My first sip of wine was a red Bordeaux. I remember thinking how different this thing was that I was tasting. My mouth was experiencing things it had never experienced before. I detected flavours - many many flavours - and I knew I recognised some of them, but I couldn’t figure out what they were. I can't say I loved the taste of the wine straight away, but I was certainly instantly fascinated by it. For that reason, the particularly complex nature of a good Bordeaux will always be an exciting and evocative taste for me.
I grew up very much a red girl. My Dad introduced me to a range over the years, and every so often a particular wine would take me further into my love of wine. The two most memorable for me were the discoveries of Carmenere - with its brambly richness - and Amarone - with its intense, heavy, velvetty, oh so indulgent black and red fruit flavours.
It was only when I moved to London and started working at Vinopolis that I gave white wine a fair go. I would try and swap shifts to be on the premium wine counter where, because fewer people had tickets for those particular wines, I could sit and sample and make notes and read labels and ask questions to all my senior colleagues there. That was a very exciting time. There was a Californian Viognier (I think the producer was 'Cline') that I could not get enough of - the intense florality dancing on top of soft luscious peach and apricot. But the real discovery for me was German Riesling. Just like I had with that first sip of Bordeaux, I thought “what a wonderfully strange thing I am tasting”. Mineral, petroleum, plastic. I was reminded of surfing - salt and rubber - not flavours you expect to love in a wine, but I did. For me, that’s what’s great about Riesling. (It’s what’s great about love in general.) And adding to my appreciation was the knowledge of how generally under-appreciated these wines were... still are.
Someone at a tasting once asked me what my best wine drinking experience was - what an excellent question that is. Ask me to name my favourite grapes, and I say Riesling, Viognier, Carmenere, Rebo... but my favourite 'experience'... Was it that first sip of Bordeaux? The introduction to Viognier on the Premium Wine table? The sunny surfing memories conjured up by those rieslings?
Nay - I’ve thought a lot about this, and I keep coming back to a moment involving an altogether less remarkable/ impressive/ interesting wine:
April 2011. My friend and I had spent several (wonderful, but) exhausting weeks in a campervan in Australia, and several (less wonderful, and) exhausting hours in an airport before boarding a flight to Auckland. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed in to the family home of a friend of a friend of a friend. They drove us back from the airport, and we had our first proper shower in a while, lay down and rested on our first proper bed for a while, and as our hostess prepared our first proper meal for a while, we were invited to climb into their outdoor hot-tub, with views out to the sea, and given a glass of Villa Maria New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc - my first sip of wine in a while. Right there and then, it was as if I was drinking pure sunshine and happiness -- I think you can tell from my face :)