I have just spent four days in the Loire wine region of France with five fellow wine-educators, three of whom are currently studying for their Master of Wine exams. We visited seven wine makers who gave us tours of the vineyards and wine-making facilities as well as arranging tastings of their wines. We tasted about thirty wines per day and asked technical questions about the wines.
It was my maiden AWE trip; my thoughts are below.
When tasting for commercial reasons, it must be difficult for a wine buyer to remain objective and not ‘go native’. In a cellar, in front of an enthusiastic grower and trying the twelfth Cabernet Franc of that morning, the wine can taste and smell wonderful. “It’s so much richer than Cabernet number three, not as mineral as number one because it is grown in clay, hand harvested and kept in oak for twelve months”. However, will all this be experienced by Mr Jones taking it from the shelf at Asda on a Friday night? Probably not. How do buyers (and I’ve never bought commercially) remain ‘end-user focussed’?
The enthusiasm – not to mention their generosity – of wine growers is contagious. Proud of their produce and eager to share knowledge with an interested audience, small vineyard owners must be the hardest workers in the wine business. Their tasks are endless, very repetitive and often physically demanding. We’ve got the easy job – drinking it and then writing and talking about it.
There seems to be a lot of wine sold direct to the public who live close to vineyards. That would make a great study for a budding MW’s dissertation “Compare and contrast the local sales profile of vineyards?” The Parisian on-trade got mentioned a few times but all the vineyards had payment and collection facilities for customers. Are there any local wine shops in wine regions? Why would someone go to a wine shop rather than the vineyard to buy their wine?
Lastly, what’s in it for the growers? Why spend time, money and resource on putting on tastings for wine educators? There were a few times when I felt guilty about not buying some wine after the time spent on us by a grower. Maybe it’s just my naivety of the whole experience but I wondered what the grower’s private response was as they saw the minibus pull out off their premises without a few cases of their produce.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed the experience and would jump at doing it again.