This blog has been a portal for me to discuss all things wine, that my long suffering other half doesn't care about listening to. It has given me the confidence to write using a subject I am knowledgeable about as a basis and has whetted my appetite to continue scribbling down my thoughts. As such, I shall be expanding this site to include not only drunken ramblings (which I thought was a really clever pun because it's where i'll talk about booze...) but also the musings of a curly haired weirdo, which is the affectionate nickname given to me by the aforementioned other half. This will be a compilation of basically anything that pops into my brain. I hope you all enjoy.
Expert (Noun) : A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area - Oxford Dictionary
People ask me for advice on a daily basis. I have spent almost a year and half learning about wine and have at least another year in front of me, at which point I will have completed the highest accolade given by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.
I can (on a good day!) be given a wine and tell you what it is and maybe if you are lucky even what part of the world it is from. And yet I still wouldn't call myself an expert. This is for two reasons. The first is that the older I become and the more I learn about the world, the more I realise how much I have to learn. (I'm talking about wine for this post but it's becoming increasingly apparent that this is applicable to most aspects of grown up life). The second is the connotation of what being a wine expert gives off. It makes you sound like a posh wanker. I've tried to come up with a better word to describe myself : wine buff, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado but they all sound so pretentious.
Semantics aside being an expert (i.e working and studying) in this field does throw up some interesting quandaries.
You wouldn't ask a nurse whether or not they are injecting you with the correct vaccine or question your personal trainer as to if you really had to do that 3rd rep of weights, but the validity of my suggestions are upon occasion met with doubt and, in keeping with the society that we live in, subjected to approval via way of social media usually along the lines of a public rating service like Vivino or wine-searcher.com
This makes me feel one of three ways and often all at the same time
1) Oh crap. This is it. What if my suggestion really wasn't that good after all. Crap. What do I say if it's bad? Do I laugh it off? Do I dismiss it? Do I admit to being wrong even though I thought I was choosing the best thing. So much studying for nothing. Pleeeeeeaaaaasssseeee let them say good things about this wine. Why is the wifi taking so long to deliver my judgement?! They are going to think I have no clue what I'm on about if it says this is a shit wine and then they will never listen to a recommendation again. THEY ARE GOING TO COMPLAIN THAT I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA AND I'LL GET SACKED. DEAR GOD JUST PUT ME OUT OF THIS MISERY.
2) Why don't they just trust my advice. I'm an honest person. I wouldn't sell them crap intentionally. I've studied this stuff, I know what I'm on about...most of the time.
3) Fair enough. That bottle of wine would take me X amount of hours to earn. I would want to make sure it's not shit too.
The outcome of which leads to two reactions
1) I WAS RIGHT! Haha! You should trust yourself more, not so useless after all. Pat yourself on the back *Keep professional face on and just accept it with good grace*
2) Damn it.
Recently I spoke to a few colleagues about this stressing me out and whether they had noticed it was a growing trend too and one of them said something quite interesting. He said that we are the trained professionals with a (usually) more comprehensive palate and that they should trust us which got me thinking.
1) I am more knowledgeable about wine than my customers, I take into consideration what wine they usually like, what they are eating, their budget etc and therefore they should listen to what I am saying without checking it against none educated opinions. Does this not undermine the years of studying I have and will do? I use the word opinion on purpose here, as I have learnt to assess wine in a more technical manner than your average Joe would, surely that makes my opinion more valid?
2) Lighten the fuck up Aleesha. It's just wine. Now where is that bottle of Echo Falls fruit infusions....
Cotes de Provence - France
From the Bottle
'...48 hectares...in the heart of the Cote d'Azur. Made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah & Rolle, this cuvee is attractively coloured, fragrant and seductively long'
Price £10.99/ £9.49 - Majestic Wine single bottle/mix six
Provence roses are all the rage at the moment but I have to be honest and say they overwhelmingly underwhelm me. Pink wines are like fruit tea. They look good and smell absolutely divine, full of promise and bursting at the brim with fruit aromas, but when it comes to the crunch they lack flavour and guts.
This wine is a beautiful light coral with aromas of strawberry, peach, red cherry and white floral notes. So far so good... onto the palate and it actually tastes of something, hurrah! Red cherry and peach comes through to say a welcome hello with a hint of grapefruit citrus. Well balanced acidity with a decent body which would enable it to match with freshwater fish like sardines, trout and salmon.
Definitely one of the better roses I have tried and pretty good just on its own in the sun. Although do note that being quite delicate on taste whilst still being 13.5% abv it's a creeper upper!
Rating - Worth scraping your pennies together for
This is the quote famously attributed to a French monk called Dom Perignon when he first tasted the sparkling splendour that we now know as Champagne and which many believe to be the moment that bubbles were born. However, whilst Perignon is important to the world of fizz, he wasn't the creator.
Effervescence in wine has been written about since the Ancient Greeks and Romans although back then they thought it was to do with the Luna cycle and the spirit world, but in 'relatively' modern history the purposeful making of sparkling wine did start in France just not where you would imagine.
The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux (roughly translated as white of Limoux) based on the Mauzac grape, invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531. It would seem that those monks just love a glass or two of sparkly stuff!
They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended, referred to now as the rural or ancestral method.
Fast forward a century and an English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation 6 years before Dom Pérignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautville and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne! Merret even presented a paper at the Royal Society in 1662 describing what is now called methode champenoise or should that really be methode anglais? Either way I was lucky enough to try lots of it on my recent adventures to Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot.
It's been a month since I last blogged (I REALLY need to be more disciplined) and jeez has a lot happened! In European news alone the UK voted to leave the EU, there was an attempted coup in Turkey and another tragic attack occurred in France and that's just scratching the surface. It feels a little shallow and hollow to blog about wine when the world seems to be in such chaos, but aside from trying to keep myself up to date with news and promote tolerance towards other humans, I feel there isn't much more I can do than 'Keep Calm and Carry On' and so with the greatest respect I move onto matters I am more adept to dealing with.
In my personal life the last month has also seen a few changes. I've moved within my company and am now technically the Fine Wine specialist. It's an opportunity to learn about great wines, logistics and distribution but I do feel like a bit of a fraud when it comes to selling them. It's not like I can just rummage about the back of the sofa for change to buy a casual bottle of Chateau Latour and whilst it would be a fantastic experience to try, it somewhat goes against my ideal that wine should be open to everyone.
In other news I've taken unit 6 of my diploma - Fortified Wines - which I'm currently awaiting the results of. Not that I'm holding out much hope, it was pretty damn difficult. Tip Top: Do not think they won't test you on the less 'important' wines like Madeira, VDNs or cream sherry - I got them all.
Moving on to more positive things, today the sun came out! Apparently summer will last for the next 3 days this year. I've made the most of it by cracking open the pink drink. Currently sipping on Famille Abeille Rose -Provence, 'tis good.
There are quite a few other things I could ramble about such as my 2 recent trips to Champagne and a great book that I'm reading which looks at anthropology of wine, but they deserve separate blogs.
So for now readers I bid you goodnight, till my next blog (which will be sooner than a month!)
The last few weeks seem to have gone by in a blur! I've been to several tastings including the Big Fortified Tasting - Marsala and Madeira where an absolute REVELATION (i'll try and blog a little about them this week) and of course the London Wine Fair, which is basically a who's who in wine world. Add to that work, visiting parents, class, trying and mostly failing at studying and my fella's birthday celebrations (for which his best friend came over from his home town in Oz to see him and therefore made me feel like I had to deliver something pretty damn good) and casually trying to renovate my flat and I can't believe it's already May!
The main thing I'm stressing about though is my upcoming exam. It's in 16 DAYS! and I don't feel in the least bit like i've revised enough , so now I'm starting to go into panic mode. For level 3 I felt the same but had 4 days off beforehand, so was able to cram , but no such luck this time.
I have a trip to Bollinger tomorrow (it's sometimes a hard life I know) a press tasting to help out on and a whole host of other life things to do in the meantime. I know I'm not the first or last person to be in this situation and I count myself lucky that these are my 'first world problems' but that really doesn't make me feel any more relaxed about the situation.
Why is it when it comes to revision, that I'm the only one that seems to have to put effort in? I would class myself as a pretty smart girl, but I do have to put time in to get good marks. How is it fair that there always seems to be someone that just glances at the book and have a photographic memory? Is this like the intelligence equivalent of winning the generic lottery and becoming a model or are they just lying to look cool?
I think I should probably finish this blog now before I over-think things, and I have enough to think about right now as it is... like what to pack when there is a thunderstorm predicted with highs of 23 and lows of 11?!
Earlier last week I went to The Real Wine Fair, a showcase for those who produce organic, bio dynamic and low intervention wines. I've been to a couple of these fairs now so have a little understanding how they work. Tip: Grab the booklet and tasting glass at the entrance (took me a little while to figure out where every one got their glasses from on my first one!) take a few minutes to read the booklet and then attack!
Now whilst I have been to a few wine fairs, this was my first 'niche' one and I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've heard both sides of the argument when it comes to organic wines, both bad and good, and after my day I can start to understand them both, although I overwhelmingly enjoyed most of the wines available.
Unfortunately, I don't think people en mass will take to these wines for a few reasons. They are cloudy (because they haven't been filtered) slightly more expensive and I found usually accompanied by a bitten, browning green apple aroma, which I actually found pleasant but can understand wouldn't be to everyone's liking.
Nethertheless it was a great opportunity to try some previously unknown to me wines, such as pet nat (naturally sparkling), Georgian varities dating back to eons ago and even a few things from Wales, which sums up the whole reason I love wine! It's a never ending, rather tasty, life long, education.
I come from a pretty standard working-cum-middle class family. Daughter of a nurse and telecoms engineer, born and raised in Birmingham (the second most populous UK city) and I didn't go to Uni, which statistically puts me in the majority, as more people don't have degrees than do.
So I think that puts me in a pretty good position to represent the average person, something which I think people working in wine sometimes forget about.
In a nutshell the programme came across exactly as I was hoping it wouldn't, pretentious.
The programme is sol d on the back of two posh actors who for the duration of the series live in a huge Italian villa. (I do fully appreciate that is this TV and things should look beautiful!) but the cast along with other things, like the first item being about the very obscure Vin de Constance (a good feature but perhaps best placed further into the series when viewers are feeling more comfortable) and the use of a £300 Coravin (again interesting info but maybe not straight away, bearing in mind that most watching will have just twisted a screw-cap to pour their accompanying evening glass of wine) followed by the swift comment of 'Just buy a £300 bottle...' did little to dis-wade the idea that the wine industry is snobbish, lacking in diversity and only for those of a particular socio-economic group.
That all being said there were lots of good points to the show. The production values, notable enthusiasm and knowledge of JoeFattorini and the actual content of the items were great, it just needs to be pitched slighly differently, especially when considering that it is sponsored by Aldi and scheduled before 'You've been Framed' (On ITV)
As a wine lover I really hope that this series does well, but as an average person I need it be tweaked in order for me to continue watching.
So a few days ago I had my first diploma day at WSET headquarters. Apart from Level 3 and a few short courses I haven't really studied since school (having gone straight into the working world after A Levels) and even then I wasn't particularly good at it.
What I have always found difficult wasn't necessarily the subject matter but the actually studying. It seems strange to say but school never actually taught me HOW to study.
During Level 3 I started to develop an understanding of what worked best for me but just as I was finding my swing it was exam time.
It obviously worked well enough though because here I am now revising for my first diploma exam, which seems scarily soon seeing as I have only just done my first day - May 26th and I'm stressing a little about if my studying techniques are good enough.
I'm not quite yet back into the routine of things, partially I think because I'm a bit nervous about the scale of what I've taken on and having not been to Uni I've no experience of long term studying, so not quite sure to expect. All that being said, I've learnt quite a few new things already (my poor friends and family have already started to be bombarded with random wine facts) but if the rest of the course is as interesting as day 1 then I say bring it on!
From the Bottle
'A smart and snappy, savoury red from Romania. Feteasca Neagra is an old, native grape variety with a new twist on peppery blackcurrant flavours.'
Price £4 Available at Asda
Feteasca Neagra translates to Black Maiden (which I think would make a really kick ass name for a comic book heroine) and even though it is one of the oldest varieties in the world I'd never heard of it until I stumbled upon it in Asda. In fact I've only had one Romanian wine which was a Pinot Noir and whilst perfect quaff-able it was nothing to write home about and was rather expecting the same to happen with this wine.
The first thought that came into my head when I smelt this wine was blackberry pie (I love pie) with cherry, woodsmoke and herbal undernotes. Upon tasting it has more red fruits with a cranberry and raspberries coming to the forefront. The fruit tastes ripe with fresh acidity, chalky tannins and slight white pepper.
A medium bodied wine that would make an interesting alternative to Sangiovese, Beaujolais or Mencia (especially at the price!)
Definitely worth scraping your pennies together for