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Trains, Planes and Burping Bacon

February 4th, 2010

Gary Gubbins blogging 'live' from Milliseme Bio 2010

It’s always easier to write about something that has happened to you, as you can hang your little throwaway comments against something tangible. As I mentioned last week, I was going to the Milliseme Bio organic wine fair in Montpellier. I am back and have lots to say, so this article will be stretched over two parts as I feel compelled to talk about the supermodels, paparazzi and the smallest toilet in Paris. Before all of that I need to talk about wine of course. Last week’s article title should have prepared me, but instead it jinxed me. I had all of my planning in place for a very well organised trip. However, the fog on Monday morning delayed the flight from Cork to Paris for three hours and the train to Montpellier I had pre-booked had long since left Charles de Gaulle’s TGV train station. It was getting late when we eventually got to the notice board in the station and I spotted a train leaving for Marseille. I knew it would have to go through Lyon, where there was a chance we could catch a connection to Montpellier. If it didn’t work out, we would end up in Marseille or Lyon, both fine places to find oneself stranded. In the end, after a chat with a very nice conductor, I found out that there was an 11 minute gap between the Paris train arriving in Lyon and the Montpellier train leaving. European trains are great – they actually use the timetables as more than rough guidelines. By all accounts, the conductors will actually enforce your claim for a reserved seat. What a concept. Excuse the slight sarcasm, but I am reminiscing about a trip to Dublin for a Tipperary match where a person would not vacate the seat I had booked online. The fact that I was a little sick on that particular morning did not help the situation. Needless to say, the ‘officials’ did not want to get involved and I am a peaceful man at heart and decided not to physically eject the 6ft 4inch monster from my seat. I digress from my journey into deepest France. We arrived in the hotel for about 9.30 that night, after an 8 a.m. start. Some food and then an early night for there was tasting to be done the next day.

I rose early and had a light breakfast, which was difficult considering the wide array of fried delicacies available at the buffet. When I am doing a marathon tasting I don’t like to be full or even eat anything more than bread or toast, as the flavours can come back at you later. Burping up the scent of an earlier bacon roll while, trying to figure out the subtleties of a good Burgundy is not ideal. Fizzy drinks and mints are also banned. Women should avoid perfume and men should avoid aftershave ( and perfume for that matter ). A shuttle bus was arranged to collect would be tasters near the hotel and I boarded full of enthusiasm. After registration and a cloak room visit, the sleeves were rolled up and I was ready to go. The hall has rows of tables with about 500 exhibitors ( which is actually quite a small show – relatively ), each showing anywhere from 4 to 50 wines. I had a list that I had researched and that needed to be cut again. You need to be brutal in your discrimination, and a simple thing like a bad label will end the visit before it begins. What has a label to do with the quality of the wine you ask? Absolutely nothing but public perception demands a certain aesthetic and I have a list of great wines I could not sell because of the labels. I sell a great Provence wine called Domaine de Tara, but I find it hard to shift, and I constantly get negative feedback about the label. People who taste it in generally love it, and it is very well priced for wines of that quality ( €13.50 and €16.50 ). With this in mind, I attack my list.

Philippe Guillanton of Ch Margui at Milliseme Bio 2010<

I can’t go into too much detail of the actual winemakers I met as I need to go into negotiation stage with some of them and that can be a delicate process and one can’t appear too keen. They might be reading the blog. I can tell you that I met with some really good Italian winemakers and would hope to start bringing in some Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Piedmont, Sicilian wines and others at a really great price. Bringing in the wines direct makes a huge difference in terms of quality but also in terms of price. I am really excited by some of the Rhone Valley wines I found. I have slowly been increasing my range in Rhone Valley and this trip has given me a number of great contacts to follow up on. I tasted some exceptional wines and can’t wait to fly down this spring and negotiate. The easy thing to do at these shows is to decide based on what you taste there. However, you are tasting a lot of wine, you are under pressure for time, and it has been suggested that some people take their ‘special’ wines to these shows. Therefore, if you are serious about importing wines I think it is essential that you go and meet these people in their own house, and see the work they put in on a daily basis. Their passion deserves respect but they also need to know that you will pay them as well. Sitting across the kitchen table from a winemaker (or farmer) and telling them that you will pay them in the agreed time is an important part of the process and travelling to their home to tell them this means a lot to these traditional people. You also need to taste again and be sure of what you are buying.

I also managed to meet some existing suppliers when there. I met with Caroline Feely of Chateau Haut Garrigue and congratulated her on the recent Nationwide feature which has resulted in lots of bookings for the holiday home in the vines as well as big interest in the wines. The video of the show is available on for those interested. The wines are very popular for us, and it’s easy to see why. Great quality at a great price. I also got to meet Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui and he introduced me to a very important winemaker. The vineyard in question is famous as its recording studio has seen Pink Floyd, Sting and even the Cranberries record there. More recently it is the home of a very famous Hollywood acting couple, and I have been invited to visit this summer, as it is next door to Margui. I only hope that Angelina is home when I call. I posted a lot of videos and photographs from the trip on - log on to have a peak. Next week I will talk about what happened after the show – a great restaurant and wine list, colliding with the paparazzi and a supermodel in Paris and a dodgy sandwich on the TGV. It’s not pretty and won’t be for those of a delicate nature.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Blogs posted “live” from Trip

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Feb 04 2010

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