Professionally 2020 has been as frustrating for Anne Burchett as it has been for so many in the wine industry in her role as a freelance business consultant, but it has also given her the time and the opportunity to bring to life her novel that she has been sitting on for a number of years. The overwhelmingly positive response she has had to Tasting Notes – her fictional account of what life is like working in the wine industry – has been even more welcome than normal. Here she shares what 2020 has been like for her and what she is up to this Christmas.
“Sex and drugs and rocks and Rolle. It’s like Jilly meets Jancis with one-liners and a half-case of Chablis.” That’s how drinks journalist Chris Losh describes Anne Burchett’s debut novel, Tasting Notes. Here she explains how she finally got round to publishing it.
We have all had to adapt to a very different year due to Covid – how do you look back on it as a whole?
Very scary at times, yet ultimately positive.
How did it impact on your business?
I earned a grand total of £280 over four months, between April and July.
What did you do to respond?
When I went freelance four years ago, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. That included working on Tasting Notes, the novel I had written years before, and writing more fiction. Like most plans, that quickly went out of the window as I prioritised paying gigs. Finding myself with nothing to do except answering cancellation and postponement emails gave me time to clean, tidy up and think.
One day I found a folder containing every single rejection letter I had ever received from potential employers. That was a lightbulb moment. I binned the lot, decided to focus on the positive and look at that fallow time as an opportunity. I launched my website and serialised Tasting Notes.
Being busy kept me sane and brought in welcome yet unexpected new business.
It’s not been a great year for highs – but anything stand out for you?
Launching my own website without any outside help was very satisfying even though it involved a lot of swearing.
You have also been publishing your book a chapter at a time online – what is Tasting Notes about?
Tasting Notes is a novel about lying and manipulation in the world of wine, with a cast of big talents, bigger egos and a few useless career twats. Chris, my main character, is 12 when her father leaves the family home in Bordeaux. He returns six months later, a broken man, and never explains what happened to him. Many years later Chris is offered a job at Villa’s, the French wine producer where he used to work, and she sees it as her chance to discover his secret. Of course it then goes horribly wrong.
Why did you publish it in this way online?
I would have much preferred to find an agent and be published the traditional way. I sent maybe two dozen query letters through the years but got nowhere. The main reason agents gave me for rejecting Tasting Notes is that wine is too much of a niche subject.
What sort of response have you had to publishing it one chapter at a time?
As of today, 4,220 visitors to the site from 62 different countries over five months. It’s been a huge confidence boost and I am enormously grateful to all those who’ve not only read the novel, but also commented on it on social media.
Any plans to write another?
I am self-publishing Tasting Notes on Amazon. That was another steep learning curve and I’ve messed up spectacularly: The Kindle version is only just available now, days before Christmas and the paperback version is still in the process of being reviewed. I have clearly forgotten everything I ever knew about supply chain.
What are you going to be doing for Christmas and New Year?
Chill, eat and drink for Christmas. Nothing on New Year’s Eve. It’s my least favourite night of the year.
What will you be eating and drinking on Christmas Day?
Too much of everything, but there will be Sauternes and foie gras at some point: you can take the girl out of South West France, but you can’t take South West France out of the girl.
Any favourite Christmas films – or films you watch at Christmas time – and why?
My daughters watch The Grinch every single year. They’re 18 and 24. I am told it’s normal.
Favourite Christmas related songs?
I love Christmas Carols although opportunities to enjoy them will be far and few this year.
Any favourite guilty pleasure to drink?
Sauternes definitely. My family has always been partial to Chateau Filhot but this year we’re straying with Chateau Suduiraut as my youngest daughter au paired in the summer at Christian Seely’s and Anne Victoire Monrozier’s aka Miss Vicky Wine.
What are you most looking forward to doing once Covid is over?
Going back to France, seeing my friends and family in Paris, and then going to Arcachon near Bordeaux, one of my favourite places on earth. And entertaining at home. I am turning into a recluse and not liking it much.
Anything else to say?
I wish all The Buyer’s readers a merry Christmas and a happy 2021. And if you’re looking for a last minute present, check out Tasting Notes on Amazon!
- If you do fancy reading Tasting Notes – and please do it’s an hilarious and very real account of what it’s like working in the wine industry – then you can buy the Kindle version here.