This blog is starting to look like an old hut in an abandoned vineyard. Shame nature cannot take over the digital world as brilliantly and fascinatingly as it does in the real world. A blog wasteland is just not as poetic nor does it have any purpose.
On the plus side however, there isn’t much tidying up to do when I come back to it. So what has happened since the last time there was any light in the cabin I hear you ask…?
Well of course a lot of wine was drunk, many a tasting was attented, other humans were encountered, friendships were forged or strengthened, stories were unravelled, some happy, some less so. Basically life in a fast-moving society happened. There was just not enough time to relate much of this to you unfortuntely. Who decided there were only 24 hours in a day and we need to sleep at least 6 of these?
But I feel it’s time for a little “Previously, on OfMustAndMash…” moment.
3 years ago, I knew next to nothing about wine. Red wine was pretty much synonym with Bordeaux. I used the terms Pommard and Pomerol interchangeably and I was vaguely aware that Spain was making Rioja. But in a strange epiphany-like moment (stop laughing future Mrs Mash), I decided I wanted to stop being so damn clueless when everyone around just thought being French meant you must know about wine. Following a friend’s recommendation, I bought Le Grand Larousse du Vin. En Français s’il vous plait! Yes, because as it happens, you Brits, Americans and brave people of the world, have your share of wine buffs and some of them happen to write pretty damn good books too; but I was yet to come to that knowledge.
I believe this to be the defining moment in my life that has changed a lot of things. I not only discovered that Pommard and Pomerol could not be more different but that an entire world of vino-induced orgasms were out there. And so the exploration started, a never-ending, fantastic voyage in perspective. I started going to tastings (there are plenty out there if you’re wondering), I joined The Wine Society, bought more books and of course bought a lot more wine. I signed up for WSET 2, then 3… I just couldn’t get enough, still can’t obviously. I’d taste wine day-in, day-out. I’d talk to winemakers and other tasters about wine all day, find out who thinks what, why, where they come from, how is it made, why does it taste the way it does… I had a bite of the apple and there was no going back.
Through this period a couple of realisations took place. I realised that I wasn’t feeling quite as fulfilled in my job as I should have been. It was calling upon skills and knowledge I wasn’t naturally good with. It felt like I was swimming against the current in a way. I started this career having a deep care for the environment and wanting to be part of the solution as opposed to the problem. I still do. I feel very strongly about environmental issues and always will (and so should you all!) but I was never going to be a very good consultant, spending most of my time typing factual reports behind a computer. The nature of the job just goes against who I am, how I work and how I think. On the other hand, it became increasingly clear that wine was going to be at least part of the answer if a change became required. Life’s too short to spend 8-10 hours a day thinking that you’d rather be doing something else. At the same time, past 30 years old, starting a new career from scratch is a daunting prospect which can only be seriously considered when certain aspects of your life allow it.
One of these aspects of course is your partner in life. I met Miss Mash 4 years ago, pre-wine-bug. And throughout this eventful period she has been unflinchingly supportive, patient, counselling and just damn great. I could not dream to spend the rest of my life with anyone better. That is why I proposed to her in Perpignan on her 30th Birthday during our fabulous holiday trip in the Roussillon. And so another adventure now starts in parallel, trying to organise a wedding between two countries.
With that level of support, confidence grew and I became increasingly obsessed with making it in the world of wine and engineering my own change. Starting a business was the aim, a wine bar was the dream. Problem is I have no experience of retail or the wine industry whatsoever and I didn’t believe for a second that any potential employer in this industry would take me on at a decent level with nothing to show for but my enthusiasm. I went to entrepreneur fairs, looked at obtaining an alcohol licence, checked a couple of locations, started drafting my business plan… ultimately I had to admit that I was a bit out of my depth and I was constantly relying on other people to tell me what I should be doing next (thanks guys by the way, help has been invaluable and definitely not wasted). Getting some sort of experience was going to be key in helping me make the right decisions.
Obviously communicating with as many people as possible in the wine industry but also in my extended local community has taught me a lot. I met fantastic people along the way, some I hope will remain good friends. This aspect of my journey I have to say has been extremely enriching. And it all comforted me with the idea that going towards people, going towards new experiences, basically going forward, is always the best option. There have been set backs, small ones, and there will be many more, probably much bigger ones. But forward is the only way there should be.
With that in mind I simply asked my local wine shop if they could do with some help from time to time, evenings and weekends (basically outside my 9-5 office life). After a chat with the owner, they agreed to let me come and help a few hours here and there. But before long a position came up and on the paper it looked so bloody damn perfect and suited to everything I understand myself to be, I had to tempt fate and go for it. Armed with the most unsuitable CV I did my best to pitch myself adequately, using what I’d learned about running a business and develop it to demonstrate that I would be suitable for the job. Despite a couple of hiccups and a clear case of strong misjudgment from me, I did get the job and I am starting this weekend.
I am officially leaving a career I spent over 7 years building to start again in the wine industry.
I cannot tell you how that fills me with dread and excitement in equal measures. But excited I am, and full of ideas and dreams too. I am fully committed to bringing the best of myself into this venture and I know that I have the capacity to do well. But I am also very scared of failure. There is no place to hide in this kind of structure and any mistake will be seen and can have dramatic effects. I have already tasted it somewhat and there’s nothing like a freezing cold shower to keep you alert and on your toes.
So here is to a new chapter, or maybe a new version of me, V2.0. A new beginning where the only fear there is will be used to fuel my desire to achieve and deliver.
As it happens, check out who came in the shop the other day to present his fantastic wine…
Good start innit ? 🙂
This post is submitted as part of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, or #MWWC. For more info check out The Drunken Cyclist’s brief for this month here