I can’t believe that this time last week, I was probably just about landing in Hong Kong airport on my way home. It feels longer ago than that; it’s been quite a busy week I suppose, catching up with friends, family and – of course – work. Mostly the latter to be fair. Despite the best efforts of the amazing colleague who looked after my emails while I was away, there was still a lot on my “to do” list.
Anyway, while I was in Marlborough, a few people asked me what I’d done to win the scholarship and I’m almost embarrassed in some ways. The truth is I had to write a cover letter about how amazing I am and why I wanted the scholarship (always a tricky one and certainly nothing that I’m going to publish), write a short essay on how I viewed Marlborough wines within the sector of the UK wine trade in which I work and then – having been successful – I attended a panel interview. The interview was fun, but I rather get the impression I talked them into submission. If there’s one thing I learned in Marlborough, it’s that I just might talk too much (my apologies to Marcus and Sarah, Jody, Ruud and Dorien, Ivan and Margaret, and anyone else that I wittered onto)…
The essay – or most of it – is below. Reading it now, it isn’t quite as bad as I remember it being, but I wrote it having never been to the region, and I think it shows a little – it’s quite naive and simplistic. However, I told people I would post it and here it is (I’ve cut out a rather rambling introductory paragraph)…
“… Over the past 18 months, there has been a correction to this Bordeaux-centric view, due to the economic downturn and to the fact that many UK wine consumers feel priced out of the traditional wine market. Despite this, however, the wines of Marlborough are currently of limited importance to the UK fine wine trade – Lay & Wheeler no longer regularly lists a single Marlborough producer. This is due mostly to the fact that for many years Marlborough has been synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc and with a particular expression of that grape, an expression that may not perhaps appeal to those with old world predilections and expectations.
I believe that if Marlborough wishes to have an impact on the UK fine wine market, it needs to appeal to buyers of wines from regions like Burgundy, Rhone and Piemonte and I believe that they can do this better in two ways.
Firstly, there needs to be a focus on promoting the grape varieties that are used to produce some of the very best wines of the region, in particular Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also – with some work on refining style – Riesling and Pinot Gris. These are the grape varieties that appear to have the potential to produce wines that could compete with “old world” equivalents, in terms of longevity, complexity and expression.
Secondly, what has also become clear is the fact that the UK fine wine consumer is interested in a good story, a good terroir and – ultimately – a great wine. Single vineyard bottlings from smaller producers are increasingly successful in a market that is appears increasingly interested in the importance of place and this is where I believe that Marlborough truly needs to improve its image. While individual smaller producers are undoubtedly there, creating great wines, they are perhaps lost amongst the larger conglomerates associated with the name of Marlborough. Differentiating between the microclimates within the region, perhaps even going as far as to embrace an appellation system of sorts would seem to be good sense in this context. It would allow the promotion of certain areas as quality wine regions and give consumers a confidence in and understanding of the wines of the area.”
So, there you have it… it’s no masterpiece by any means. I don’t think it’s wildly wrong in some ways, but I would certainly adjust quite a bit of it now and I will when I write my report for Wine Marlborough. It’s amazing how quickly one’s assumptions can be broken down once you’re in a region and talking to the people directly involved.
And rightly so…
Today’s stuck-in-head-song – Here with me, The Killers
Today’s dinner – a selection of Indian food & ice cream in a plastic penguin
Today’s drinks – non alcoholic becks (hmm)
Today’s footwear – brown wedge heeled knee high boots