and some interesting facts about Port.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My typical day involves some writing, editing as well as tasting. I am also writing about art, following up on my long-held interest in British modernism. I mostly work from home in the Derbyshire Peak District where I also look after our family business and holiday letting. Life is nothing if not busy and varied.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

That’s a really hard question, but I think I have to say that I am very proud of my book, Port and the Douro, first published in 1998 and shortly to go into its fifth edition.

I am also very proud of my Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sheffield where I served as Pro-Chancellor until 2021. And of course, I am really proud of my family.

What do you find most exciting in the wine world right now?

I have to say that I am fascinated by the rise of English wines. They may not set the wine world on fire as yet, but they are showing that they can be world class.

Perhaps for the same reason, I am also interested in cooler-climate wines from Portugal’s Atlantic wine regions.

Which wine producing region or grape varieties would you encourage people to explore?

I have to say Portugal, with its treasure trove of native grapes and the re-discovery of a fantastic and varied terroir.

At the moment I am taking time to explore the Dão region and the re-birth of Carcavelos. I think with climate change there will be a re-appraisal of different grape varieties and their adaptability of changing conditions.

Why should people explore more fortified wines?

There is much more to the fortified wine category than meets the eye. From dry wines like Fino and Manzanilla through Amontillado, then Sercial, Verdelho and Bual from Madeira to aged Tawnies and Vintage Ports, there is so much to choose from.

You would be mistaken to pigeon-hole these wines as sweet, sticky after-dinner wines: there is so much grace, poise and finesse to be found in a well-nurtured fortified wine. They also encapsulate a strong sense of place and a fascinating and sometimes forceful history.

Do you have advice for DWWA entrants who don’t win a medal?

Don’t give up. We look at each wine very seriously, in context. As my father used to say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!

What is an interesting fact that people might not know about fortified…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/decanter-world-wine-awards/meet-the-judges-qa-with-richard-mayson-523962/