In autumn 2013 four friends and I organised a wine trip to the Rhone. After a brief stop-over in northern Rhone, we drove down to Gigondas to a winery I had followed for a number of years called St Cosme. The late afternoon sunshine shone through windows of the bijou tasting room where the delightful host Celine began dispensing generous portions of white and red wines. The door was left open as it was still in the mid 20s centigrade. As we tasted, the heady scent of wild thyme, carried on a gentle breeze, filled the room; it was like some fabulous perfume, and it mixed seamlessly with the wonderful aromas coming out of our wine glasses. As it was our last tasting of the day, we finally said our goodbyes to Celine and walked from the tasting room up the hill past the 12th century chapel to a magnificent viewpoint to watch the sinking sun turn the peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail blood red. Since then, every time I open a bottle of St. Cosme, I am transported back to that wonderful tasting and evening walk shared with good friends, the jovial host Celine and the scent of wild thyme.
For our 30th wedding anniversary in 1997 we treated ourselves to dinner/B&B at a new hotel restaurant outside Nairn. (Am I allowed to mention Boath House?). The enthusiastic young owner and his equally enthusiastic young chef gave us a great welcome, talked us through the menu and recommended a wine I had never heard of - Chateau Musar from the Lebanon. It absolutely blew me away. It was unlike any red wine I had drunk before.
Last December we returned to celebrate our Golden Wedding. The son of the original owner was now in charge, and the original chef was still in post - having gone on to win a Michelin Star. I was delighted to find that Chateau Musar was still on their wine list.
As I mark my 50 years membership of the Society, I am so grateful that I have been able to explore so many excitingly different wines from around the world.
It was 1965 and I was on holiday in Provence. I was staying at a villa owned by the family of my school friend,Jean Paul. We were doing what 15 year old boys do when they’re bored;nothing much and nothing good. It was very hot Then someone shouted to us. Looking around guiltily we saw it was the old farmer amongst whose vines we were walking. He indicated that we should join him. Soon we were sitting with him in the shade of the double tiled roof. His wife brought out some bread, cheese a bottle of wine and three glasses. He poured us each a small glass and we ate and drank quietly. He and Jean Paul exchanged polite enquiries about family and friends. I tasted my first glass of wine. It was cool dry and seemed scented with the air in which it had been created. Sunshine and the herbs of the Maquis, bottled. After lunch and one more glass, we settled down in our chairs. When I awoke, there was Jean Paul, still snoring. Across the field the old farmer looked up from his dusty going and smiled.
Hoeing not going
On holiday in August in Liguria up a mountain, we decided to eat lunch out every day, rather than brave the road at night. Half way down the mountain we found Agriturismo Agricola Maria Donata Bianchi. We didn’t go in there until we realised we’d had a bottle of Vermentino 2017 from her farm. Light, rich, fruity on the back of the palate, it was the perfect wine with fish and nibbles in the evening. We never found another Vermentino we liked as much as this one even after trying lots!. Unfortunately, when we went and asked to buy a case, she told us she had sold out for this year! I cried.
‘Your friend said you followed the bike race?’
The young woman was standing behind the Jacob’s Creek Winery tasting counter in Tanunda, bottles and glasses ready for visitors.
‘Yes,’ I said. Her expression became…conspiratorial. Glancing around furtively, she reached under the counter.
To explain. I’d been covering a professional race round Adelaide, hot days in the Press car, a long session in the Press Room afterwards, writing copy. A genial man circulated continuously, with two bottles of JC, red and fizz, and, hovering at the shoulder of each perspiring journo, said: ‘I can see that that glass is empty.’ He positively yodelled ‘empty’. JC sponsored the race. I hated JC, the bland sameness.
My friend had suggested the post-race winery tour: ‘For your education.’
The young woman produced the under-the-counter bottle and, careful to obscure its label, poured me a glass of the red they make too little of to export. With a smile between blessing and delight, she handed it to me.
I swirled, I sniffed, I sipped.
It was sensational, a sublime Shiraz too big for the glass. I smiled back even as she relocated the bottle and, turning away, said: ‘Welcome to Jacob’s Creek,’ to another visitor.
Graeme Fife, Tibia
I’ve just cited St Cosme Condrieu 2004 as my favourite white wine in another topic…sublime…can taste it now
I was a student at Oxford. I do recall taking a girl to dinner at the "Blue Blanc Rouge’’ on High Street, and feeling sophisticated when I ordered Mateus Rose; even then more popular as a lamp stand.
In 1976 I became a Junior Research Fellow at St Edmund Hall (SEH). This entitled me to meals in Hall; wine paid by the glass. The college had an excellent chef, and I dined in often. Peter Collins, an SEH Fellow and wine expert became a friend.
I recall vividly the wine which changed my life; it was Gruaud La Rose 1967. Not generally considered one of the greatest years, but this was a superb wine, rich and deep. It was a revelation. The college cellar sold it to members (students too) for £1.40 a bottle. Pavie 1964 was more pricey at £1.70 and Batailley 1961 (!) at £3.00.
After SEH we lived in France for two years near Geneva and became particularly fond of Vin Jaune. Then in the USA for 5 years which led to enthusiasm over visits to Santa Barbara
then and since for the wines of Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist.
My brpther-in-law gave me Wine Society membership and I have bought en primeur regularly ever since.
I attach a detail from a display of labels from those early days, made by my wife Julia, and pics of me with Jim and Bob.
I married in the 1970s. We soon had children but little money. We occasionally drank wine but only at weekends. Hirondelle, at less than £2 a bottle, seemed OK and was certainly better than my father-in-law’s home-made kit wine.
In the 1980s, I worked for a French company in London. One day my boss took a very important client out to lunch and I was fortunate to go too. The restaurant was the famous La Tante Claire, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Chelsea run by Pierre Koffmann. My boss ordered the wine, approved it, and our glasses were filled. It was white wine, the colour of straw. The memory of that first sip has never left me. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember what we ate or the name of the client we were entertaining but I remember the wine: it was Meursault. I’d never tasted anything like it before. And so started a great love affair with White Burgundy. I’ve loved Chardonnay and specifically Chardonnay from Côte de Beaune ever since.
And now? The children have left home, I’ve retired, the mortgage is paid and there is a bottle of Meursault in the fridge. Perfect.
Nino was a hairdresser, a very good friend of mine
Nino was the one who really got me into wine
Once or twice a year
He seemed to disappear
Down to Luton, Beds
To return with delicious reds
One time I recall the best
Over all the rest …
That came with Nino
Was a Bardalino
Been a fan ever since
We chugged up the steep side of the Ahr valley to the campsite and parked our modified old Austin-Morris J4 van, still in its original London Electricity Board orange paint, on our allocated site. It was a glorious summer day in 1978 and the view of the river and the surrounding area was stupendous. We made our way to the campsite restaurant and, in our best New Zealand-accented school German, asked the charming middle-aged waitress for local wine. The producers’ names meant nothing to us, so we left it to her to choose. Soon, she returned to the terrace with the wine in two green-ribbed-stemmed glasses, recognisable as similar to those in my childhood home.
From the first sip, the riesling was a revelation. The off-dry combination of residual sugar with high acidity, together with the lime and “wet-stone” aromas which flooded our nasal cavities, was like nothing we had experienced before. Gone, in an instant, were the horrors of New Zealand’s home-produced wines of our student days, mostly from hybrid grapes, and of Liebfraumilch, which was the only imported “wine” that we could afford there then. This was unalloyed love at first taste, remaining undimmed to this day.
It’s the discovery, that first magical awakening of the adult senses after teenage self-absorption – mathematics, Mozart, shellfish, sex, wine – that breathless leap into the deep clear pool at the foot of the waterfall. That moment came on the seventeenth of February in 1962, starting with a horse called Gin and Sherry that brought home fourteen pounds for an outlay of a quid. Three of us went out to celebrate in a Soho restaurant, a restaurant that turned out to be run by an hotelier friend from our carefree adolexcent life in Kenya, the ex-manager of The Lobster Pot in Nairobi. So delighted was he to see us again that he included a bottle of 1949 Chateau Margaux with the meal, and the bill for the three of us was a now unbelievable £14.10.0. With a bottle currently selling for about £2000, it is an unrepeatable experience; instead, today, the extravagance of an occasional Musar from the Lebanon, with its delicate individuality and hint of desert flowers, is unforgettable, but I will remember until I die the utterly magical balance, the blissful union of tannins and acids and sugars, the heady, violet plumminess of every explosive mouthful of that Margaux.
We sailed our boat from the Caribbean to the Azores this year.
Sailing 1900 nautical miles in June, night passages were starlit and the sailors swam in depths of over 5000 metres. Three whales surfaced beside the boat, dipped under the keel and moved on.
Approaching the Azores the crew found green volcanic islands pushing out of he sea. The higher land under cover of cloud and some areas permanently blanketed in fog. In the winter battered by storms and in summer sitting under sunshine during long periods of calm settled weather.
The soil is volcanic and vineyards are protected by dry stone walls. The white wine is off dry and when chilled reflects the volcanic earth, the clouds and the ocean breezes.
Wine is always affected by the moment and the place in which it is tasted. This chilled white was drunk at a moment when a significant journey had been completed. It was drunk in a foreign land in the company of friends, and as the wine found the senses we were able to stretch out in the cockpit, turn our faces to the sinking sun and linger in the moment with the best wine we have ever tasted.
This ‘wow’ doesn’t end well. The setting isn’t brilliant either - no balmy sunset over thee Med. but a view over the reclaimed colliery and East Coast main line. The wow was a Condrieu - and to be honest, part of the thrill was finding and showing off this rare species back in the 1970s. Hard to imagine now but winemakers had given up on the temperamental viognier and many Condrieu terraces lay abandoned. It was a good Condrieu - probably Vernay - from the great '78 vintage, together with a pack of Bath Olivers, all living up to expectation and more; the heady scents of summer, sensual mysteries of the East, even a promise of ‘something of the night’. The palate was a balance of intensity and elegance, unctious honey and apricot. It was a ‘wow’ never to be repeated despite spending hard earned pennies on any Condrieu in sight. Maybe it was me or maybe winemakers round the world cashing in on a new fashion. It still has the power to entrance but never quite matches that first love affair.
In 1984, Australian wines were still mainly known for the skewering they’d received from Monty Python. I was living in Australia then, working and travelling. One evening I wound up in Cessnock, on the edge of the Hunter Valley. Cessnock was a town out of a cowboy movie, with wooden sidewalks, and bars with louvered swing doors.
I was the only guest in the drab hotel, and I asked for dinner. The meal was indifferent - some kind of sausage and vegetable stew. But I wanted to try some local wine, and the barman-cum-waiter came back with a bottle and placed it on my table. “People seem to like this one”, he said. I poured a glass and sipped gingerly.
A kaleidoscope of flavours lit up my taste buds. My face tingled as the rich fruit burst in my mouth. I was drinking liquid gold, and its name was Long Flat Red by Tyrrell’s Wines. The dreary dining room seemed to grow a little brighter. It was a life lesson in how good wine can transform your spirits. Within a few years, Australian wines were everywhere in Britain, and I was pleased to have had a foretaste of their delights.
And the winner is…
Firstly, a HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time to share their wow-factor wine moment with us - we were blown away, with well over 100 entries! Everyone here on The Community team (@Ewan, @martin_brown and I - plus @Rosie and @JO4WINE from our Content & Comms team!) thoroughly enjoyed reading your entries, both here and via email (our alternative entry method) and some made us quite emotional!
What united every single one was genuine joy which is exactly why we ran this competition. I loved them all!
It took a good few hours to decide on a winner, and honestly there were so many good ones that we are going to have to create a page on our website where we show off some of our favourites, but we have decided our winner is…
We hope you’ll agree that his magical tale of a memorable second meeting in Rome was a definite ‘wow’ moment that we’re sure he won’t forget - and now we won’t either.
We’re liaising with him about sending his prize bottle of Rapsani, but we’ll be in touch with all the entrants whose stories are going to be featured on our website soon.
There were lots of new faces joining in with this competition and I hope you’ll stick around and enjoy this Community! On that note:
A few other ways to share your joy of wine, while you’re here…
Tell us what you’re drinking this week and get inspiration to find new favourites in our Weekly drinking thread
Join us for our #twstaste virtual tasting tonight - we’ll be announcing the next tasting date too, so you can put it in your diary and take part!
Send our buyer Freddy a question for our Ask Me Anything next week
Share some of your travel tips (from the look of your entries, you’ve all been to some amazing places!) on our Travel section
Thanks again, everyone!
Congratulations Rev. In moderation, we can learn from the first miracle at Canan.