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Cindy-Marie Harvey on wine, travelling the world and crowdfunding her cookbook

Cindy-Marie Harvey on wine, travelling the world and crowdfunding her cookbook

By Claudia Besant |

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

Cindy-Marie Harvey is a wine expert and owner of Love Wine Food Ltd, a private wine tour company. She has travelled the world continually for almost 25 years to iconic wine estates across the globe from Italy to New Zealand, South America, Portugal and many more. Cindy-Marie’s upcoming book Watercress, Willow and Wine: Recipes from English Vineyards presents a sumptuous collection of recipes with which to pair wines from England’s finest producers and showcases wonderful local produce from our land and sea.

Why did you decide to self-publish your cookbook Watercress, Willow and Wine? And why did you choose whitefox as your publishing partner?

Watercress, Willow and Wine is the first book I’ve written, so I chose to self-publish as I wanted to really learn about the process of creating a book, from that initial germ of an idea to the absolute buzz of a moment when you see the result of all the hard work, finally for sale on a shelf in a bookshop. It also gave me total control over the project, which for me was important to really transmit my own passion for the fascinating subject of English wines and the fun to be had pairing them with a range of different flavours. 

I spoke to quite a lot of people who had chosen all different ways of publishing their books to understand the for and against arguments of the various options. After approaching several companies about self-publishing, my initial conversation with whitefox made it obvious that they were the partner for this project. Their enthusiasm combined with honest professionalism stood out clearly above other companies that I’d spoken to.

Crowdfunding is brilliant not only for helping to fund a project but also for creating excitement around an upcoming book. What was it that made you decide to privately crowdfund?

Crowdfunding is seen as a very modern concept but to me it’s simply a new word for the old concept of patronage. From Michelangelo to Shakespeare, there have always been those who have supported artists, writers, composers et al. to enable them to create. Through my own company, Love Wine Food Ltd, I’ve met an amazing array of people who are passionate about either wine or food – or for the most part – both! So, it seemed ideal to invite them to become one of a plethora of patrons, supporting the book, to help it come to publication.

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What rewards did you offer in your crowdfunding campaign for people who pledged and showed support for your project?

Well, obviously they all had to be food and wine related, so they ranged from Drops Stops (an ingenious device that prevents red wine stains on your tablecloth or carpet!), a case of wine including sparkling, white, red and dessert wine as an introduction to English wine, a Zoom wine-and-food-pairing tasting at home for friends, a day touring the English vineyards, a house party for a group of friends staying on an English vineyard and more…

What advice would you offer to other aspiring authors looking to crowdfund and self-publish a book?

Like most things to do with creating a book, it all takes longer than you originally think! Be brutally honest with yourself about what you want to achieve with the final book – is it all about the volume of sales (always good but not the sole point!), or fulfilling a long-held desire to become a published author or sharing knowledge and getting your readers involved in and excited about the subject?

Choose your partner for self-publishing carefully, and you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses, so make sure whoever you choose will be there as a vital support, allowing your voice to shine through, but they need to also be honest with you through every aspect of the process (even when your creative brain may go overboard!).   

My initial plan was not to crowdfund, but then a global pandemic rather got in the way, so it seemed an ideal solution to ensure that the book was published, with support from a lot of friends. It has made the book a more collaborative celebration and shared the excitement of English wine.

What motivated you to start your own private wine tour business Love Wine Food Ltd, and how will your upcoming book tie into it?

I started working in the wine trade over 30 years ago (that’s quite a lot of bottles opened along the way!) and have had the greatest fun organising and leading wine tours around the world, from Chile to New Zealand, Sicily to the Dolomites and most places in between. One of the most enjoyable parts of organising the tours is choosing the menus, pairing the local foods with the wines at the various estates, chateaux and domaines.

So, for quite a time, I’ve had this idea of writing books linking these two essentials of life’s enjoyment – wine and food. The decision for the first one to be written as the English book was simply because it’s such a thrilling time for English wines. There are so many people who have no idea of the variety of wine styles and yet are keen to know more about what is being produced on our own doorstep. Alongside this, as well as the recipes, I bring in local producers close to the vineyards to showcase cheese, charcuterie and more.

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You’ve travelled to iconic wine estates across the globe for almost 25 years. However, your book will focus on the world of English wines why did you decide to focus more locally?

In a way, it’s one of the few good things about the global pandemic, with travel abroad restricted, so many people started exploring here in the UK and discovered the wealth of wine estates and food producers locally. I wanted it to be a celebration of both food and wine and how it can connect people back to a closeness to and understanding of production by people with passion. 

While both the recipes and the featured wines will appeal on their own merits to either the wine lover or the food lover (and many of us who fall into both categories!), the idea behind the book is also to draw the reader into experimenting with wine and food pairing. Making it fun and approachable, but also showing that when you get a great (and often unexpected) perfect match, both the food and the wine really sing – the eye-popping moment of wow!

One big thing is that quite a few people still think that sparkling wines are only for an aperitif or maybe summer afternoons in a hammock (both excellent choices) but the book shows that the options are much wider. Drinking fizz with food throughout a meal is something that I think is going to become much more the norm over the next few years. 

What experiences from your career do you believe have inspired you and influenced the wine and recipe pairings you’ve chosen to feature in your book?

How long do you have? There are simply so many. Strolling through the ageing cellars of Culatello hams, tasting white truffles hunted by dogs, watching buffalos on an organic farm using a back-scratching machine. Listening to the passion of a biodynamic wine producer in Chile while being fascinated by a compost heap or seeing the grapes shrivel during the drying process for Amarone. Every stage of food and wine production is important – it’s a chain of small, sometimes seemingly unimportant, decisions that result in the outstanding quality of the final product. 

All of those experiences over the years have inspired me to select a small range of English wine estates (it was so hard to narrow it down for the book!) and to match them with food. So, the experience of flavour profiles and pairings learnt on my many travels have really influenced my own desire to know more about the great wine and food undergoing a real renaissance in the UK. So many people know about the delicious Jamón ibérico from acorn-fed pigs, but how many have tried the equally irresistible ham made in Dorset from the annual pannage, where the pigs are left to roam in the New Forest and gorge themselves on acorns?

While this book features English wines from sparkling to food-friendly whites to elegant Pinot Noirs, the recipes, although focusing on English produce, do take inspiration from my wine travels, be it from Burgundy, Piedmont or Tasmania.

What are some elements of your book that make it so unique? Why have you chosen to use illustrations rather than photographs?

There are a couple of great books about English wine, several fabulous books about wine and food pairings and, naturally, there is an endless array of recipe books. But the idea behind Watercress, Willow and Wine was to combine these aspects, so the reader can learn, in a relaxed, unpretentious way, more about the diversity of English wines, be they looking for a simple glass of bubbles, a sophisticated sparkling or a great wine for the quintessential English summer garden party, or help them discover the red and dessert wines of the UK. Alongside this, I share some recipes for them to explore and have fun with as their palates discover that sparkling wine is heaven with fish and chips or that rosé is delicious with tuna.   

Much as I adore photography, and indeed probably take way too many photos, while always trying to capture the elusive beauty of an early-morning sky at the beach, for this book, I felt that it had to be illustrated. For me, it had to capture the zeitgeist of this era of English wine production, and I was incredibly lucky to discover Chloe Robertson, an artist who, like me, lives locally in the South Downs close to so many vineyards. She has really created an evocative sense of the places and the recipes. Also, much as food photography is truly spectacular (such as David Loftus, for example), it can also be slightly depressing when the recipe does not look anything like the photo! Illustrations are more inspirational without being critical.

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