Yesterday I was enjoying a glass of chilled Dopff au Maulin Pinot Blanc. Despite its poor label design, it’s a delightful white wine with fresh citrus and apple fruits. Perfect for the summer.
In many ways it reminded me of Vin2o’s Sauvignon Semillon. Crisp, lovely white wine to make the most of those little moments of bliss we all live for, whether it’s putting your feet up in the garden when the sun’s out or the first bottle of wine you enjoy with a loved one as you dig into your food at your favourite restaurant.
If you had turned around to me when, aged 11, I took a cheeky sip of my parent’s Jacob’s Creek Grenache, winced and then nodded, pretending to like it, and said to me: ‘Ben, you’re going to dedicate your whole career to this stuff’, I’d have laughed out loud and spat Grenache all over the table. Perhaps in early practice for the spittoon.
For as long as I remember I had wanted to be a journalist but in hindsight my road to wine seems unavoidable. While I discovered I wasn’t the next Trevor McDonald pretty quickly, I used to revel in my ability to taste from my childhood. Whether it was identifying an ingredient I didn’t like in something that otherwise tasted delicious or the first smile you get when you drink a beer that makes you go, ‘Woah, OK, that’s why people drink this.’
At 17 I got a job with Waitrose on their wine department. However, being in sixth form and later University, I didn’t really appreciate the wine around me until I was three years into the job, aged 20, when I asked my manager if he would give me a wine tasting budget. I spent the next year writing weekly wine reviews on Waitrose’s wines, discovering how different grape varieties tasted and how vintages varied. I loved discovering who was behind the label and how the differences in taste were created.
In January 2015, I visited my first vineyard and met my first winemaker. I accidentally started at the premium end, meeting multi award-winning winemaker Sam Lindo at the world-leading sparkling wine vineyard Camel Valley. I realised this the very day before I visited Sam. Suddenly I remembered the myth surrounding the wine trade that it was full of dismissive snobs. I began to panic, thinking an amateur like me would be rejected and I’d come back with little to write about and pictures of vine twigs in pruning season.
Thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sam was lovely, welcoming and patient. I had my biggest learning curve that day but without a doubt it was the day I got the bug for wine. I had travelled three hours there and three hours back for an hour of Sam’s time, a walk of his vineyards and a taste of his wines.
In ITV’s recent hit, The Wine Show, actor Matthew Rhys says wine is about ‘Weather, soil, grapes and people’. When you go beyond the liquid in your glass and meet the people, learn about the weather, soil and grapes, you will see exactly how I fell head-over-heels for the world of wine.