A force majeure of vinous proportions….

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Force Majeure Chenin BlancA hangover of monumental proportions the other week taught me that Prosecco on tap does not a fun morning make. I’ve not had a hangover on that scale since I was child free and lie-ins and foggy heads were the weekend norm.

Two other blasts from my vinous past have taken me down a rather more enjoyable memory lane this week with the death of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse whose restaurant I visited outside of Lyon on a press trip as a wine trade rookie. There, my wide eyed 23 year old self was taught that binge eating was a skill I had to acquire if I was going to cut it in the wine trade as I struggled to finish all nine courses of fine French cuisine to the horror of my more seasoned and wider waisted colleagues. Then a sip of a delicately oaked Hawkes Bay Chardonnay at the New Zealand Wine Growers tasting last week took me vividly back to my dawning wine moment that convinced me to join the trade. Even though it was a very different producer and at least 15 years later it reminded me that the wine trade hasn’t changed much, not even the wines themselves.

So it was little surprise and yet no less annoying to find that despite marketing and traveling the world of wine for so long I was none the wiser at the hip Ham Yard Hotel in soho yesterday when ordering from the wine list was as mystifying as it would have been when I was still drinking Hock and Mateus rosé as a student. A nice compact wine list included about 10 whites should have made selection simple and quick but the lack of tasting notes or winery information for any of the wines meant a solid selection was as much of a lottery as it would have been had I never tasted wine before. In the spirit of things I opted for a bottle that I only knew was white thanks to the title at the top of the page and when it arrived turned out to be a very challenging wine indeed. Force Majeure, Swartland, South Africa it said and turned out to be a Chenin Blanc with a suspicious swirl of sediment spinning around like a sludgy sand storm in a teacup. My friend who had entrusted me with our choice raised her eyebrows and smiled nervously but went  along with it because her ‘wine expert friend’ had chosen. Reading the back label explained briefly that the wine was unfined and unfiltered, but it wasn’t what we had expected or really wanted and the cork had been pulled so it was too late to turn back.

Arguably not the best start to my wine year – which makes the previously alien concept of dry January ever more appealing – but what these little vinous reminders have done is reignite a true passion I haven’t always had time to keep on top of and which started with this blog: better and more wine communication. The bad news is that we might need a stronger force majeure to change things than I first thought, but the good news is there is still a lot of work to do which means there is still a place for me and this blog.

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