All posts filed under: Travels

Travelling with wine

Upon arrival at Stockholm airport, I received an sms from Air France informing me that they were “tracking my suitcase”. I had just come back from a trip to Chile and my suitcase appeared to have missed the Paris-to-Stockholm leg of the journey. I wasn’t unduly concerned, clothes are replaceable – and in this instance Air France would probably be doing me a favour if they were to be lost forever – but in my suitcase I did have six bottles of rather good Chilean wine that I was looking forward to consume. The following day my luggage made it back to Sweden and a courier service obligingly delivered it to my door. Somewhat unsettlingly, though, it came wrapped in a huge thick transparent sack. I removed the plastic – it was reassuringly dry inside – and next unzipped the case. All my clothes were their original colour, no red streaks anywhere, but there was a distinct perfume pervading the air. I initially thought a cosmetic bottle might have leaked until the smell started to make sense. Lees, apples…It was Chardonnay. Whenever I travel …

Wine tasting on Paros island at Moraitis Winery

I spent some of the summer of 2015 with my family on the island of Paros in Greece. Our hotel had no dining facilities and so we ate out in the small fishing town of Naoussa every evening. The restaurants we visited were all excellent as was the wine. We made a point of choosing Greek wines and on quite a few occasions we had local wines suggested to us. Local included wines from other islands such as neighbouring Santorini but also wines from Paros island itself. The latter were quite unique and made from grape varieties that I had not previously encountered. The producer of those intriguing wines was Moraitis and happened to be located in Naoussa, a short distance from the town centre. One afternoon when it was simply too hot to be on the beach I set off to find out more about the winery. I stepped into the cool building and found myself in the main tasting room. I was not alone. Quite a few tourists were there too, having escaped the heat, and were …

MW – A journey to higher knowledge

I recently received an email from the Alumni Association of my university which opened with a rhetorical question on whether my education had helped me achieve something great. I am not sure about “achievement” as such but one great thing it did help me with was being accepted on the Masters of Wine programme. The Institute of Masters of Wine was formed in 1955 to “promote professional excellence and knowledge of the art, science and business of wine” (www.mastersofwine.org). Although originally set up in London, the organisation is now international with events and workshops taking place all over the world and members from more than 28 different countries. The Masters of Wine Examination is and has always been notoriously difficult. The knowledge required to pass is both broad and in-depth and covers areas such as viticulture, wine production, the handling and business of wine, and contemporary issues. At the first Masters of Wine Examination set up in 1953 by the Vintners’s Company and the Wine and Spirit Association to improve the standard of knowledge of those in …

Pitching up at the International Wine Challenge

Last Friday saw the end of ”Tranche 2” of the 2016 International Wine Challenge (IWC). The IWC is a London-based wine competition open to producers from around the world. Wines are assessed blind by groups of tasters and receive awards according to merit. The competition takes place at the Oval cricket ground over a two-week period. If you are imagining the sounds of a wooden bat against a ball and champagne corks popping, no such luck. The beautifully green clipped pitch stretched out empty but for flocks of birds. During the first week the wines are streamed into three categories: medal contenders, commended wines and those that have had their chips. During the second week the medal-worthy wines are retasted to determine whether they deserve a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Trophy Medal. Wines that were judged no-goers and commended get tasted again by IWC chairmen to make sure that no wine has been unfairly judged and that a potential medal-winning wine has not slipped through the net. Well, anything less would just not be cricket… The judging …

An escape to Greece – a narrative

It had been a long time since I last went to Greece but I still have vivid memories of summer holidays spent there. Happy childhood days clambering freely over the Acropolis, wandering through the ruins of Knossos, sitting on the throne of King Minos, eating juicy chunks of watermelon on a hot, dusty road. I returned later as a young adult, fresh from secondary studies in classics, and hiked around the south coast of Crete. Then, whenever my travelling companions and I stopped for a meal and refreshments, we were invariably offered Ouzo, Retsina or Metaxa. Food was more often than not basic and rather greasy. Communication was carried out in a mix of ancient and modern Greek. How things have changed. During this summer’s vacation I did not have a single bad meal and not once was I recommended retsina. Restaurants served up a selection of succulent traditional and innovative dishes made from fresh local produce. There never was any problem in shops or when ordering food as everyone spoke English. As far as alcoholic …

The close of the Indian summer

The weather was breaking as were the dynamics of the vintage. The intensity of the work and the intimacy of the relationships amongst the team members was soon to dissipate and morph into aloofness. Many of the harvesters were planning their next move, others were waiting to resume a more viable everyday life. Colds were flying about the winery. Meanwhile many of the wines were nearing the end of fermentation and preparations were being made for their transfer into new vessels. The used empty oak barriques were taken out of storage and wheeled outside in front of the winery. There, they were filled with water, emptied, steam cleaned and rinsed out, ready to receive the new wine. Water from the barriques was tasted to make sure that the wood was not imparting any unpleasant flavours and to correctly match the barrels to different wines. New barriques were also prepared and selected according to cooperage and toasting.       In the winery the whites were progressing nicely. Fermentations this year started off particularly quickly. Vats big and …

Harvest time at Domaine La Liaudisaz

The next couple of days rain loomed on the horizon and the impending question was whether to pick the grapes or give them extra ripening time. The ideal scenario is to leave the grapes on the vines for them to reach greater ripeness, to know precisely when the rain is going to fall and have the grapes picked and in the winery just before the clouds break. Any benefit from longer hang time would be dashed by unexpected rain as this would provoke loss of sugar and grey rot. After much tergiversation Marie-Thérèse Chappaz decided to harvest her Syrah and Cornalin. The pickers duly worked on both Saturday and Sunday to beat the rain and thereby created a slight fluster in the village: a local resident came flapping into the vineyards in her dressing gown to complain about the noise, and at midday as the crates were loaded onto the back of the truck, a relatively young man standing on his frontdoor step asked us to lower our voices… With most of the vineyards harvested, the …