My main mission: to boldly seek out an importer for my wines in the UK
Secondary mission: to relax, enjoy, rest, drink wines, chat, get a change of scenery, etc. And I did!
I flew in to Gatwick with EasyJet on the Thursday evening after working at the office for a half-day; it’s close to the airport so it seemed like a good idea. I went straight to my friend’s house (in Battersea, see below) and dumped my suitcase, which only contained 6 bottles of wine sadly! Actually I was over-weight – 29 kg – but the young lady at the EasyJet check-in didn’t say anything. And neither did I!
|Home Base in London Battersea|
We went to the Prince Albert, just by Chelsea Bridge:
|The Prince Albert - Image courtesy of www.fluidlondon.co.uk|
|Lovely oysters at the pub|
I woke up at my usual time, around 7:00, even though I didn’t set an alarm. So I lazed around a bit, made a coffee, and went back to bed and fell asleep till about 11:00! Lunch was actually a full English breakfast, which I like to do once a year :)
photo english breakfast
Then I went for a wee lie down, with the intention of doing some reading, but I fell asleep – till 7:00 in the evening! I think this was my body catching up on lack of sleep during the year of my (ab)normal lifestyle!
Next up was dinner, and we went to Soif, which is within walking distance of my friend’s house. It was really nice: a great wine-list of course, great food, friendly knowledgeable staff and again reasonably priced! What more can one ask for :) Then, to bed early as I was a bit tired after such a hard day of doing nothing!
The next day, Saturday, was my last day of freedom, as it were, so we did some wandering around, just seeing what was to be seen. We walked across Chelsea Bridge, through Eton Square and down to Buckingham Palace and Pall Mall and St. James’ Park. A bit disneyfied and touristy I found, but hey, the weather was beautiful. Then we went into China Town for lunch (at the Beijing Dumpling) where I met up with fellow winemaker Alfredo Maestro. After lunch more wandering around and we then went to Bar Italia in Soho, for a post-prandial coffee:
|Bar Italia 1|
|Bar Italia 2|
Now it was coming up for dinner time; and the Caves de Pyrene had kindly organized dinner for all the Spanish growers at Brawn, another awesome restaurant with a brilliant wine-list and equally brilliant food.
So I hooked up with Daniel Ramos, another Spanish grower (with whom I share a bodega in El Tiemblo), who had just arrived at Stanstead, and we walked all the way to Brawn; which was quite a hike, but the weather was nice and we felt like some fresh air. We got there about an hour early, so we sat at the bar and had a couple of wines! And tried some 'brawn'! I had no idea that such a think actually existed. I had always thought that ‘brawn’ was just the opposite of ‘brain’! I’d heard of ‘potted heid’ in Scotland, but never made the connection!
|Brawn - image courtesy of www.maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com|
Sunday was the day the fair was open to the public, and the forecast was that it would be busy. And it was! I have to say that I’ve never had to work so hard at a fair in all the years I’ve been exhibiting at wine fairs.
|My table at REAL|
|Cutting out and sticking on my labeles|
I suspect that something viral or ‘word-of-mouth’ happened, as the first thing that many people said to me was “I’ve been recommended to come taste your wines by….”. It was awesome, thinking about it. It’s really the best and most sincere compliment that can be given to a wine producer. It has encouraged me no end, and has reconfirmed my belief that I should listen to myself, my heart and my intuition. I generally do, but there are moments when I’m assailed by doubts. The memory of that day will help to keep me on the right path. The path of low-intervention, terroir-expressing wines! :)
The next day, the Monday, was a trade day, and I was also quite busy, though not as much as the Sunday. And in fact I had a volunteer helper:
|Me and my helper|
So, thanks to her, I was able to escape from my table a few times and taste some other wines, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to. Apart from restaurant and wine shop people, I also got some growers coming round to taste my wines, which is quite unusual for me (unless they knew me previously from some other occasion). I could tell they were growers because they were silent and didn’t ask any of the usual questions. They would just hold out their glasses, sniff, taste and look each other in the eye silently, and then go away!
So I don’t know what to think about that! But I think I’m going to take it as a compliment, because they must have had some kind of recommendation from someone, and they actually took the time to get away from their table. Unfortunately I don’t actually know what they thought of my wines, as they were so taciturn!
And then lastly, to round it all off, was the Georgian banquet, or Georgian supra, as it’s called. This is a wonderful way of having a dinner or banquet. Basically, instead of just one or two main courses, there was a constant flow of small dishes of different things.
But the main distinguishing element of a Georgian dinner, is the custom of giving toasts to all the guests. Every so often during the meal, you hear the ting, ting, ting of a knife on a glass and that’s the signal that the toastmaster is about to give a toast. I think this is a great custom, and we should adopt it here in Western Europe too. It has the effect of bringing all the guests at the different tables, together and of uniting everybody in a way. I found, at any rate.
Yet another distinguishing feature of Georgian banquets, is the singing. This time there is no ting ting ting on the glass, but every so often you hear the melancholic, minor key, sad, sad singing of two or more voices. You may or may not like it, but I’m a sucker for it, and it actually really did bring a tear to my eye. What with all that Georgian wine flowing too, and me being like the way I am! Of course I have no idea what the words in Georgian mean, but I’m imagining deep tragedies and laments, and yearnings; maybe from the Persian invasions of a few thousand years ago! I don’t know.
The next day, I was to fly back to Madrid – but in the afternoon. I decided a few years ago, that life was too short, not only to drink bad wine, but also to take early morning (or even morning) flights!
Which gave me time to go to the Doodle Bar, in the TestBed1 space/project/thing, which is in danger of being “redeveloped”. I hope my little contribution helps.
And then it really was time to go home. But wow, what a weekend, what a refreshing, illuminating, and encouraging few days. Just what body and soul needs, maybe just a few times a year :)