Here at The Whalley Wine Shop we are celebrating The South African Wine Festival! So to celebrate we wanted to share Matt’s story of how he fell in love with wine and what he’s learned along his journey since that day.
Where did it all start for you?
It’s a question I’ve often been asked. Though I’m sure I’d been drinking wine for some time, I do remember the wine that made me stop, think, and wonder. It wasn’t a first growth or Premier Cru. It wasn’t a special occasion or event. It was a day like any other.
I was with a large group of colleagues in Johannesburg. (In a previous life I was a trolley-dolly for British Airways and, as crew, we always went out for drinks and a spot of dinner) The restaurant? What used to be a church, called Gatreels in the Central Business District.
I don’t know who picked it or why they choose that wine. Being a crew night out it was unlikely to be the old adage of “mid priced on the wine list must be good”. At one point in the meal I stopped talking for a change, topped up the empty glasses and took a sip.
Now the earth didn’t move cosmically, it didn’t stop spinning; I didn’t hear heavenly music or have fireworks go off in my mouth, but it did make me stop and think. It made me assess what I tasted: the aromas, the flavours. There were layers of complexity to this wine. I had so many questions.
Now, I at the time I knew a little about wine; a day and a half in my 12 weeks training course with British Airways, in a room next to the engineering bays at Heathrow Airport. But looking back, my wine knowledge then boiled down to: Fizz, White or Red.
But now, the game had begun. I got back to our base and signed straight up for the company’s dedicated wine course.
Six months later and I was on it: the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Intermediate course. I think it was 6-8 weeks before I sat the exams: a multiple-choice paper and wine tasting with the head Wine Buyer of British Airways… Now I see why there had been a six-month waiting list: the chance to taste some wine, not just from Economy and Business Class but also First Class and Concorde!
How lucky we were! A lot of fun was had, and in that brief couple of hours tasting, I learnt more than from than any book I’ve read on Wine (and let me tell you I’ve read A LOT, much to the exasperation of my wife, who finds books and magazines piled up in the kitchen, the lounge and at the side of the bed!).
My Reflections Since Those Days
That was in the early nineties; a lot of time, changes and wine have passed by. There are days when I still don’t get it, maybe I’ve got a cold coming on, a bad mood, the wrong time or I’m just not feeling it.
I have found, however, that there is no rule as to what makes a bottle of wine taste good. Whether it’s that premium bottle, opened on a special occasion, or the affordable stuff I bring home to share with friends over a barbecue, or simply that glass experienced around the fire after a long day, that manages to hit just the right note; it’s all about the company, place and timing, and allowing your wine of choice to complement that situation. All the money and knowledge in the world cannot make up for the feeling of when these four elements come together perfectly!
And so, on that night in Johannesburg, I fell in love… with Wine.
Oh, and the wine in question? Well it was a Boschendal Blanc de Blanc.