I sit here writing this months blog with a lovely glass of 2016 Chamuyo Malbec in my hand thinking about what I could write about, when it suddenly hits me. The one question I get asked more than anything is “if you could drink any wine in the world, what would it be, and why?” Now I’m pretty sure that Sommeliers all over the world are asked this question as much as I am every single day and (sure enough) it would be easy to give a simple answer like – oh it could only ever be Domaine de La Romanée Conti or Penfolds Grange, but is that really the case?? I’m not actually so sure. For me, wine is a way of both engaging and learning. It’s a route to discovering historical places around the world and learning about different cultures; meeting lots of new people in the process. Wine has been grown for centuries by mankind and is probably the most recognised alcoholic beverage around the world (along with beer, whisky and sake).
So I guess if I think about it, the wine I would choose would probably be the 2010 Tris de La Chapelle from Château de Fosse Sèche. It’s a wine that holds a lot of personal meaning to me. It was a wine that I discovered whilst on my first wine tasting tour of the Loire Valley back in 2012 with my dad.
We were attending the Anjou wine fair and came across this small stand with a tall man standing behind it with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. He had a large grin on his face, caught our eye and beckoned us over. Not speaking a huge deal of French I just got to work tasting the wines whilst my dad spoke with this man (whose name turned out to be Guillaume). Long story short, we ended up back at the estate later that day in front of a roaring fire and happily tasted many of their wines with other wine professionals and had a bloody good time as a result. It certainly was a moment to remember.
There have been many times over the years which have literally made me pause during the middle of a busy service simply because the wine has evoked so much emotion and character that I cannot help but stop and take a moment to appreciate it. I always wonder what was happening when these wines were being made, what the wine maker was thinking at that exact moment in time when the grape juice was being poured into the bottle and how over the course of time it would evolve into this almost mystical substance that could evoke so much character and thought. Its definitely one of the highlights of my job.
People often ask how I remember tasting these wines, how could I possibly remember tasting thousands of wines over the years and the simple answer is that unless I have a piece of paper or someway of writing the information down, I often don’t. However, I remember labels very well and I can remember wines based on their flavour profile which is extremely important for a Sommelier. The latter has taken years of practice and training via mentors to enable me to correctly choose wines for food pairing.
I guess to round up the Big Question, I don’t have a favourite wine or indeed a wine that defines me as a Sommelier… I thoroughly enjoy tasting wine and talking to people about how it pairs with food etc… it’s an almost enlightening experience for me. Call me fickle but I, like many other Sommeliers, go through phases of wine discovery and I’m constantly looking for new examples of styles which change my way of thinking and ultimately my latest favourite wine…
By Charles Carron Brown for welliesandwine.co.uk, Head Sommelier of The Forest Side Hotel