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Wine Talk: Jim Angle

Veteran political reporter and avid collector sees wine as one way to transcend partisan squabbling

Laurie Woolever
Posted: January 9, 2007

Jim Angle, 60, is a longtime wine lover and the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News Channel. Prior to joining Fox in 1996, Angle was a correspondent at CNN and ABC News, where he reported on economic policy for World News Tonight, Nightline and Good Morning America. Before beginning his television career, he spent 18 years with National Public Radio as a White House correspondent and as the anchor of Marketplace. In the course of his career, Angle has had the good fortune to add a few wine-tasting days onto the end of Presidential visits to Europe and across the United States, all the while refining his palate and bulking up his cellar. Angle has said that, were he to retire from journalism, he'd leave Washington for Sonoma and apprentice himself to a winemaker.

Wine Spectator: How did you become interested in wine?
Jim Angle: When I first moved to Washington, I'd go to a dinner party and people would always say, "Bring a bottle of wine." This was in the early '80s, I wasn't making that much money, so I would go buy something in the $5 to $7 range. I noticed that a third of the time I would get something that was almost undrinkable, a third of the time I'd get something that was OK, and a third of the time I'd get something that was really tasty. It occurred to me that it wasn't price that was entirely the governing factor--it was selection, and that meant that I had to pay attention, which I started to do.

WS: And now I understand you have a fairly extensive personal cellar. What's in it?
JA: I like everything, unfortunately. [Laughing] I have quite a bit of French wine, some from the '80s. My favorite wine is probably Château Gruaud-Larose. My all-time favorite is the '82 Gruaud, of which I only have one bottle left. I've bought several vintages since then … the problem with that wine is that I love it, but it's notoriously hard, and takes about 20 years to come around … I'm not that old, but when you get to a certain age you start to say, "If this wine is going to take 20 years, maybe I should get something else."

I have a pretty good smattering of Australian wines, which I love, even the inexpensive ones. There are some really good wines at a very good price, and even the spectacular wines are quite reasonable. Australian wines are as big and exuberant and fun as the Aussies themselves … I grew up in Texas and my dad was stationed in Australia for 36 months during World War II, so I grew up with a fair inclination toward Aussies … I always thought of the Aussies as the Texans of the British empire. But Australia has some fabulous wines. I also have a bottle of Grange Hermitage from the early '80s, and the other day it occurred to me that I could probably drink that now. I have a bit of Spanish wine now, too. I like the Muga Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva and the Muga Rioja Reserva Selección Especial … Even on the low end, price-wise, they're accessible to people who don't collect wine or have a lot of money.

WS: What about the American wines in your cellar?
JA: I love California. I drank a lot of Zinfandels in the Zin heyday of the early '90s … I have a beautiful Cab Franc or two … I started buying Red Car when they first started out, as a kind of a California garagiste label. The thing about California Cabernet [Sauvignon] is that it's gotten to the point where it's kind of hard to justify a $90, 90-point wine, you know? You can get something like Harlan, which is going to be expensive even on the release, and even more so in the after-market--but you're getting a profound wine for which every care has been taken, so you're getting your money's worth. But for an everyday Cab that's rated 90 points, and it's $90? I keep thinking, "Who the hell has $90 to pour away on a 90-point Cab, when you can get some lovely wine at a third of that price?" As far as the rest of the country, Oregon and Washington obviously make some great wines. When I was at NPR, I was substitute anchoring Morning Edition, and we did a piece on Maryland and Virginia wines. Maryland had some quite nice white wines, and Virginia had some pretty good reds.

WS: You've covered a number of Presidential administrations so far in your career. Do you have any good wine-related stories to share from the Washington trenches?
JA: Sadly, none of [the Presidents] have been big wine drinkers. [George W.] Bush doesn't drink at all. Clinton barely drank--he would occasionally have half a beer, but you'd never see him drinking, unlike Nixon, who would knock 'em back! Reagan would have a drink, but he wasn't really a drinker. [George H.W.] Bush was kind of a social drinker, but none of them drank that much. I would like to see a president with a big cellar, but I think it's unlikely at this point. But I do think that wine transcends politics. It's hard to sit down with someone and enjoy a great glass of wine and continue to dwell on the nastiness that seems to pervade Washington politics these days. I'm on the stressful end of this business, but being able to root around in my cellar for hours, or talk about and drink wine with friends … it's one of the few things that contribute to my being a well-rounded person. Some people whittle, some people ride a motorcycle, and I read about and think about wine.

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