Ξ July 10th, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Tasting Notes, Wine News, Wineries |
It’s amazing how a simple comment can change influence someone’s life for a whole year. Towards the end of Episode 275 of Wine Library TV that hyperactive wine-champion of the Internet generation, Gary Vaynerchuk, got into a rant about people playing safe with wine and not being adventurous enough, saying “…are you ready to step up and try 365 different wines for the rest of the year”. After dropping that one-liner into the episode it was inevitable that the VaynerNation would rise to the call and almost immediately The 365 day Challenge was born. The rules were painfully simple – before 12th July 2008 you needed to have had 365 DIFFERENT wines, no duplicates allowed. Before claims of incitement to alcoholism get bandied around remember this is a wine enthusiasts community where visits to wineries, multiple tastings etc. are commonplace – no-one was saying drink a full bottle of wine every day for a year, I’m sure the Surgeon General would have something to say about THAT advice!
From my recent Centurion post you’ll probably already have gathered I like a challenge, however being in the UK I felt at a disadvantage. I don’t have any wineries within easy driving distance to visit and my average drinking was 2 bottles a week, which would take me to just over 100 – far short of the target. However I did have 2 advantages over my other U.K. based wine-loving friends;
-My work. Being shipped around the world on a regular basis, with access to Frequent Flyer lounges, meant a significant proportion of the total could be met in Airports and on-board flights. Hotels and restaurants can also quickly add to a total if you have a glass or two of something different each time round.
-The Newcastle Wine Fair. This twice yearly event has 40+ wines to taste your way through over the course of an evening, so assuming I could get through most of the wines on offer during each one then that’s nearly 80 wines on two separate nights!
Of course notes would be required to keep track of what had been tried and eliminate the chance of duplication (strictly against the rules!) so I reverted to type and started a spreadsheet with all the relevant information – although a little later fellow Reign of Terroir author Brandon Miller set up a dedicated Web-based database for anyone to use and keep track of their progress. My first red wine logged was a humble offering, the Concha y Toro Explorer 2005 Pinot Noir from the Casablanca valley, Chile, savoured on the 13th July 2007. This was a classic New World Pinot, very smooth and enjoyable. The first white was a day later, Tyrrell’s Old Winery 2005 Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley in Australia, with a buttery aroma, rich texture and a sweet citrus tang at the end. So began a year of new wines.
The first months progress was good with a large dinner party and business travel to move me just under the one-a-day target, moving into August with more business trips keeping me reasonably on track. Late September and the first Newcastle Wine Fair kicked in with 39 tasters to send me ahead of schedule, however after that progress stalled – I think I dropped to a 3 per week average, far behind what I needed to stand a chance at the Challenge, even Christmas and New Year couldn’t keep me ahead. By that time it was no longer a competition among the Vayniacs, that sub-plot had already been won when a little lady called Suzanna reached the 365 in November (much to everyone’s amazement and secret calls to AA!).
The business travel kept on coming and Israel in February ’08 added a boost, when I visited 3 wineries, and not much later the first of two visits to Turkey gave a healthy injection of middle-eastern wines and explains how both of these countries ended up in my final Top 10. Pretty soon it was April and the second NWF – another 37 wines to the totals and suddenly I was ahead of target again, and the home-stretch beckoned, with work throwing more hectic foreign trips at me, each with the bonus side-effect of wine exposure. It was Turkey again in May, followed by Australia and South Africa, meaning that June 28th saw me sitting on 364 – one wine to reach the Challenge total and 2 weeks to do it.
Number 365 coincided with an experimental tasting I carried out with 2 friends met on the Wine Forums, one in Japan, the other in the US. The event had been planned for months and was set for the 4th July, with the 2000 Vintage of Chateau Musar Rouge (Gaston Hochar). Earlier vintages of this wine, always a polarizing influence in the wine community, had been enjoyed by all 3 of the participants and in retrospect it was a fitting label for the 365th wine on my Challenge list. There is likely to be a future article on the great Musar simultasting, so I won’t go into any more detail of that here, but this was quickly followed by 366, also a Musar, this time the 2001 Blanc.
So with a week left to go before the end of the challenge there was room for another 12 wines, 10 from a mid-week Spanish tasting, to bring the final total for a year of novel wine tasting to 378. Keeping records of each wine means that I have a detailed insight into a year of my wine drinking life, and some wonderful statistical breakdowns of what, where, why and when.
Here are some of the key figures;
Red Wines = 189, White Wines = 138, Sparkling Wines = 17, Rose Wines = 13 and Fortified & Dessert Wines = 21.
Number of different countries = 24, including China, Cyprus, England, India and Mexico (1 each).
Top 10 countries;
France (85), Spain (53), Australia (49), Italy (36), South Africa (36), Chile (19), USA (17), Germany (14), Israel (12) and Turkey (11).
Most common regions;
California (15), Stellenbosch (14), Rioja (14) and the Loire Valley (13).
Number of wines drank = 271, number of wines tasted = 107.
Number of wines tried at airports or onboard flights = 53.
Oldest Vintage = 1967.
Thanks Gary, for (unintentionally) setting off this brilliant adventure I ended up on – along with the Wine Century Club these two “quests” have changed my wine buying and drinking habits. Whilst I will undoubtedly end up buying some of the better wines I tried last year for future drinking, and there are a few bottles in my cellar I’m bringing to the top of the lists now that the “no duplicate” ban is removed, I have definitely moved from the safe options of buying “whatever tasted good last month” and into the uncharted territories of novel grapes, regions and wine producers.