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Former ITN and CNN correspondents in Wine Enthusiast's top 5

Published:  22 January, 2015

David Smith, the former ITN news correspondent turned winemaker, has received a massive vote of confidence for his Argentinian wine, SonVida, that only had its first vintage in 2007, by being named number four in the prestigious Wine Enthusiast Top100 wines of the year.

Smith was well known face on British television screens for over 30 years covering major wars, most noticeably in the Middle East, and global events, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, around the world.

On retiring from the world of news in the early 2000s, Smith embarked on, what he admitted, was a far more challenging career as a winemaker, along with his wife, Sonia, equally famous in the world of news from her time as a presenter on CNN and Channel 4 News. What's more he did so whilst holding down his job as press secretary to Koffi Annan, then the Secretary General of the United Nations.

David Smith in his Consulta vineyardDavid Smith in his Consulta vineyard

After crash courses in wine education and winemaking, the Smiths set their heart on making wine in Consulta in the Uco Valley of Mendoza in Argentina where they has also established their family home.

David Smith admits they bought the land primarily for the view, being in the foothills of the Andes, and not initially for its wine potential, but a little journalistic investigation revealed a major French winery had bought an estate across the road and paid a lot more than they were being asked. The designated wine region, Altamira, is now recognised as producing some of the best Malbec in Argentina.

He also admits they had good mentors in Nicolas and Laura Catena and their vineyard manager, Luis Reginato, who helped them build up their own vines with winemaker Alejandro Vigil.

His journey from senior news correspondent to aspiring winemaker was depicted in his absorbing and appropriately named autobiography, Dream On.

The Smiths' SonVida wines have already been well received in the market, achieving praise and high scores from leading critics, including Jancis Robinson MW. They have also found their way on to some high profile wine lists around the world and have been supported from the start by Gaucho's wine director, Phil Crozier, who was quick to have Son Vida on his list.

Harpers has also followed the Smith's wine career with interest making them the cover profile in April 2011. At the time David Smith told Harpers that although "big time journalism is competitive, it is nothing like the world of wine where you have thousands of new offerings ever year".

Sonia agreed: "Television news is all about the moment, the excitement of witnessing the world change moment by moment. News forces you to be alert to what is wrong in the world. The world of wine is more hopeful. It forces us to be optimistic. No matter if frost or drought hurt us this year. The next vintage will always be better in our dreams."

David added: "I've stopped looking back at what happened in Africa, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and the US. In the world of wine you have to look forward. You have to prepare for the next harvest. The challenge is always ahead of you, never behind you."

Being named number four wine in the hugely influential US publication, Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 wines for 2014 is arguably a dream come through for the Smiths, particularly at such an early stage in their winemaking career. David Smith told he is now looking to build his own winery close to his home and vineyards in Consulta so that he can be completely hands on with the winemaking.  

He added: "The news from New York, and Wine Enthusiast, came as a terrific boost to all of us who have worked on the vineyard, and our wine SonVida. We owe so much to those who have taught us so much, from the Quiiroga family who live on the land, from Luis Reginato as he built the vineyard, from Ale Vigil a genius winemaker, and from the family of our dear friend Nicolas Catena who encouraged us so much from the start to take our land in Altamira, and make it the best it could be.

"Our hope is to maintain the high standards set for us by all our allies on this venture, and to keep SonVida flowing, and growing, to our partners in the UK, the United States and Argentina itself. Yes, it's been  quite a journey over 15 years, but we've been blessed to have met so many friends along the way - and to have learned from them. Being a war correspondent was one kind of challenge, making a fine wine quite another, and every year the challenge comes round again, which the two of us love.'

The Wine Enthusiast listing was for Smith's SonVida 2012 wine made from Malbec. Wine Enthusiast described the wine as: "This gorgeous Malbec gets it right. Compact, minerally aromas of blackberry are deep and a bit feral. The palate is juicy and pulses with ribald berry fruit and acidity. Blackberry flavours are beefy, salty and a touch roasted, while the finish is baked, rich and perfectly oaked."

The SonVida wines are available in the UK at the Gaucho restaurants and are distributred by  Argentinian specialists, Hispa Merchants. 

David Smith with his wine, SonVida

David Smith with his wine, SonVida

Smith has turned himself from globe trotting TV news corresspondent to winemaker