Friday, 9 September 2011

Our former wine advisor Bryn starts his French experience... (well... sort of)

My last day at Averys was a smorgasboard of emotions and excitement. Saying goodbye to colleagues, friends, my customers old and new was a good deal tougher than I ever thought it would be. For those customers I did not get the chance to speak to before I left I hope you enjoy exploring the world of wine with Averys! I was completely overwhelmed by the leaving gift of a bottle of Chateau Pontet Canet 2004 that they gave me.

The sadness gave way to gratitude for the awesome experiences and education in wine that Averys has given me. It is something I can never properly repay. Then came excitement which appeared in waves of both dread and happiness. I really have no idea what to expect in the following 18 months and the fear of the unknown is a massively primeval emotion. I can honestly say I have never felt fear in such a way. But having said that, the move out of my flat, in which I have spent the last 6 years, went smoothly, and the plan which I have spent the last 8 months hatching, appears to be coming together (I love it when that happens).

I am currently taking a short holiday just outside the beautiful town of Montauban with a few friends who live here; a little oasis of calm before the carnage begins. Village life in rural France is truly just like the movies and the past few days have been a welcome break after a pretty hectic Bordeaux en primeur campaign. Having wanted calm, there is a bit of work to do here to earn my keep. A few trees fell down last night at the bottom of the garden in a pretty nasty storm. This gave me and my friend James a chance to play with a few boys toys this morning (the photo below should explain my feelings on this matter).

The feeling of doing a bit of manual labour is invigorating and I am excited about the possibility of feeling like this at the end of each day on the vineyard. I have never experienced harvest time on a winery. I have to admit to a certain amount of ignorance to this vital part of the process. This got me to thinking how many of us truly appreciate the blood, sweat, tears and love that go into a bottle of our favourite Friday night accompaniment. I remember reading a Neal Martin blog post a while back wondering whether Baron de Rothschild and his staff were ever upset that many of his wines aren’t being drunk, enjoyed and talked about, but heartlessly traded as commodities and symbols of status. My guess is that he might well be, after all a winemaker surely wants his bottle of wine to be opened and savoured after all! I suppose as consumers we don’t think too much about every part of the process. Up until recently, it was the same with meat, fish, fruit and veg. Suddenly all of that changed.

Things like the organic food movement and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight (which I urge everyone to join by the way, google it) changed our attitudes towards finding the source of the products we consume. So why not the same with wine? When recommending wines to my customers, I tried to find out as much information as possible about the winery so people know a little about the estate and the winemaker. Believe it or not it makes a difference to my perception of the wine. But, when it comes down to the bare knuckles and aching shoulders of actually making wine, I know very little. The reason for me leaving my cosy life and great job was to spend a little time at the coalface of winemaking, to really throw myself into the deep-end. I feel it is my duty as a wine lover to experience every painful, backbreaking, emotionally draining moment that goes into a bottle. My hope is that through this I will love every single bottle I consume just that little bit more for those very reasons.

I leave for Chateau de Bel tomorrow but for now I will have to content myself with consuming copious amounts of duck, in the company of fine friends, playing drinking backgammon with the local rose costing £22 for 10 litres.

It’s a tough life...

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