Wine and Health – Part I

Wine and health has been pretty well documented recently with the industry starting to realise the long term potential issues surrounding the lifestyle of a wine professional. As a relative newcomer and someone still in his late 20’s, I can’t speak for the long term effects of anything but I have noticed some short term effects over the last 6 months, notably weight gain. Now, this isn’t an inevitable part of working within the wine industry but the last 18 months of my life have been largely spent studying for various exams, working with few breaks and more recently becoming a father, most of which isn’t conducive to physical fitness. The birth of my son in particular seems to have tipped the balance somewhat, resulting in something like a 4-5kg gain over the past couple of months and sending out a signal that I should probably tackle the issue before it becomes a problem.

So, I will! I’ve got 6 months until the final exam of the WSET Diploma and that’s going to require a few things:

  1. A lot of studying. For me that means a lot of sitting down and poring over textbooks, maps and articles until my head hurts. I do supplement this with a daily walk of around an hour whilst listening to Levi Dalton’s podcasts, but the rest is hunch-back time and this can be up to 3 hours a day.

  2. A lot of tasting. I still try to get to Monvinic on a weekly or bi-monthly basis to do blind tasting, but there’s a lot of wines that I prefer to purchase a bottle of and get to know over a day or three. I would say my monthly consumption of wine is somewhere in the 10-15 bottles range, and this isn’t likely to go down anytime soon!

  3. A lot of energy. With the large commitments to studying and tasting on top of working and my new found friend, sleep deprivation, energy is vital. Being in good shape is a pretty solid approach to having more energy and it makes a big difference when the going gets tough.

Now I’ve always kept myself in some sort of reasonable shape by going on occasional jogs and supplementing that with press-ups, bodyweight squats and other various calisthenics. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve set foot in a gym but I need a bit of extra firepower for this, so I’ve signed up for a 2 month trial at Anytime Fitness, a franchise of which is conveniently around 100m away from where I live. The idea is to get into a rhythm of exercise that allows me to continue tasting and drinking as I learn my way around the wine world without compromising my health at the same time.

Ideally, I’d like this to become a sort of monthly update to show that it is possible to be heavily invested into the wine industry whilst still being physically fit and healthy. It’s about 3 and a half weeks until the beginning of August, when I tend to drink a little less anyway due to the heat and stifling humidity of Barcelona, so I’ll probably wait until the beginning of September to post the first update. That gives me 8 weeks to get the ball rolling and have some results to show for it. Off we go!

On a personal note: 2016 in review

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Well, 2016 has been quite a year! You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a great deal in December this year and that’s because I’ve been busy planning an exciting, packed 2017 but I did want to take the time to round up the year, and highlight some of the great things I’ve experienced. Whilst the Western world has been somewhat turbulent politically and economically this year, the wine industry has remained steady, sane and really very interesting, with lots of new discoveries, classifications and new wine styles emerging throughout the year. My own experience of 2016 has been on the whole pretty positive, only marred by the aforementioned global issues and I have an awful lot to be thankful for. Here are some of my personal highlights from the year past.

Maestrazgo Wine Club: At the beginning of 2016 whilst on holiday in Argentina, I had to give up a project I’d been working on for almost a year and start from scratch with the goal of building a group of winelovers living in Barcelona. I remember building the group on Meet-up.com, opening a tasting for the week after I arrived back and crossing my fingers. I needn’t have worried because it booked up within the day, and I opened a second one which also filled up remarkably quickly. Since then we’ve done 35 tastings over the year, with a different topic every single week, exploring the world of wine with a wonderful group of people. It remains the highlight of my week and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have such an active, interesting group of people attending my tastings. 2017 is set to continue in the same vein with some new events and ideas planned for the year ahead. Stay tuned!

Wine education: If you’d told me 18 months ago that I’d currently be halfway through my WSET Diploma with Distinction and Merit grades for all exams I’d have laughed at you, as at that point I was just getting started with my education and this looked like a distant dream. It’s been pretty tough going financially travelling to London and back on top of the course costs but I couldn’t have spent the money any better; my understanding of the world of wine has come on leaps and bounds over the past year, largely due to the excellent teaching of the WSET and the format of the course. 2017 will see the end of the WSET Diploma and an opportunity to regather and prepare myself for the arduous, 3-5 year battle for the Masters of Wine title. I couldn’t be more excited!

Wine Cuentista: This year I’ve had the pleasure of organising several exclusive, private tastings for both people living within Barcelona and also those visiting. The private tastings are flexible allowing people to choose their topics very specifically and I’ve had a great time organising tastings from a general coverage of Spain, to deep-diving into individual appellations and wine styles. I’ve also enjoyed starting my blog and generally rambling away over the course of the year and whilst Spain might be the worst place to be self-employed in Europe at the moment, the reward of being able to define your own professional philosophy and goals is well worth the effort. I intend to devote a lot more time to my blog in 2017 and Wine Cuentista will also be coming to Youtube to explore wine more visually. Exciting stuff.

Devour Spain: 2016 has seen me working alongside Devour Spain a great deal, an excellent company focusing on food, culture, wine and history tours around the major cities of Spain. I work with them specifically as part of their Wine and Tapas tour in Barcelona, a great experience that allows me to meet people from all over the world and introduce them to the wonders of Spanish wine. There’s something enormously gratifying about knowing that hundreds of people are going back to their home countries, going into wine shops and having conversations like “We had the most amazing wine in Barcelona, do you have it?”

New Years Resolution: The first time I’ve ever completed one! My resolution this year was to share 50 different bottles of wine with 50 different people and I managed to honour it and have a great deal of fun in the process. Unfortunately in 2017 I won’t be able to afford a resolution quite like it (The bill crept a little over 4000 euros in the end!) but I fully intend to take the time to sit down and share a bottle as often as I can, get to know someone or catch up with an old friend. My New Years Resolution will be dreadfully boring by comparison and will be focused on wine education but now that I’ve managed to finish one, it would be a shame not to make a habit of it.

New friends: It seems that this year I’ve met more incredible people than ever before, from all across the world and in a few different fields. From getting to know the French wine industry through Le Petit Ballon, to being visited by winelovers from around the world to share a bottle or two, to getting to know the local community of Barcelona and of course, meeting incredible professionals through my Diploma course, it’s been a very social year indeed! Wine famously brings people closer together and my 2016 has certainly been proof of that.

Old friends: None of it would of course be worth it without the support, friendship and love from my friends and family. I’m surrounded by a lot of people that I care about and who care about me, and that makes all the difference in the end. In 2017 I’m going to become a father for the first time, which will bring a whole new dimension to proceedings and life in general, and I couldn’t be happier. Regardless of what 2017 brings, I know I’ll be able to spend some time with the people that mean the most to me and that’s a very comforting thought.

I hope you’ve all had a similarly interesting and exciting 2016, and I wish you all a wonderful start to 2017! It’s going to be a great year and I’m looking forward to seeing you all for a glass of wine or two over the coming months.

Happy New Year!

Fintan

On a personal note: Thanksgiving

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The world of wine blogs will today be absolutely rife with articles about pairing wine with traditional Thanksgiving food. As the food never really changes, the wine options are remarkably similar every year so expect to see recommendations for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Beaujolais and other medium bodied wines, perfect for a plate of turkey, stuffing and yams. I myself will be heading to spend the evening with a friend and their excellent party that I first attended last year and will be bringing a magnum of La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2001; it’s going to be delicious!

That’s not why I’m writing this short piece, though. Last year was my first ever Thanksgiving and I enjoyed it a great deal. It wasn’t so much the food, the wine and the company which are usually top of my list, but the fact that the holiday felt like it still has meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas but it does appear to have lost its way somewhere along the line, with adverts in Western countries going up in late October and time spent with friends and family taking a backseat to the increasingly commercialised process of buying vast quantities of presents, usually more by obligation than a real desire to celebrate the holiday. By comparison, last year my favourite part of the evening was sitting down with a great group of people and saying what I was thankful for. Now in 2016, a year that has kicked an awful lot to the curb around the world, I actually find that I have more to be thankful for than ever. So whilst I will keep it short and simple tonight (the turkey will get cold otherwise) I’d like to offer a Thanksgiving note here instead.

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2016 has been a remarkable year for me. 2015 was my first year working in the wine industry, learning about the amazing world of wine and meeting lots of new friends and 2016 has been a rapidly accelerated version of that.

I’ve had the enormous pleasure of starting and getting halfway through the WSET Diploma with Merit and Distinction marks for every exam. I’ve met several new, good friends in the process and look forward to returning to London for classes in early January. I’m more committed than ever to my goal of becoming a Master of Wine and the support I receive as I move towards this means a lot to me.

I started a local wine tasting group in Barcelona known as Maestrazgo Wine Club, and it’s now the most active group of its kind in the entire city. This wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful people who attend and I’m enormously grateful to all of them. I’m also very thankful to my friend Jose of Bodega Maestrazgo; without him, Maestrazgo Wine Club simply wouldn’t be the same.

I’ve been able to start branching out and working with one or two different companies on projects. Devour Spain have been a big part of my life this year, leading their Wine and Tapas Tour has been a distinct pleasure and I’m very fortunate to have found such a wonderful group of people to work with. I now meet and introduce Spanish wine to people from all around the world every week, which is incredibly satisfying. I’ve also had the pleasure of working closely with Le Petit Ballon in France, another great group of people currently enjoying their hard earned success in the UK and constantly looking to improve wine culture.

Wine Cuentista has gone from strength to strength, again largely thanks to the wonderful people who’ve attended my tastings, booked my time privately and read this blog! Thank-you to you all, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all!

Locally in Barcelona I’ve met a wealth of new, lovely people in the wine industry, many of whom are now personal friends. Having a network of support is not something I take for granted and I always look forward to tasting, chatting and sharing wine with them all.

I’ve gotten my fitness and health back on track with an exercise program that saw me lose 15kgs of weight after spending 3 years working in an office and getting very out of shape. I now feel much healthier and happier and I owe a debt of thanks to Alberto and Diana for getting me started. Onwards and upwards!

Last but certainly not least, I’m enormously grateful to be surrounded by people I love. My family, my beautiful girlfriend and all of my friends are instrumental to my well being, whether they know it or not. Living in Barcelona is exactly where I want to be, working with wine is exactly what I want to do and the people in my life make me smile everyday; what more can a man ask for?

My thanks to you all for being a part of my wonderful 2016. With all the external noise and issues the world is facing right now, I couldn’t feel more fortunate to be in the position I am in and I look forward to continuing to share the world of wine as we move forwards. Whatever you’re doing today, whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I recommend taking a few minutes and thinking about what you’re thankful for, you might be surprised by just how much that is!

Barcelona Wine Tasting Newsletter: November 2016

Every month I send out a simple newsletter to the members of Maestrazgo Wine Club; a small group of wine-lovers who meet once a week to explore the world of wine together in a small tasting room in Barcelona. For more information on Maestrazgo Wine Club and how to book a wine tasting in Barcelona, check out this page for more information.

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November: This is typically the last month of the harvest for most wine-makers and indeed, practically all the white grapes and most of the reds will have been picked, pressed and begun fermentation already, with the exception of some late-ripening varieties or those small pockets of grapes in particular micro-climates. The big task in November is making the wine; with winery space at a premium and stainless steel tanks, barrels and concrete eggs all full of fermenting wine that has to be monitored constantly in order to make sure the temperatures, nutrient levels and volatile components are all in check, it can be a pretty stressful place to be. Now the time in the vineyard is more or less over, biology takes a back-seat to chemistry as science and artistry vie for control of the process. If the harvest was good and a good crop of healthy grapes was brought in, the sky is the limit for a skilled wine-maker. If the yield was low and/or poor quality due to rots, fungi, weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances then the wine-maker will have a challenge on their hands to turn it into a good quality wine that can return the investment of the year. Spare a thought for the wine-makers this month, the next time you raise a glass to your lips!

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Hello Wine Lovers! I think it’s fair to say that we’re now officially in Autumn with lashings of rain and cloudy skies making Barcelona their home; perfect weather for wine-tasting, incidentally! Last month we covered some serious ground going from the Wines of Galicia, to top quality, single-estate wines across Spain and finally a mad dash around the world in search of Pinot Noir. This month is going to be no less hectic with another 3 tastings on the cards; A blind tasting of some of Spains most iconic wine styles, an achingly sweet look at the Spanish dessert wine scene and finally, a trip to a skinny little country towards the bottom of South America – Chile! 30 spots open for the month and 3 very different topics so choose your poison and get ready for another wonderful month of tasting our way around the world of wine! Who knows, it may even stop raining eventually…

Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club:

10h November– Blind Tasting: The Wines of Spain – 25 euros p/p

17th November – Spain Sugar-Coated: The Sweet Wines of Spain – 25 euros p/p

1st December – International tasting: Chile – 30 euros p/p

Articles: I probably spend too much of my time reading online articles about wine. However, as a result I can find and select a choice few to share – here are my three favourites from last month!

  1. ‘The Future of Wine’ by Robert Joseph and Felicity Carter. I love this time of the year; usually it’s when industry experts start trying to predict what the near future will bring to wine and who will benefit the most. I admire and respect both Robert and Felicity and this list of potential changes is a well thought-out and interesting piece from two excellent wine-writers. Well worth a read! https://www.meininger.de/en/wine-business-international/great-debate-future-of-wine

  1. ‘Old Wine Movies in Full’ by Jancis Robinson MW. This one is less of an article and more of an opportunity to watch a very good series of wine shows originally shot in 1995 with a much younger Jancis. It’s a collection of short videos, around 30 minutes each, of Jancis and co. travelling around the worlds major wine regions, taking it all in, drinking some very good wine and asking some very pertinent questions. All now available on youtube; the link’s in the article! http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/old-wine-movies-now-online

  1. ‘Showcooking and Wordsenglish’ by Miquel Hudin. I recently had the pleasure of spending a day picking a field of mildew-blighted Carignan with Miquel in DO Montsant and aside from his vast knowledge on the world of wine, he’s a genuinely nice guy and funny to boot. Not long afterwards he released this short article, which if you’re ever done a few winery visits will provide a chuckle or two. In the style of comedy I normally associate with Ron Washam, Miquel pokes fun at Catalan wine culture, wine visits in general and anything associated with harvest-time. Very fitting! https://wineonsix.com/showcooking-wordsenglish-in-catalan-wine/

Wine of the Month: I’m constantly on the look-out for wines of real quality and value; I rarely purchase anything over 30-40 euros a bottle and more commonly you’ll find me drinking in the 6-25 euro range.

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Avanthia Rosé 2015 I could be wrong but I believe having a rosé as our ‘Wine of the Month’ may well be a first! This was a wonderful discovery for me, as I normally associate Valdeorras with crisp, weighty white wines from varieties such as Godello. I adore Mencia, which is the grape variety that makes this wine, and a good indication of quality in rosé wines for me is that ability to pick out the grape variety that made it; often difficult with bland, commercial wines that are sold on the basis of their colour. Violets, strawberries and a lovely kick of wild herbs with a racy acidity and a stunning dark pink colour – absolutely delicious! Available at Vinissimus.com for around 12 euros a bottle. https://www.vinissimus.com/es/vinos/rosado/detalle_vino.html?id_vino=avnro14

Wine Facts

Some fun and interesting facts about the world of wine. Terminology, myths and FAQs; as science becomes more ingrained in our industry, we discover new and exciting realities every day!

‘En Primeur’ – En Primeur is a term given to wine that is sold as futures prior to being bottled, that is to say that the wine has not yet been made yet, and typically you’re taking a bet on the finished product with the incentive of a lower upfront cost to buy the wine, which frees up cash-flow for the winery. This is traditionally a practice done in Bordeaux but recently I have seen it within Spain, particularly through Vila Viniteca who, in their defense, were offering some excellent prices on the 2015 vintage of some of Spains more famous wines. Due to the nature of the transaction, you typically won’t receive your wines for 1-3 years after purchase when the made has been made, matured and bottled.

Does spending more money on wine guarantee a higher quality product?” – Not necessarily although there are less reliable ways to choose a bottle! Wine prices depend on a lot of different factors and up to around 30-40 euros a bottle in Spain, these can often be linked back to production costs. After this level however, the price increases are usually linked to supply and demand, famous appellations or wine-makers, scarcity of the product and of course, simply what the market is willing to pay for it. Within Spain, there is rarely a need to go over 20 euros a bottle to get a good, well made and individual wine that will light up the evening and there’s a wealth of choice available at this price bracket too. If you’re still curious about it, go mad one day and spend that 40-50 euros and find out for yourself. One way or the other, you’ll have your answer!

Is there anything I can do with a faulty/corked wine?” – I recently got asked this by someone who used wine that suffered from cork taint (TCA) for cooking and wanted to know if it would cause a problem. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend buying expensive wine for the purposes of cooking, I also wouldn’t use wine that I wouldn’t drink myself and faulty wines come under that category. Whilst it won’t do you any harm as TCA is harmless, it’s not going to add much to the dish and frankly, you’d be better served taking the bottle back to the store where you bought it for a replacement or a refund.

Social Media

These newsletters only come out once a month and there is a limit on space for content. If you use Social Media and want to keep up with regular wine updates and occasional rambles, feel free to connect with me on any of the following platforms.

Blog: winecuentista.com

Facebook: Wine Cuentista

Twitter: @Wine_Cuentista

Instagram: wine_cuentista

That’s it for this months Newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it and please, if you have any suggestions or things you would like to see get in touch! Either respond to me here or email to fintankerr@winecuentista.com I can’t wait to see you all soon for more wine, food and good company. 🙂

Fintan Kerr

Thoughts on: New Years Resolution – Sharing Wine!

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If you follow me on social media at all, you’ll find that I’m often posting pictures of myself with different people, sharing different bottles of wine around Barcelona. This isn’t unusual in itself; getting slightly drunk with people you like is perhaps life’s greatest joy. However, if you read the description you’ll find that many of them are part of a New Years Resolution I started in..well.. January, of course, which makes it a little less spontaneous. The whole concept is to share 50 different bottles of wine with 50 different people over the course of the year, learn a little more about people I know but only superficially, meet some completely new friends and of course, have some laughs with long term drinking buddies and family. The whole concept was created one evening in late December 2015, when I was getting more fed up than usual with the social media circle-jerk of empty platitudes and wine memes only spat out to garner likes and attract maximum attention. A (slightly tipsy) rant ensued to no-one in particular, and bold claims were made. The result is this wonderful resolution; never let it be said that decisions made under the influence of wine are regretted the following morning (Although the ratio is still largely skewed in that direction, to be fair).

To date I’ve shared 32 bottles with 32 people and it’s looking increasingly likely I’m going to, for the first time ever, successfully complete a new years resolution. Not only has this been by far one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever undertaken, it’s really reinforced the belief that set this off; that wine is far, far better when shared (literally shared, not attached to a meme and vomited onto Twitter). It’s an easy thing to forget in our modern world as the role of wine has changed, from being a simple alcoholic beverage you would drink daily with dinner to being an object of study, discussion and culture. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this and as someone with grand ambitions of my own with regards to wine education, is something I’m certainly guilty of. All it takes is a good dinner and a nice bottle of wine with company to bring this back down to earth, however. The simple pleasure of eating good food and chatting whilst the wine uncoils itself inside you, peels off layers of your external armour and sets you at ease, well, it’s quite magical and so very under-rated.

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I already know that I won’t be able to afford to approach this in the same way in 2017; the cost so far is already over 2000 euros and whilst I don’t begrudge that, life is set to get a fair bit more expensive in the near future. It’s not a problem, though, as the real take-away lesson for me is how important it is to prioritise this sort of thing in my life. I want to have more casual dinners, to share more wine, to eat, drink and be merry as part of a local community as it’s something that really makes me very content and I think is a wonderful way of living. We’re set to move flats towards the end of this year, and a bigger space to live in will also mean a bigger space to share with others. The horrible tweets and memes that instigated this whole thing are horrible because they turn this truth into white noise, which is then passed around and ignored, a vehicle for short-term visibility and nothing else. The fact is, in order to experience it you need to make it happen. Get some great wine, cook a wonderful meal and invite your friends and loved ones over to enjoy it. That person you’ve always wanted to get to know better? Invite them for a glass of wine. That old friend you keep meaning to go for a drink with? Show up to their house with something delicious. Do you even know your neighbours? No? Grab a drink with them, you won’t regret it.

I’m looking forward to another 5 months of bringing this project to its conclusion, drinking some great wine and meeting some more wonderful people along the way. I have no idea what I’ll try for my new years resolution 2017 but if it brings as much happiness and fun as 2016, count me in. Wine really does bring people closer together, it just needs a little help from us in order to be in the right place when we open it up. Cheers!

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