Did you know that my parents used to own a vineyard? For ten years they lived at Chateau Masburel, turning it around from being semi derelict and producing third rate wine to a co-operative into a stunning home and a business that shipped worldwide. During that time, and in fact before it, my parents had been fans of wine to a greater degree than many of us can claim. Not just enjoying it but knowing about it.
What they don’t know about wine, quite frankly, isn’t worth knowing.
And it makes them fascinating dinner companions because when they are presented with a wine list they generally pick something that you might never have thought of or considered. And avoiding some others you might have regularly as they know that the 2017 on offer was the worst year for that particular region and therefore the bottle will disappoint.
When my parents moved to the Dordogne in the late 90s there was a lot of media attention around them because not only was the place run by Brits, but by a woman. You can imagine the reaction they got from the locals, keen to find out who these lunatics were who thought they could compete with producers who had lived and breathed wine from birth. It caused quite a stir and people were keen to find out about then new owners.
So when I hear about other people doing something similar it always makes me prick up my ears. Families like the Cronks who run Mirabeau, having sold up in the UK to pursue a dream to make incredible rosé that is suitable for drinking all year round. In 2011, their first year of selling they sign a contract to be sold in Waitrose which is exactly what happened with my folks too. From then on they have gone from strength to strength, winning medals along the way and really shaking up the idea that rosé is just Mateus Rosé.
I discovered all of this before I had even tasted the wine because I had seen my friend CJ talking about it on Instagram a while ago and whilst I was intrigued about the wine, I wanted to know more about who had made it. It’s the same with my love of gin, I couldn’t tell you in a blind tasting which gin is which but give me a name of a gin and I can tell you all about it. For instance did you know Jawbox is so named because it was first made in a sink and that is what sinks are colloquially called in Ireland since women gather around them to wash their babies as well as their dishes, chattering as they do?.
People that make wine, or indeed gin, are passionate about what they do. It is hard work and they have to understand agriculture, export legislation, sales techniques, and increasingly social media. They have to get up at 5am and work 16 hours day at harvest and it is back breaking. Why families do this is important to me and something I always want to know about. I figure it is the least we can do when we drink the fruits of their labours.
And drink it we must. Buying wine and then not drinking it, claiming it “too good” or that we “need to save it” is something we should only ever do rarely. If we are lucky enough to be able to buy more expensive wine, or more wine than just a bottle as a treat, we owe it to the producers to drink it. Not to lay it down for a special occasion. That isn’t why it was made.
Wine is made to be drunk. Drink it. Enjoy the moment and raise a glass to the people behind the label.