Having been in this country now coming up to 3 months, a certain philosophical air has settled around me.
Realising, no, admitting to myself that I can suffer from some intense periods of self-doubt, is a an uncomfortable thought. Leaving your country, your home, friends and family for a life unknown should be a time to feel confident, ballsy and a bit gung-ho. But home alone for nearly 3 weeks, I have developed a new-found respect for zen Buddhists who wake everyday to undertake the simplest actions – sweeping the path, clipping the bonsai, sipping green tea – that draw them from their uncertainties towards a point of enlightenment, peace and knowing.
My job is in an industry predicated upon how the market values knowledge, and the ability to sell ideas. No ideas = no commodity = no money = no job. Many, many people freelance or are in industries far more marginal and risky than mine (advice I received some months ago about the wine industry, including from some at the top of the game, was ‘don’t go into wine‘) so I probably sound like an ungrateful whiner don’t I?
Fine, yes I agree, I’m probably whining.
Glasses need to viewed half-full, not half-empty. Circumstances have changed at work, leaving the ship to be steered, but instead of seeing the opportunity to grow, to impart a Yoda-like knowledge, to show my Churchillian leadership skills and exude a Brian Clough-esque confidence and ego…. I wallow in an expectation of failure before I have even raised the anchor.
This weekend I was reminded of this fantastic and apt scene from Swingers, the ’90’s film that launched Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. The film has the knack of being both achingly funny and containing fantastic words of wisdom – I urge you to see it if you haven’t. Were it not for Swingers, I wouldn’t have dusted myself off after my first proper heartbreak at Uni, strapped a pair on and pulled (or tricked as some friends like to say) my gorgeous, funny, scary, Schwarzenegger-loving, mouthy & linguistically superior wife.
This scene serves to remind me that, in my world of sustainability & climate change, I have sharp claws and big f*cking teeth.
In search of solace, I turned then, to a wine region with little self doubt – the Rhone – which has both claws and teeth, but is also capable of gently batting the bunny about. The main grape varieties – Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Cinsault, Carignan,Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne – all have different personalities (superbly represented in celebrity form by Chris Kern at Forgotten Grapes). The Rhone appellations and terroirs display their ugly and elegant sides in equal measure. When these key elements combine they produce wines of a gutsy, earthy style with sinewy, lean muscle but also with threads of incredible finesse and character. They aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but they certainly don’t wallow or whine.
Before moving abroad I was coaxed in to parting with cash by the Wine Society and my final splurge, was on Rhone 2010 (Saint Joseph blanc, Lieu Dit Saint Jospeh, Guigal and Cote Rotie, Cote Brune, Domaine Barge), a year which according to John Livingstone-Learmonth (Decanter, April – Northern Rhone report)….
“…is a rare vintage… a maestro vintage, a year whose quality is perhaps best captured by Mozart, in his Piano Concerto 20 in D Minor, K466…. the piano representing the quality of the fruit, the orchestral waves the tannins, the two locked in celestial harmony“.
Sorry John, you totally lost me at Piano Concerto…..
The 2010 Rhone I bought last week from an online store was open and ready on the coffee table in anticipation of my watching Swingers. The wine in question was Cote du Rhone – Les Becs Fins 2010 from Tardieu-Laurent – a Syrah and Grenache blend coming in at a hefty 14.5%. It has a lovely deep inky colour, tears running down the side of the glass and on a first whiff, this inkiness continued, accompanied by blackcurrant and something aniseedy or tarragon-like. First mouthful is….WOW! Like getting punched in the face – tannins quite harsh, alcohol on the searing side. But it soon opened up and lightened. Black fruit again but also raspberries, silkier tannins too, the alcohol offset with an edge of fruity sweetness, spice and white pepper as expected. There’s a blueberry jam (or is it Myrtleberry….!) finish to it, which lingers….. Overall a really pleasant wine.
I can’t say it really went with the curry I had but I was feeling sorry for myself and wanted to bathe in something pleasant, so food & wine matching can go swivel.
With Swingers and a gutsy Rhone, perhaps life will sort itself out…