2017: A Year in Review, Part 1

2017 is coming to a close – but what a year it’s been! (For us anyway, sorry to rub it in if you’ve had a shit year.) We launched Wined Up in January and, in the space of a year, it has become much more than just a blog for both of us.

2018 will see us embark on new projects and expand on what we do, through starting to create video content as well as offering services for anyone looking to have a wine tasting, either at a venue of their choice or their own home. We’ll reveal more in the New Year, so watch this space!

In November 2016, I was lying on my mattress in a basement studio apartment in Lille, France where I was running a small bar. I could help but notice just how approachable wine culture is in France. I remember customers asking me multiple questions about the wines we’d be serving and wanting to examine the bottles. None of this was done with pretentiousness or to look ‘well to do’, it was just because it was something they cared about and placed value on. Back in Rotherham, I used to be ridiculed to an extent for my enthusiasm about wine, which I used to find incredibly frustrating.

I was at another bar one night, having a drink after work, asking multiple questions about the wine they had and it dawned on me: “In France I’m a normal person, but in England I’m a wanker”. This is something that I thought needed to change. Don’t get me wrong; there are more noble causes than combating the pompous image that wine can have, but ‘this is what I’ve been put on the earth to do’… also, I’m still a wanker.

Just before Christmas 2016, Lily and I met up at a bar called The Decanter in Leeds to discuss what we wanted to get out of our life changing new blog and what we should call it. We got pretty tipsy and enthusiastically agreed that we were going to be very successful and change the world. 365 days ago, Wined Up was merely a scribble on a couple of note pads after a ‘festive’ conversation. Nobody had heard of Wined Up, as it didn’t exist. Today, literally several thousand people in various pockets of the world have visited our website, read our posts and will have learned something about wine, wine culture and a little bit about both of us. To those people who have visited our site, we would like to say a big thank you.

We would also like to acknowledge all of the industry folk who have made our first year so fun and interesting. It is no secret that we are looking to expand what we do and use our knowledge and specialist areas in providing services for people/events/parties. With each fair we attend, each distributor we meet, each vigneron we interview, it broadens our horizons and helps us to learn so that we can provide people with the best wine and give people the most enjoyable and informative experiences possible.

With the end of the year in sight, we thought it would be fitting to look back and reflect on the highlights of Wined Up’s first year.

James: 2017 has been such an interesting year for me. It saw me temporarily relocate back to the country I hold dearest to my heart, Canada. I remember when I had just booked my flight to Toronto, it was around the time we launched the site and I was having second thoughts about going back to Canada, as everything was so exciting here, but something incredible happened…

I was attending a wine tasting at a bar in Sheffield train station and I met a lady called Sophia Luckett. She put me in touch with her father (Pete Luckett), who just so happened to own a winery… in Canada. Eight weeks later, Pete was picking me up from Halifax Airport and within two days I started working with him.

During my time in Nova Scotia, I learned so much about the technical side of wine, winemaking, vines, and microclimates and became a known face within the wine community/industry there. I can’t begin to even describe my experience being the face of ‘The Magic Wine Bus’ for Luckett Vineyards. 150 people per day all wanting to sample wine and, as the day went on, the customers got drunker, louder and to be honest the sexual attention I received increased. I will always have a soft spot for the magic winery bus. It was definitely a unique part of my job.

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From drivers to servers, tour guides and winery owners. Everyone who had a part in the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus

I would wholeheartedly recommend anybody going to Nova Scotia. We published a series about life on the vineyard called ‘Diaries From The Vines’ which you can read about here. NS an incredible place and, for a wine lover, it is one of the most exciting regions in the world. I am filled with pride to have been a part of that wonderful community and be able to tell people about it.

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In my element

Other highlights for myself included attending the RAW Wine fairs in London and New York, meeting Isabelle Legeron and getting to sit down with her. It gave me a huge appreciation for biodynamic/low intervention wine and we made some great contacts, which provided us with material for some of our most popular content. We met Rachel and Reuben Everett, the mother and son duo who make up L’altreVi. They specialise in distributing Catalonian wine and gave us a masterclass in the Xarel.lo grape and its versatility. Read more about it here.

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Xarel.lo masterclass with Rachel and Rupert

I also met the brilliant Amiel brothers who form Domaine Des Amiel. Two young guys, making delicious wine and using biodynamic principles to ensure their wine and lifestyles are clean and natural. Speaking to Aymeric was really eye opening and reinforced the notion that wine, and the culture surrounding it should be informal, fun and uncomplicated. This mantra is also shared by Peter Hahn from Clos De la Meslerie.

You may remember in a previous post I mentioned that it was Peter’s 2011 Vouvray that got me starting to take wine seriously. I think the beautiful thing about wine is that it is a community and it is such a small world. I never once thought when I was sampling Peter’s wine on my lunch break at a restaurant in Shoreditch that I would be sat talking to him three years later in a warehouse in Brooklyn. These experiences just fill me with joy and spur me on to carry on developing myself within this industry.

 

2017 for me started in Sheffield. I had recently returned from France and spent three months back at home before going out to Nova Scotia. I am seeing 2017 out in Sheffield, so it’s come full circle.

Lily and I both currently have separate jobs outside Wined Up. We work in wine related jobs and, since my return from Nova Scotia, I have been hired as the General Manager of a small Sicilian wine café chain called Veeno, having recently overseen the grand opening and a very busy Christmas period.

My experiences, knowledge and development throughout the past year of writing this blog have resulted in another opportunity for me to further my career and talk about the thing I love the most. Which, of course, is Becky Wine.

Thanks for reading, and have a great 2018!

– James

 

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