Introducing: my friend, Curly

I’ve known Curly for a long time now. She’s one of those friends I hardly ever see, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. On the rare occasions we do meet, we pick up where we left off and thanks to social media we’re in touch an awful lot more than we used to be (in the old, pre-internet days!).

Anyway, thanks to Facebook, I realised that Curly has an extremely exciting and glamorous life… but I didn’t know exactly what she does. So I asked her. And now, because it’s so interesting, I’m telling you!

So first up… what is it you do exactly?

I’m waiting for my work visa so I can go and work at Josef Chromy winery as the Cellar Door manager in charge of all the wine stuff.

Whilst I’m waiting, I am working on being a sparkling wine genius. At the moment it’s very early stages and I’m doing as much visiting of wineries and tasting of sparkling wine as I can to try and put together a sparkling wine map of the globe.

Last year I visited Champagne (twice!) Austria, UK, Napa in California, Bordeaux, South of France, New Zealand and then Tasmania.

Each country and region has its own style, price point, grape varieties and producers so the long term plan is to put them all in one place so consumers can make some sense of what is available and professionals have an educational resource to draw upon.

Wow, that’s fabulous. So were you working for someone last year or did you win the lottery? And what does a Cellar Door manager do?

Hahaha! I pretty much had no social life for the last couple of years so I could afford to take a few months of work. Also wine is such an international affair that I now have friends in several of the wine producing corners of the world which means I’m not living out of hotels and it is saving me a fortune.

I was working at Majestic wine as manager of their York branch before I left in November and one of the trips to France was to assist with some wine education separate to my normal job.

A cellar door manager makes sure you get the best experience you can when you visit a winery. It’s an opportunity to try wines from a specific producer in situ ( Cellar doors vary in size but can range from tasting experience and retail to restaurant and tours of the winery. Some wineries will also have accommodation as well. It’s far less glam than it sounds but far more brilliant if wine is your thing! Clean glasses, plenty of stock, chirpy intelligent staff and customers with full wallets and empty glasses is ideal!

I haven’t started yet but the cellar door will undertake a real transformation and increase in size and purpose in the next 18 months so it’s a really exciting time to get involved. I’m also really looking forward to living in a wine producing region and understanding the wine making calendar and what needs doing when.

I was in the Yarra Valley with a friend who works at Yering Station and I had the opportunity to spend some time with him as he prepares for harvest checking some vineyards for progress and disease and tasting around 60 barrels of Pinot Noir so he could select the barrels he will blend together for a specific wine.

I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do that in England so it’s been a fantastic experience already and my knowledge has increased enormously in the 2 and a bit months it has been since I left the UK.

This is all fascinating stuff – I’m so impressed! Okay, so how did you first become interested in wine?

The fun way! When I left school i took some time out before university and started working at The Tannin Level in Harrogate. The manager at the time Cal was fantastic and she would give us wine to try without telling us much about it so we could form our own ideas and then she would fill us in on the facts.

The sparkling wine thing is a little different, I was left alone at a wedding when i was around 4 and I went up and down the tables drinking the fizzy wine that was left there whilst people were dancing. The rest as they say…

I stayed at The Tannin Level pretty much all through uni and then went into the cocktail bar side of things which was huge amounts of fun and it wasn’t until my late 20s that I got back into the grapes when I began working at Majestic Wine. I studied for my WSET Advanced Certificate and got a distinction and won an award (!) and completed my WSET Diploma with a merit last January. Learning more about sparkling wine is keeping me busy until I learn enough and then sell my internal organs to pay for my Master of Wine

Fabulous. So do you have any wine words of wisdom for those of us who like a drink, but don’t know anything about wine?

Firstly enjoy your wine wisely, you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough not to be sick on your own shoes. In real terms I would say if you like wine but want to know a little more or find it easier to buy and try different wines don’t be scared of it but realise it’s like a lot of other things.

I love an analogy so we’ll go for apples to start off with. Go to the shops and you’ll find probably 20 different types of apple which isn’t very scary, some are sweet some are sharp, they are different colours and can be used for different things, it’s the same with wine. Some wine is red and some is white or pink. Some wine is sweet, some is dry and some is fizzy. You don’t expect every red apple to taste the same and the same for wine.

Quality wise there is another analogy but I’ll give you a tip, if you don’t like it at £8 you probably won’t like it at £38. Everyone has their own personal taste and if your taste is for big, spicy shiraz then you won’t get on too well with a light yet complex Pinot Noir. Another quality tip is try and keep above the £5 mark, in the UK tax and duty is high so not much of your money is going towards the wine at £3.99, at £6-10 you will get so much more wine for your money.

Most of wine tasting is finding your words, the vocabulary of wine. If it says red fruit flavours, think of what red fruits are out there, same with citrus, vegetables and anything else. Everything has a smell and that smell isn’t one dimensional and having the words to describe what you are smelling gives you a lot of confidence when drinking wine.

Final tip, ask for help. If they can’t or won’t help you go somewhere where they can, you’ll never look back.

Finally, can you share some highlights of your travels?

There are so many! I think seeing Napa in autumn was stunning, the colours are so vivid and they go all out on the oversize squash/pumpkin decorations there it’s fantastic. I had a glass of Dom Perignon (fancy champagne) in a Napa wine bar next the roaring fire on my last night in the States and that was tough to beat.

The biggest thrill from a nerdy wine point of view is to visit the place where the wines have come from and in France that is usually somewhere very stunning such as Ch Pichon Longueville or Taittinger, where I got to try some of their top champagne with Clovis Taittinger. Pleasure you can’t measure! Australia is still very early days and everything is pretty exciting so you will have to come back to me on this!

Thanks so much, Curly. I feel exhausted  just reading about it all. Oh… and thirsty. *opens a bottle of red*


2 thoughts on “Introducing: my friend, Curly

  1. Wow! That is a very different – and also informative and interesting – post – (hello to Curly!) .. but – er – you do know that wine doesn’t quench a raging thirst, right . . . . .? 😉 xx

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