The modern day PG Wodehouse? Done that. Worked in Oddbins? Done that. Written a drinks book? Just done that. Here’s an average week in the very colourful life of writer, and now author, Henry Jeffreys.
Henry Jeffreys is the kind of character you would want at your own classic dinner party. But here he shares who he would want and a whole lot more from his average week of tasting, drinking and writing.
What was the highlight of your last working week?
Four days in Armenia with one of the most inspirational people in wine, Zorik Gharibian from Zorik wines. Superb wines, warm people and great food. There’s so much potential there but it’s also a precarious country still struggling with its tragic history.
And the lowlight of your last working week?
Nearly getting arrested at Liverpool Street station on my way to Armenia. I dropped my ticket on the track and, without really thinking about it, jumped down to pick it up. Railway staff not amused.
What is the best part of your job?
Free booze, travel, good food, nice people
What is the thing about your job you would like to improve?
I should be paid more and more promptly.
How has 2016 been for you and your business?
This was the year I went fully freelance after years of combining writing with a full time job in publishing. It’s been absolutely terrifying not having that monthly wage arriving in my bank account but also liberating. If only people would pay more promptly. Have I already said that?
What are the key trends that are impacting your business. How do you hope to live up to them?
I think I may have picked exactly the wrong time to become a freelance writer. Every week I read another article on the death of journalism. Having said that I’m doing OK, probably. I am not at all precious. I’ve learnt the art of becoming an instant expert on things I don’t know that much about. I’m hoping my forthcoming book, Empire of Booze, will be so successful that I’ll never have to work again.
Favourite restaurant you have eaten this year and why?
I love Barrafina near Charing Cross station. The food is always excellent, much better than most tapas places in Barcelona. In fact, despite the informal seating arrangements, it’s actually more of a restaurant than a bar. I had the most delicious Arroz Negre (paella made with squid ink) recently. They have a great sherry list too.
Also very keen on the Begging Bowl, a Thai restaurant in Peckham.
Favourite bottle of wine you have had in the last month. Why and where did you drink it?
Probably the 2014 of Zorah Yeraz made from a vineyard at 1,600 metres above sea level. The vines are probably about 100 years old and grow amongst rocks and walnut trees. The intensity and purity knocked me out. Drunk over pork kebabs in Armenia with a Robbie Burns quoting archaeologist.
Also the Seresin Sun & Moon Pinot Noir 2009 was in a lovely place. Great balance between sweet fruit and vigour and mature leathery notes with tannins absolutely a point. It’s not often I try mature New Zealand Pinot and was seriously impressed. Tried this at a tasting at St John’s on Maltby Street.
Favourite cocktail you have had this year. Why and where did you drink it?
Rosato negroni at Bar Termini in Soho. Made with rose-infused liqueur in addition to the standard ingredients.The result is then cooked a little and aged. It’s subtler, nuttier and more complex than a normal Negroni.
If you could pick three people for a classic dinner party from the trade who would they be?
John Franklin from Mentzendorff, Jason Yapp from Yapp Bros and Helen Chesshire from the Chesshire Set and Brighton Gin. I’d need at least two days off work afterwards to recover.
Best job you have had in your career. Why did you leave?
I loved working as a sales assistant at Oddbins in Leeds just after graduating. We used to supply all the best bars in town and would then get free drink and preferential treatment in the evenings. It was a bit like that bit in Goodfellas where the Ray Liotta character takes Lorraine Bracco to the Copacabana Club, only in Yorkshire.
I left to become assistant manager of Oddbins on Portobello Road which was nowhere near as much fun. I left Oddbins shortly afterwards to work in publishing.
Also being wine critic for The Lady was funny because people used to treat me like a character from a PG Wodehouse story.
Who have been the mentors in your career or people who have inspired you the most?
As a writer Craig Brown (from Private Eye) has been incredibly supportive. Patrick Matthews was a great help and influence when I started writing about wine. Jancis Robinson MW, Tim Atkin MW and Victoria Moore have also been very encouraging.
What is the your favourite film or book that includes wine/drink?
It’s not a particularly original one but probably Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms also great for the drinks.
Where did you go on summer holidays? And what were you drinking?
We stayed at a friend’s house in Marbella and had a completely non wine holiday. We drank a very nice Godello blend from Lidl which was €4 a bottle and lots of ice cold Heineken by the pool.