So, I’m currently sat in the Italian Alps, with a black Americano in the bar while the weather is particularly poor, with time to kill before my massage, after an all inclusive lunch with free booze. I can feel your hearts bleed for me in this terrible situation. #PrayForJordan
What it does do is give me some time to think. I’ll save a vineyard update for when I’m actually at the vineyard, but for now, I can think about wine in general and ask some philosophical questions… which you may or may not care about.
Believe it or not, if you’d have asked me five years ago what I thought about wine, I’d have told you it was the most pointless interest anyone could have, that it was full of arrogant people who looked down their noses at people who couldn’t tell their Chardonnay from their Sauvignon Blanc (I wouldn’t have known the difference of these varietals so I’d have failed instantly). This rep of wine and those interested in wine was, for me, a bad one. It was something only those with excess money, time and a spare ivory tower were interested in, I thought.
I was of course leaning massively on stereotypes here. But that is, sadly, the point. Back then, all I had to benchmark ‘wine experts’ were lots of people in the media who shouted down those in the dark about wine, wine culture and norms. “You hold your glass like that, darling! How cute you look, but you’re wrong” I remember one ‘expert’ saying on the TV. Cooking shows in the UK often have a wine expert come on to pair whatever’s being made. These people tended to appear above everyone else, because they knew what grape went with which meat. I. Couldn’t. Stand. It.
Fast forward five years and look at me… currently writing a blog for a wine website, talking about growing my own wine and even reviewing some! What the hell happened?
It was definitely a slow burning process, getting into wine, but it was definitely broken own into three parts; Culture, taste and opportunity. Let me break those down.
You’re never going to get into a sport or hoody if you think the culture around it stinks. With the stereotypical rep of wine people (I need to find a name for a group interested in wine) I was never going to get involved. However, during my university years at drama school, more and more people were drinking wine. University was where I had my drinking eureka moment but that’s never to be put on the internet!
With my friends and I slowly drinking more and more types of wine, I started to find my feet. It become more and more normal to bring a ‘good’ bottle of wine to a gathering. The definition of good was very vague, but it was wine none the less.
This was followed by more encounters with people I liked and respected being interested in their wine. It was my gateway into the subject. If X likes wine, surely it can’t be that bad! And so my real journey began…
Let’s get this out of the way early on. When I was younger I had a selective eating disorder, meaning that I’d only eat incredibly specific things. Even down to the brand. I could tell the difference between my brand of chicken nuggets and any others that my parents dared to put in front of me. I am still a master of the Pepsi challenge. What this meant is that while everyone else was growing up and developing their taste buds, I was very much not. As well all now know, taste is a vital part of the wine experience.
Because I didn’t have this educated pallet, I couldn’t enjoy a lot of food. Or at least it took me far longer to enjoy food that those around me. I don’t say this for sympathy, more so you understand why I’m only just getting into food and other things that ACTUALLY have taste.
So over the years I’ve managed to more or less overcome this phobia of different foods. I was once told I would never eat pizza because I simply couldn’t, because I had a phobia of different textures and a certain distrust of cheese. Well… watch me eat an entire large Domino’s pizza in one sitting, with cheesy garlic bread and potato wedges now! I feel very sick after but it’s worth it!
This means that my tastebuds have caught up at speed, and I can actually now enjoy the true flavours of my food and drink. I enjoyed my breakfast this morning of pancakes, bacon and a drowning of maple syrup more than I can read to mention. But all of this taste discovery again helped me get into wine. It was an area that I knew supposedly had different tastes, and as I sampled more and more I realised that not only could I taste the differences, I was working out what food went well with which wine! I started to become a secret wine novice.
All of this was possible thanks to some great opportunities I had to actually sample wine. With dinner parties at uni introducing me to wine and my tastebuds now working at more or less full speed, I could really start to tell wine apart… a bit!
Meeting more people and going out more meant more opportunities to explore other peoples interest in wine. My girlfriends family are very into their wine, which again was a huge opportunity to explore different examples of this world. The more I was exposed to it, the more I was hooked by its amazing secrets and opportunities.
This is where I started to question why they tasted so different, why one was more fruity than the other, why one left horrible red marks on my lips and the other didn’t. All of this led to the biggest opportunity of them all… having my own vineyard.
The opportunity to share my experience with people has meant I’ve been able to talk to some incredibly friendly, welcoming, engaging and exciting people who share an obsession with wine like I do. This view directly opposes my original one. I found that, on the whole, wine people are so lovely and supportive and caring!
So what does this long, rambling, deeply personal account tell me about wine? Well… its got a bad rep for sure, which is down to the few rather than the many. It’s down to people who I don’t think truly care about wine, but like to use it as a badge of superiority over others. The vast majority of people I’ve met in my journey have been nothing but friendly and supportive of my learning.
And the question is, how do we change this reputation? Through communities like this for sure, being welcoming voices rather than patronising ones. I don’t think I can Calum myself as a voice of knowledge, but I’ll certainly do my best to welcome anyone and everyone into this mad, amazing world of wine! All I ask is that we, the ones who obsess over every grape, do our best to remember that we are changing peoples views of wine, and that it will take time, patience, tenacity and some prayers. Much like growing wine then.
Cheers to all of you beautiful people out there!