In the summer of 1977, my two older sisters and I were building our first skateboard out of a piece of old door frame and a broken rollerskate. We were listening to the local radio station as we often did in those days. Suddenly instead of the usual Bay City Rollers, The Osmonds or ABBA tunes something roared out of the small orange radio “In the city” by the Jam. I was 11 years old and I can say that this was the moment that I realised that music could be more than sing alongs at childrens parties and “watch with mother” TV shows. For the next 27 years I would skateboard regularly and I still count The Jam as one of my top three favourite groups of all time.
Last week (December 23rd) We had our first BBQ at our new house. We only moved in on December 8th. We just had a couple of friends over. We flung some chicken legs, some sausages and some decent fillet steak on the grill and enjoyed a beer. The food got ready and I asked my wife what wine should I serve. I always ask my wife these questions, she is a winemaker and has a palate which is the envy of many. She mentioned she had just got a few bottles from work and I should crack one of them open. I stuck my arm into the box she pointed to and yanked out blindly the first bottle I could find.
I sat down, pulled out the cork and poured a glass for myself. Immediately I could smell something powerful. This was even before I stuck my nose into the glass! WOW this stuff smelt good. It was like it was in the whole room. I lifted up the glass, took a sip and : Wham Bam, Little Richard, T.N.T. detonation and ice bucket at the gym! This must be what : Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend and John Entwistle felt the first time Keith Moon hit his drums behind them. The taste was amazing, almost like a new sensation in my mouth! This wine quite literally blew my mind in a way I did not think a legal substance could do. The aroma was like the peppery spices laid out on the mis en plus at an Indian curry restaurant. The feeling in my mouth was such an intense feeling that I actually jumped in the air and shouted “HUZZAH”!
Often wines that I have thought of as great were also more about the occasion, a wedding a birthday a friends success, all these things I am sure make average wines seem more special. However this was no special occasion. Yes we were in our new home, but it was a small BBQ with a couple of friends.
I had no idea wine could do this! I had heard that many people could point to a certain wine at a certain time which got them hooked. I always thought that was a bit naff and far too cheesy for the likes of me. Well damn it, I got proved wrong. December 23rd 2012 will be like the summer of 1977. A date in history for Matty boy Wilson. I have finally seen the light that makes wine so special.
For many years I have been a wine drinker. For me it was something to get drunk on as a teenager, to pretend to be sophisticated as a young student, to show off with as a more mature 30 something adult. Then I met my wife, moved to Chile and began working in the wine industry as a photographer. So it became a means to earn money. I could have photographed anything, cows, chocolates, tomato ketchup bottles or weddings. I was a photographer and had found a niche and a means to make a half decent living. However I still do not know much about wine.
I work with many people in the industry who know about wine more than me. Michael Schachner from Wine Enthusiast is a journalist I have worked with for about 7 years : Tim Atkin MW, Olly Smith, Peter Richards,Tom Canavan, Jamie Goode and Fred Dexheimer MS are people I know and respect well. Most of my close friends in Chile are winemakers or wine producers,wine journalists,sommeliers or chefs, Grant Phelps,Margaret Snook, Derek Mossman Knapp, Pato Tapia,Ricardo Grellet, Pilar Rodriguez and my own wife Andrea Leon. They all know more than me.
My vocabulary is not in tune with wine talk. I have no idea what a palate shape is, what does good on the nose really mean? what does great terroir actually refer to. I am more Del boy Trotter than Jancis Robinson.
Because I mingle with wine wizards I also never actually taste crap wine. All the people I have mentioned regularly do tastings: They go to wineries, restaurants, have wine samples sent to them. They taste them all, the good, the bad , the really awful and occasionally the great. My main problem is I only drink wine these people recommend to me. Hence as Olly Smith once stated “Your palate is spoiled, it only gets the good stuff, lucky boy”
Anyway, the wine I drank on December 23rd 2012 was a Lapostolle 2011 Cuvée Alexandre carmenére. Made by Jacques Begarie and Michel Rolland. I have been drinking Lapostolle wine for over 8 years on a very regular basis. At least one bottle a month. My wife was the winemaker at Clos Apalta winery from 2005 till 2008. The 2005 won top wine in the world in Wine Spectator in 2008. I am a fan of these wines and like or really like them all. However this 2011 Carmenere really was the one that gave me the wine epiphany. My wife tells me it needs a few years down her cellar to improve even more. Luckily she has the only key to her wine cellar and now I see why this is a good thing.
I have never publicly suggested a wine for anyone to buy, however this is the breaking of my wine recommendation cherry. I say go and buy some, a case a pallet or just a bottle. It is the dogs bollox in this wine drinkers opinion.