Brian Cox and Jancis Robinson team up to talk wine

Jancis Robinson OBE, arguably the world's greatest wine writer, with Professor Brian Cox who are both touring Australia ...
Jancis Robinson OBE, arguably the world's greatest wine writer, with Professor Brian Cox who are both touring Australia at the same time.  Photo: James Brickwood

Jancis Robinson is not a fan of using wine as an investment vehicle.

"It has an inflationary effect on prices," says the UK wine writer and adviser for the cellar of Queen Elizabeth II. "People are buying wine with no interest in it and no intention to drink it. It makes me sad as that's not what wine's for."

Robinson was once described by Decanter wine magazine as "the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world".

In 1984, the former mathematics student was the first person outside the drinks trade to become a Master of Wine and a decade later, The Oxford Companion to Wine was released. Edited by Robinson, it is regarded as the most comprehensive wine encyclopaedia ever published.

Planets aligned in Sydney on Friday for Robinson to cross paths with celebrity scientist Professor Brian Cox, arguably the most popular particle physicist in the universe.

Robinson is in the country to host a series of wine dinners with Lateral Events, the same company managing Cox's 10-date Australian and New Zealand tour whereby the BBC presenter explains the mysteries of the cosmos using five-tonne LED screens.

"The screen resolution is such that you can display images from the Hubble Space Telescope with pin-point accuracy," Cox says.

Cox and Robinson, who have both been honoured as Officers of the British Empire, hosted a lunch at Hotel Centennial in Woollahra on Friday to celebrate 21 years of Lateral Events.

The lunch served as a showcase for wines and grapes from around the world that Robinson believes are undiscovered gems such as gaglioppo, the signature red wine grape of Calabria (the wild hill country on Italy's sole), and a delicate grenache from Swartland in South Africa.


Cox also presented two rosés from valleys surrounding his second home near Correns, France.

The physicist is a keen wine collector with a particular fondness for champagne.

"I buy wine to drink, but I buy it for investment as well," says Cox, who stores his big-ticket drops in a bonded warehouse.

"At least Brian drinks it, so I suppose he's allowed to invest in a bit of it," Robinson says.

"In truth, I don't think I could ever bear to sell a bottle," Cox says. "My aim is to build up a cellar, such that when I retire I'll never have to buy wine again!"

In addition to seeing the bottom of a few Burgundies, Cox also hopes to see the end of heavy industry on the planet so we have a healthy climate to keep making great wine and growing delicious food. For that to happen he says we need to go "slightly up and into the stars".

"It sounds like science fiction, but the most successful people in the world, such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos from Amazon, have rocket companies and these billionaires aren't idiots. They genuinely think we're on the verge of industrialising resources beyond earth's orbit, of which there is effectively infinite quantities.

"For example, there's enough metal in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8000 storeys tall and cover the earth with it. And the asteroid belt is very accessible – we've sent spacecraft there. We've landed on it.

"We need to protect this planet, which is the best planet we know of anywhere in the universe."

"That's because you can grow grapes here, Brian," says Robinson.

Five wine varieties Australia can be proud, of according to Jancis Robinson

Riesling: "I've always been a fan of Australia's best rieslings. There's good old [winemaker] Jeff Grosset, of course, and a larger army of great riesling producers. Occasionally someone will ask me 'What's it like having power in [the] wine market – making or breaking things?' and I always say, 'Well, I've been pushing riesling for 40 years and it's still a tough sell, so obviously I must not have that much power!'"

Chardonnay: "There are just some lovely, lovely chardonnays in this country." Robinson recommends looking out for chardonnays from wineries such as De Bortoli, Yabby Lake and Leeuwin Estate.

Rutherglen sweet fortified wine: "I love the fact Australia has unique things like the Rutherglen stickies and you must keep valuing them. Nowhere else in the world is making those wines."

Semillon: "Australia must not lose its signature Hunter Valley semillon either, however difficult it is to sell!"

Pinot noir: "Who would have thought Australia would one day be making good pinot? Winemakers are seeking out all the cool climate spots in the country and doing great stuff in places like Tasmania, Canberra, the Yarra Valley and bits of the Mornington Peninsula."