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I have just had an article on ‘personality and wine’ published by Fine Wine Magazine (here). It is a topic I get asked about a lot but tend to avoid in case I am misquoted. Any comment on personality and motivation can be a bit of a minefield but I hope Obama is not too put out by my speculations about his wine related White House decisions. Nixon, I am not too worried about…
On a similar note (what shapes our tastes and choices), yesterday I was contacted by Tim Hanni an MW based in Napa. He delivers training on food taste preferences and has some accessible content on his website (here) including videos on the topic. His ‘Vinotype’ taste profiler (here) is fun and very quick to complete. Despite a few methodological reservations I think it has something really helpful to say and Tim’s approach aims to empower individuals to explore their own profile and preferences. Always an admirable pursuit.
I have added a few wine courses to the page (here) and a few more reviews and references on the research page (here). There are also some tastings coming up which I hope to find time to write up (including one at an intriguing pop up bar and another in the Tower of London armoury). Often the venues are really interesting and wine has introduced me to some lovely, and sometimes strange, buildings. Recent forays to the Japanese Embassy were great in terms of the hospitality but the best thing was being able to see some of the paintings that live there. Lots of Sakura and Fuji in traditional and modern styles. The ‘Wish for recovery ‘ pictures from children expressing sympathy and solidarity following the earthquake that are displayed in the foyer are also well worth a look.
A recent private tasting with a bunch of collectors was interesting because the high values of some of bottles generally didn’t show when tasted. I am never sure how many private collectors are willing to pay the extra for good provenance or for storing their wines optimally. Some of the wines from the 80′s showed signs of poor storage and would not stand up to more recent (cheaper) vintages. I suspected at least one of being counterfeit but did not want to embarass the collector who enthused about it. It could be that a high percentage of investment wines are duds in terms of drinkability but as investment vehicles retain their momentum in terms of value. It’s a strange economic world as many in New York have been drawing attention to during demonstrations on Wall Street (pictured).
The local papers here are full of more counterfeit wine and spirits seizures. Scams exist at every level of the food, and wine, chain and it is always telling at which level the state chooses to focus its crime fighting resources. Crooked bankers and multinational fraudsters often seem to escape the scrutiny and sanctions that others find themselves under.
Fully refreshed from a lovely week with the family in Crete I am determined to catch up with marking, writing, emails etc. At some point I will try and review the various wines I tasted although I was not overly impressed with most from Crete itself. For me it is lagging behind Santorini and other regions in terms of quality consistency. The local olive oil can’t be faulted though.
Lots has been going on in the wine world since I last blogged including the ‘retirement’ of Gary Vaynerchuk (pictured above left) and the eruption of Etna. Gary will be greatly missed, despite his use of rating scales whilst simultaneously denouncing them, because of his energy and unstuffy approach to wine. If you haven’t ever watched any of his videos check them out asap.
Below is a press release from the Antique Wine Company announcing a new ‘Academy’ offering wine courses. One aim of winepsych.com is to provide information on courses (see education and wine courses page here) so it seemed sensible to post this. A brief disclaimer is that I am not in any way connected to them, although I would happily deliver sessions on psychology if asked (and declare it…), and I haven’t seen the full timetable or curriculum. Anyway here it is…
The Antique Wine Company, well known for the buying and selling of fine and rare wines, announced today, the launch of its AWC Wine Academy. The company who set a new Guinness World Record last week for the sale of the most expensive bottle of white wine in the world (an 1811 Château d’Yquem), is creating the wine school in response to first hand evidence of their clients desire to extend their wine knowledge and a general growing trend to know more about the subject.
While many people might feel intimidated in attempting to learn about wine, the AWC Wine Academy seeks to break down those barriers by offering courses that are structured and informative, yet relaxed and entertaining in their delivery.
Conveniently situated in the plush, central London district of Marylebone, the AWC Wine Academy aims to establish itself as a centre of excellence in the métier of wine, both within its locality and further afield, across London and both nationally and internationally.
Having appointed the respected, award-winning wine journalist John Stimpfig as Director of the AWC Wine Academy, the school is already setting a precedent in the quality of its teaching. It has secured a range of highly regarded wine specialists, such as Tim Atkin MW, one of the world’s most celebrated wine authorities, as well as other respected MWs and experienced wine professionals, as guest tutors.
Stephen Williams, Managing Director of The Antique Wine Company, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer such high quality courses that will be run by high calibre tutors, who are current leading experts in the wine field. The aim of the AWC Wine Academy is to become a central resource for the wine industry, not only teaching those with little or no prior knowledge of wine, but those also working in the industry, who wish to progress and extend their knowledge of the subject. We would like to offer professional training for example, for the hospitality industry, where there is an inherent need, here and abroad.”
As an adjunct to the Antique Wine Company, the AWC Wine Academy has unrivalled access to some of the best chateaux and winemakers in the world. This only strengthens their offering and participants in the courses are able to benefit from this, by visits to esteemed vineyards and winemakers, as well as through unique tastings on-site.
The first series of courses led by Tim Atkin MW begin on September 21, 2011. Titled: Essential Wine Tasting Techniques for Beginners, the course offers a jump start in wine knowledge from a wine expert who is not only knowledgeable on the subject of wine, but who can communicate it in an informative, yet genial way.
Highlights include: classic tasting techniques, blind tastings, top tips and trade secrets, describing wine and assessing quality, understanding different wine styles, grape varieties, countries, regions and price points, food and wine matching and serving tips and techniques.
Running over four weeks the evening sessions will begin at 7 pm and run until 8.30 pm, culminating in the re-tasting of wines sampled during the session and food matching, which will end at 9 pm. The course cost is £360 per person for four weekly sessions.
For more information and to book a course, contact Deborah Ives, Director of AWC Wine Academy Operations: Tel: +44 (0)20 3219 5588 or Email: email@example.com
To view all available courses go to: http://www.antique-wine.com
Hopefully Etna will settle down over coming days but I couldn’t help marvelling at some of the images. They reminded me of John Martin’s work which is soon to be displayed at Tate Britain in a show aptly entitled ‘Apocalypse’ (21st September 2011 to 15th January 2012).
“It is my firm belief that in order to make any real change in the fight against alcohol related harm, the efforts must be high not only on the public health agenda, but also on the agenda of all stakeholders, including schools, employers, NGOs, alcoholic drinks producers, distributors, the advertising and media industries, local/national authorities, Member States and the European Union.”
- European Commissioner for Health, June 2007
With the above in mind there is a conference scheduled in Brussels on the 13th April. Abstract below;
“Although recent statistics indicate that total alcohol consumption in Europe is falling, European citizens are still the highest consumers of alcohol in the world. Furthermore, worrying trends are emerging in relation to under-age drinking, binge-drinking and drink-driving, with the EU’s own statistics on the economic and social cost of alcohol related harm making sobering reading:
• Alcohol responsible for 7.5% of all ill-health and early death in EU
• 60 acute or chronic diseases caused by excessive alcohol consumption
• More than 10,000 deaths a year are due to alcohol-related road accidents
• Tangible economic cost in Europe of over €125 billion
Whilst overall adult consumption is decreasing, with alcohol becoming more affordable in nearly all member states in the last decade, there has been a steady rise in harmful drinking patterns, particularly amongst younger people. Unless policymakers across Europe act quickly, this alarming trend in under-age drinking and binge drinking will have adverse long term effects on young people’s lives and future development. Campaigns to raise awareness, an understanding of the underlying social consequences and better access to education are all steps towards reversing this trend. Developing a methodology that involves all relevant authorities in young people’s lives such as schools, public health organizations, local government and NGO’s is crucial. Coordination at national and EU level could result in a stronger regulatory framework preventing the access of alcohol to minors as well as better awareness campaigns.
This International Symposium will gather comparative experience and best practices in early intervention strategies based around young people and their families, and tackle other key consequences of under-age drinking such as anti-social behaviour and drink-driving. It will also discuss the potential role of national governments and regional authorities in supporting campaigns to combat the issue and the dissemination of lessons learned from different European countries.
The Centre for Parliamentary Studies welcomes the participation of all key partners, responsible authorities and stakeholders. The Symposium will support the exchange of ideas and encourage delegates to engage in thought-provoking topical debate.” Speakers include Dr. Adrian Bonner (Reader in the Addictions Behaviour Group).
Unfortunately I am not able to attend but I hope the conference attracts delegates and look forward to useful outcomes. The Drinkaware website has some good resources to support young people in making healthy decisions here.
Why is one of the most powerful psychoactive drugs we have so socially acceptable in so many countries? … is a question you don’t hear many in the wine trade asking very often. In fact wine is seen as sophisticated in a way most alcohol isn’t so it is especially privileged in the world of ‘drugs’. I do not think that there is a conspiracy and many wine writers do engage with health issues but ‘we invite you to a vertical tasting of…’ sounds very different from ‘come and indulge in a drugfest with likeminded heads….’. Wine is the most sublimated of drugs in the way that the social ritual of imbibing has become sign of sophistication rather than inadequacy or dependency. This could be seen as rooted in the ancient ideas of wine having metaphysical connections and being an aid to contemplation. Linked to this was the idea that it was noble to ‘hold your drink’ and not become base or drunken.
I know people say that they would drink wine and be fascinated by its taste even if it was non-alcoholic (and am sure this is true for a small minority) but the vast majority of people associate this juice with a pleasant intoxication (or unpleasant when a hangover results). They buy it for a buzz as well having something nice to go with food and to display their sophistication.
‘Big Pharma’ has to do a few good deeds to distract people from the massive profits it amasses (although Glaxo have just lost a fortune on one new product that had some unfortunate outcomes in trials) and the Wellcome Trust excels at this. The latest exhibition ‘High Society’ at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road is aposite because it focuses on drugs. The exhibition guide opens by stating “Every society on earth is a high society” and continues by suggesting that consciousness alteration is a “universal human impulse”‘. Whether use of specific substances is categorised as a crime, vice, disease, recreation, ritual or everyday practice is very much arbitrary and rooted in socio-historical dimensions not in the nature or effects of the substance itself.
In the spirit of scientific categorisation an excerpt from the ‘Exhibit Captions’ follows;
21 Amyl Nitrite, 22 Digital cannabis vaporiser, 23 Wine, 24 Lophophora williamsii (Peyote catus), 25 Opium pipe
It was also sobering to see some of the prohibition posters presenting wine as a gateway drug (image above)! The website (here) also has some superb images and they are free for educational purposes. This great exhibition runs until 27th February and the standing collection, library, bookshop and cafe are well worth the time too.
I finally managed a tour of Avery’s cellars during a trip to Bristol. It is something I had been meaning to do for years but I had always been too rushed on trips to the area. This time I was an external examiner for a Doctorate on autism at Bristol Uni and the thesis was defended so effectively that I had a bit more spare time than usual so snatched the opportunity to explore this Bristol institution.
The City Museum & Art Gallery is handily situated in an OTT Edwardian building close to the University and on the way to Avery’s. I try to pop in when I visit the city as the ceramics collection is good and they usually have something of interest going on. At the moment there is an engaging exhibition on the Bristol Aeroplane Company Centenary. I loved the section of a jet wing which looks like a piece of modern sculpture. The Banksy in the hall (angel with a bucket of pink paint on his/her head pictured) also made me laugh and the stunning Chinese lion above it is one of a pair donated when the Chinese embassy had a clear out.
Avery’s is a Bristol institution that goes back over 200 years. The cellars make it one of the more atmospheric places to buy wine. You can browse for single bottles, buy in bulk or En Primeur. Not many places seduce me into buying decent Burgundy (because I often have doubts over how it might have been handled) but Avery’s gives a sense of old school integrity and security. So when I came across some dusty and reduced in price bin-ends, including Remoissenet’s Meursault 1er Cru Goutte D’Or 2005, I couldn’t resist. These ’Golden drops’ (my limited French) were produced in the year Remoissenet was taken over and substantial investment ensued. I have a soft spot for the company as one of my most memorable wines was a Remoissenet 88 Le Montrachet (bottle number 000112). I will try to remember to review it when I open it and to put a link here.
The cellars at Avery’s are full of wonderful period detail from large double doors (with a patina that reads like a book) to bottling equipment and ornate barrel tops (pictured). I even entered ‘the room of death’ which is essentially a very very very musty cellar. Thanks to Frank who showed me around. Try to visit them sometime.
Avery’s, 9 Culver Street, Bristol BS1 5LD
el. 0117 921 4146 Website is here
For locals, Bristol Wine School also run a variety of courses including a 6 week introduction to wine (details here);
As mentioned in a previous blog, I like the Bottle Apostle in Hackney because it represents what is good in the world of wine retail i.e. an independent retailer sourcing interesting bottles directly from producers. So I was lured out for a tasting on a World Cup night and missed the humiliation of France by Mexico. Having spent a lot of time time in both countries I am fond of each but given the way France qualified I was fine with the result.
The tasting of Von Buhl Estate wines was led by the enthusiastic Christoph Graf (pictured right). It was the promise of Forster Pechstein Riesling Eiswein 2007 being opened that persuaded me to attend. I had not tasted this previously (in any vintage) but had been told, by a critic I rate highly, that it should be on my ‘to drink list’. I wasn’t disappointed and its intense finish was still resonating when I got home and checked on the sleeping kids. In fact it sustained through the highlights of the world cup games and if I hadn’t felt the need to clean my teeth before bed would probably have still been there when I woke up. A really wonderful example of noble rot that is becoming rarer due to climate change. I hope to live long enough to try it when it is in its prime and will look out for older vintages in the interim.
It was good to see the room full as these type of events are often loss leaders (although it gets quite hot for storage in the basement and they should find a better home for the wines that are there). The manager Tom has told me that they can sell out cheese and wine evenings but anything more specific tends to be more difficult. I hope they persevere because tastings like this are a public service as well as good marketing.
Three hours of tasting and discussion followed. I had already eaten but everyone else appeared more than happy with a succession of Vietnamese dishes to accompany the wines. I like to drink Riesling with South East Asian food and have had some great bottles at David Thompson’s Nahm at the Halkin. It was interesting to see the demographic profile of tasters, (young couples embodying the gentrification of Victoria Park and the increasing interest in wines among this age group). At times I found myself as intrigued by body language and social displays as I was by the wine.
I enjoyed comparing the Forster Pechstein Riesling Grosse Gewachs 2008 with’ its joined-at -the-hip’ sister Grand Cru, Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Grosse Gewachs 2008. The former, edgy when young with nice apricot notes and an underlying saltiness attributed to the black basalt (pitch stone) that gives it its name. The Ungeheuer, more traditional, fruit forward and intense floral notes, but for me less precise than the Pechstein.
A 2005 Ungeheuer was decanted but remained tight and is likely to become more approachable and relaxed over the next 5 years. I would like to try it in its tertiary stage because I am intrigued by the complexity and subtlety these wines have towards the end of their life. Many of the wines at this tasting were enjoyable but I constantly found myself thinking of a decade ahead when they are in full song.
For future tastings and workshops check out the website here.
The Bottle Apostle, Victoria Park Village, 95 Lauriston Road, Hackney, London E9 7HJ Tel. 020 8985 154
I have been trying to catch up on what has been happening in the UK since returning from the USA. A key story for me has been the recently announced grant of £1.6 million from the European Commission to help develop wine education. It was also good to hear that Plumpton Agricultural College (website here) will be leading the way in delivering the classes. I have happy memories of going to open days at the college when young and hope to visit the next one with my own children. I have also corresponded with Chris Foss who runs the wine courses and it is clear that Plumpton are leading the way at the moment in terms of English viticultural curricular development. As an educator I am passionate about investment at this level and am relieved in these tough times that money, albeit it never enough, can be found to support the development of important programmes such as those run at Plumpton.
It is positive that investment is being made to encourage people to train in viticulture as this is what underpins the whole industry. Becoming a Master of Wine is perhaps more attractive to many as there are less cold mornings spent in fields but without a new generation of makers there would be little role for the retailers, critics and bloggers…
Times online story here