When I wrote this post originally, I did my usual little bit of soul searching and raked over my past experiences. Then I edited it all out. If you want to stick with the slimline version click here
But if you want to learn more about me, and how I came to have this particular understanding of how our senses affect our reality, read on.
In my life before children I was variously a Dental nurse, Barmaid, Waitress,(really bad, spilt stuff but I was nice so I still got good tips) Shopgirl, Homewares and Fashion Wholesale Rep' and then
A wine rep'.
It wasn't a huge leap. I was flying back from Ireland to Aus in the mid-nineties. Dreading having to go back to work and convince people that the new black was aubergine, working two seasons ahead so that by the time fashion actually reached the season that I was wearing; I was over it.
And as the Internet was starting to really catch on, the fashion cheats I worked for were getting caught out and left behind. Going on junkets to the USA to take photos of The GAP and Banana Republic does not equal good design. And I was fed up with the level of imports that selling textiles in Australia involved, and how vulnerable we were to currency variations. So I was looking to jump ship.
So,I open up the in flight magazine and flick through to find out how Australian Wine was taking on the world. Here was something that was actually grown, manufactured and marketed by Australians, in Australia and across the world.
I went home and quit the Rag trade, did a few night courses, worked cellar door for a few months and started going on interviews, and within 6 months had managed to blag my way into a job.
I know. It is terribly hypocritical of me to admit to blagging my way into a new industry on the basis of a few night classes but I never pretended to be a Master of Wine. I just talked the talk, focused on features and benefits and managed to convince people I knew what I was doing enough to buy from me. I wasn't making the stuff, just selling it. It is not the same as those cowboys who pretend to be experts in ABA and take your money. mmmokay?
There I was learning on the job and faking my way up the ladder. Someone left, then someone else got their job and suddenly I wasn't the "everywhere else" rep' but the Restaurant Rep for The North Shore. Another move, another promotion and I was given the C.B.D.Then I got head hunted and suddenly I was selling elite boutique wines to some of the best sommeliers in Sydney AND GETTING AWAY WITH IT.
Truth be told, I don't have a good palate, but I knew enough to listen to people who did and ask for a few good descriptors to use when selling. And because I am a kick arse salesman. I did well at the game. A lot better than many so called "experts" because they didn't understand people and couldn't sell to save their lives.
Up to that point Mr Hammie had been in the Electrical Industry. However he had been putting in stellar work behind the scenes supporting me in my new industry (drinking all my tasting stock basically)
So he thought he could give it a go. He went to a few night classes, started doing my bottle shop tastings and when I had Boo, joined me in a job share.
And guess what?He has an excellent palate.
Not only could he appreciate and understand all the different little nuances of each wine and each vintage and each region as described by the winemaker; he could break it down further and add to it.
His perception of a wine was a lot more sophisticated than mine; but I knew enough to recognise that.
Because the other amazing thing about the wine game is that the industry is full of people with aspects of autism. Their extra sensory perception is recognized and rewarded and there are an awful lot of facts to learn and specialise in. And discuss.
Along with the type of grapes, the region, the vintage and the time of day that the fruit was picked, (Seriously)
you have ; The blend, the type of fermentation, whether or not they used oak, the size of barrel, the type of oak (American, German French), and what forest it came from, (fair dinkum)
how old the oak was (younger = more flavour) and whether it was light, medium or heavy toast.
There were a group of probably Aspie men we called "The Seagulls" because they would flock to all the tastings in wineshops every Friday Night. And they would bring their own glass(!!!!)
A notebook (!!!!) and very seriously taste whatever you were trying to flog and then talk to you about it.
Conversation would go thus:
Me: "Would you like to try the new Allendale Chardonnay?"
Wine Geek: "Yes, what vintage is it?
Me: "The 2007 vintage was memorable as being one with very low cropping levels of intensely flavoured fruit. While 2007 Chardonnay follows very much in the "Allandale" style it shows very rich/ ripe peach flavours balanced with French and American oak characters.....
W.G. "The french oak, is that new?"
Me "ahh, (frantically reading notes) Yes!
W.G. "Nevers or Troncais?"
Me: " ah (taking a guess).. "Troncais!"
W.G. "Barrels or Bariques?, High toast or Medium Toast? What was the Barrel maker's middle name?....."
Me "FECK FECK FECK..."
Enter Mr Hammie, who could not only remember all these salient facts but also genuinely taste the difference they made. He could also argue with the Seagulls about every nuance until they either bought something (rarely) or turned on their socks and sandaled heels* and walked away.
As well as those with an "interest in wine" I met a few winemakers who I felt were "in the spectrum" and using it to produce award winners. They were often cripplingly shy and usually undersold their efforts to the point of putting people off. And yes, there were a large number of socially inept people in the industry whose "direct" manner was taken as rudeness. Seriously, one famous award winning winemaker used to read a book at wine shows, and grunt at anyone who tried to engage with him or taste any of his wines.
So fortunately, they still needed the likes of me with my broad unsophisticated palate to deal with the general public and sell the stuff.
And that's how I got to know, what I don't know.