The Warm Up Act

Before We get Started

it's time to

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 What is the connection between tasting wine, COVID and house hunting in France? I’m imagining that most of you are reading this and thinking that I’ve finally lost it, but stick with me and I’ll explain briefly, and it’s nothing to do with losing my sense of taste, unless buying a Barry Manilow CD counts. 

 If you are into your wine and want to take it further, one avenue that you might wish to follow is taking a qualification with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (or WSET as they are known). This organisation run a series of excellent courses that are all designed to turn you from a novice to an expert through various examinations and tastings, and it is to this that I want to draw your attention.

 One element is learning their language of explaining what the wine tastes like in a glass. The vocabulary used is designed to make the experience easier to share with others, but for me it has always seemed a little pedestrian and beige in its use of language, and ultimately with some excellent wines one is forced to use a variety of restrictive terms that can be applied to quite a few wines. Bordeaux wines, for instance, run the gamut of black and red fruit, often with additional mentions of oak, vanilla and a touch of forest floor or leather. This is all well and good if you’re only describing one or two wines, but if you’re hoping to make a wine stand out this is where things start to get a little stifling. 

  During the COVID years my thoughts changed because I realised that over the past two and a bit years life seems to have been stripped of any excitement and colour. We sit in our chairs, in our homely bunkers and wonder when a time will come when we’re allowed to go out and play, and use bright descriptions and exotic terminology when talking to each other about wine without sounding frivolous.

 This leads me to the house hunting in France. A couple of months ago I was across the Channel looking for a place to buy, and a variety of estate agents took me on tours of properties while espousing the beauty of the building in terms that almost made me want to move in right away. A dingy cellar became a cosy little wine establishment that could house the viticultural aspirations of Parisian sommelier, and a hole in the roof became a chance to watch the workings of the universe without leaving home!

 Instead of hearing them talk about ‘south-facing facades that have a lot of promise for potential buyers’, they now mention ‘dappled sunshine that would light up the beauteous face of my loved one in a way that could only be achieved in the dreams of the most enlightened of humans’. 

 After a while of hearing these descriptions I became so used to them that if a piece of land wasn’t wrapped in poetic terminology and descriptive acrobatics, I felt quite cheated. This leads me, swiftly, to the nub of my argument. In these rather drab and clinical times, why can’t we rhapsodize and enthuse about things to our hearts content? We might not always get the precise gist, but surely the sense of occasion and enthusiasm will carry us along in a wave of excitement.

 With wine, what I’m proposing is that when we talk to each other about the contents of the glass, we go for the bold, and paint a little bit of descriptive colour into our verbal utterings. It's time to grab wine tasting fun by the scruff of the neck and breathe life back into the plaid corpse.

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 Every time I give motor racing a chance, I firstly get irritated, then this turns to annoyance and finally a sliver of anger courses through me.

 Now, some of you might raise your eyebrows and wonder where this bolt of angry lightning has come from, and what on earth wine has to do with a Grand Prix race? In truth, it’s got nothing to do with the race. It’s that after event, the podium celebration when those three driving bobble heads open their magnums of Champagne; in some cases, very good Champagne, and shake them up before opening them and spraying the crowd, the other drivers, and any living or dead thing within a radius in a display of pure waste (isn’t wasting all that fuel also a pure waste?)!

 You see, I like Champagne and I like celebrating with Champagne, but, for me, this involves mutual happy moments with friends and family where it is poured into a glass; and then with nothing more terrible that the satisfying clink of glasses kissing each other, smiles are exchanged, sips are taken, and the enjoyment of a moment being celebrated with pure luxury is enjoyed.

 In the Harries household these ‘moments’ can range from a birthday to a visit from a friend, and anything else where a celebration is required. What it says to me is how pleased we are to be sharing something special, and how much we rate you that we want to drink something rather lovely and opulent in your presence.

 How can this happen when you just spray it everywhere, except in your mouth. It was made to be consumed in the company of others (although the great author John Mortimer always started each morning with a glass of fizz before coping with his day ahead) and to celebrate the finery of life.

 The things that brought these thoughts swimming recently to the surface again was my attendance at the ‘Taste Champagne London 2022’ event that I was recently fortunate enough to attend in our nation’s capital. It’s a big event on the wine calendar and has just returned following a two-year absence because of …… (don’t make me write it)!

 At the event; the great and good of the various Champagne Houses pour samples for you to taste to demonstrate how their latest releases are going to grab the attention. 

 When the media aren’t networking, they’re seeking out those little glasses of magic, that if left to the sporting community (I know I’ve mentioned racing driving, but let’s not forget all those other sports that shake and spray wantonly) would end up washing the ground. 

 Rant over, let's get on with Winefullness!