Tin Radovani

Although he might describe himself as an enthusiastic amateur, BBC World Service Strategy Manager Tin Radovani is extremely knowledgeable about wine (and natural wines in particular). Born in Croatia, Radovani moved to the UK in 1994. He has been drinking (and buying) rare and precious cuvées from small artisan growers, many of whom are on Les Cave’s portfolio, for many years. He impressed Sales & Marketing Director Doug Wregg by correctly identifying in a blind tasting that a wine from Dominique Lucas was from the terroir of Pommard, all the more remarkable considering that no-one from Les Caves had ever been able to place it in Burgundy in similar blind tastings! With this in mind we decided to pose him some questions...

What do you do for BBC World Service?

It was never properly explained to me.

How long have you lived in the UK? Would you give us a potted biography?

Since 1994. Born in Zagreb, Croatia, BA in philosophy and classics, PHD studies in philosophy in US, BBC World Service – that’s about it. And yes, I like wine.

When you’re travelling do you prefer drinking in the city culture or drinking in nature?

City culture.

Talking of drinking where does your love (and knowledge) of wine derive from? Any mentors?

Errors and trails - in the beginning mostly reduced to errors, but with time the batting average started to improve. Also, guys in Cave Augé who long time ago directed me to natural wines – see below (Dard et Ribo Crozes and Thierry Navarre).

Did you have a wine epiphany, a moment of realisation that wine might be more than just a pleasant alcoholic beverage? Can you describe it?

Yes, several. A seriously long time ago as a teenager a glass of a nondescript Haut Medoc with friends in Paris – suddenly realising the specifics of the wine and how it connects with where it’s from despite its utter non-descriptiveness. It kinda imprinted on me what a claret is, I guess this is what happens when you try something very early or quite inexperienced. Then there was a moment when I tried ‘natural’ or non-interventionist wines for the first time – Dard et Ribo Crozes Hermitage ’98 – utter shock, explosion of flavour, fruit, energy – something totally different; Thierry Navarre’s St. Chinian and also F. Cossard’s Saint-Romain Combe Bazin. The best food and wine combo ever and still unmatched: Clos Rougeard Brézé ’03, a big, nutty, pure chenin with pan fried scallops at Paul Bert in Paris. Bloody hell! The first time Burgundy made sense to me – Ghislaine Barthod’s Chambolle (I think it was Les Fuées) - suddenly the grace of fruit, texture and precision clicked in perfect harmony.

Do you still experience this type of epiphany?

Yes. The last two were Erik Rosdahl’s Ruina ’13 – a teeth-staining syrah (nothing better) – pure heart-warming energy on a cold February Tuesday and Lassaigne’s Autour de Minuit Le Cotet ’11 – constantly switching between fizz and wine, forever elusive.

What would your everyday drinking wine be?

Given that I’ve been drinking Muster’s Rotwein ’08 practically at least once a week ever since it started appearing on the UK market and now moved to ’11 (jealously keeping the last 3 bottles of ’08 for future years) – I’d have to say it’s Sepp’s reds. They have almost a perfect combination of weight, freshness and energy with good length and structure to have both relaxing and uplifting effect on me in the evening (especially on Mondays, you know why). Also, great with food.

Which wine regions particularly excite you and why?

Cornas, Styria, Cahors / Madiran / Bergerac, Loire, Jura, Chambolle, Fleurie, Morgon, Hermitage, Bandol, Roussillon…shall I stop here? Why? I guess their wines speak to me above and beyond of what is just in the bottle, they give a glimpse into something else…soil, rock, what’s around, history…

Some people have favourite/go-to grape varieties. Do you, or do you prefer the expression of terroir?

I am extremely partial to Syrah from Cornas, and Muskateller from Styria – so I guess bit of both.

Any grape varieties or styles or regions which you think are over-rated or where you have yet to taste a convincing wine from?

Mondeuse, Cinsault and maybe Trousseau. Tuscany leaves me mostly cold.

How much is wine made in the vineyard and how much in the winery?

Mostly vineyard.

Is imperfection beautiful in wine?

Absolutely, imperfection gives a glimpse into possibility, into potential, into what could have been. Perfection gives a glimpse only into actuality - you can’t go any further, and possibility is much more interesting than actuality.

Do we deconstruct/dissect wine far too much? If so, what is the psychological reason behind this?

I’d say just about right. Nothing wrong in trying to understand what moves us, actually there is almost an obligation to understand what moves us.

Does drinking make us seem cleverer or does it dissolve inhibitions that prevent us from realising the more inspirational aspect of our psyches?

Is there a difference?

Ch-oak. Is new oak ever desirable on wine? Discuss.

Never. No discussion.

Why is it still controversial to call a wine “natural”? Is it to do with political correctness, scientific proof, language, ownership… Is natural subversive?

For the life of me I can’t see anything controversial in calling a wine ‘natural’. Once we strip the whole ‘market control / domination and positioning in a commercial space / segment’ aspect of this debate, there is simply a question of what tastes better, truer and for whom. As a consumer, this debate leaves me mostly cold and slightly bored (it did excite me a decade ago). And no, natural is not subversive, it is a norm.

Where do you like to eat and drink in London?

Brawn, Terroirs, The Laughing Heart, Lyle’s, St. John, Taberna do Mercado...

Is it important that a restaurant has an exciting wine list?

Yes. There is nothing more destructive than a horrible glass of wine to ruin a good meal.

Best restaurant experiences in the last year in London/UK? In other countries?

Brawn: two epic Saturday lunches (Easter and mid-July). Septime in Paris (I think Bertrand Grébaut is one of the cleverest chefs working today – and the place has brilliant wine list), Verre Volé, also in Paris (I love the chaos, cosiness, music and imperfections which are almost always matched with honest dishes and excellent wines), Madrid’s Triciclo (fantastic fideuà, but wines not so), Taberna Laredo (both food and wine list to die for – grilled besugo, grilled rabbit’s chops both served just with perfect olive oil and garlic, with Ganevat, Barthod, Bruyere-Houillon, Leclapart to choose from amongst many others) and La Venencia whose walls are impregnated with smell of amontillado and palo cortado.

Is anything missing in the gastronomic scene over here?

Yes, two things. There is no pure and absolute pleasure in an ingredient in a way people in Spain can obsess over fresh fish or very young peas or ham or literally anything, without making a fuss at the same time – it comes so naturally to them. Also, I think the scene over here is missing clever artistry and quality of cooking of Paris (places like Septime comes to mind).

Cliché question: desert island wines (and why). A white, a red, a fizz. Feel free to substitute an orange!

Ok, I know I am cheating, but:

Allemand Cornas Sans Soufre ’11 (actually anything by him especially Reynard). Why? For me this is where syrah sits most comfortably betwixt terroir expression (and I am sucker for garrigue) and inherent quality of the grape itself (pepper, hint of blood, flowers)...

G. Barthod – anything above and including village Chambolle – balance, texture, structure, precision...

A. Tscheppe’s Muskatellers – either would do. I guess a childhood thing, the taste of grapes and the smell of muskateller is kinda madeleine for me; some like Longtemps ‘je me suis couché de bonne heure’…

Clos Rougeard Brézé ’03 – see above...

Jacques Lassaigne, Autour de Minuit, ‘Le Cotet’, ’11 – mind-blowing, Champagne like no other, aged in Ganevat’s vin jaune barrels, ‘nuff said.

Anything from Leclapart – sheer perfection...

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