Competition – Andy Finklaire


'My name is Andy Finklaire. I am a 51 year old primary school teacher from Basingstoke, UK. My story is a wine experience as a journey to the point I have arrived at recently.' Andy's (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition follows. 

My father worked in the aerospace industry in the 1960s and 70s. He was involved briefly with Concorde and later with Airbus amongst other projects. He was therefore often jetting across to France and would, at the drop of a hat, invite French colleagues home whereupon my mother (a good cook) would, to use my father’s phrase, ‘knock something up!’

We took a caravan down to Provence: in the 1970s. The autoroute started just north of Paris and there was very little after Aix-en-Provence: it took 3 days to reach our campsite. On the way we would often overnight in Beaune and near to Avignon. I was exposed to vines and vineyards from an early age. I recall visiting the cellars of Reine Pedauque in Beaune, touring Chateau Pommard and, best of all, having a cheesy photo taken of me, aged 6, on the steps below the ruined tower at the top of the hill in Chateuneuf-du-Pape. But I was too young to appreciate the wine…

On to the nineteen-year-old student. I was completing my degree in Winchester and lodged there. My landlady used to rent my room to foreign visitors during the summer. As I returned one September, she explained that a Spanish boy had stayed and had given her some wine. ‘’I don’t like red,’’ she explained and said I could have it – I’ll share with Dad think I – and she dispatches me to the corner shop to buy a cheap plonky white in exchange… In exchange for a 1982 CVNE Gran Reserva Rioja and, despite all my French visits, that was the wine that made me go, ‘‘Ooh!’’

Two years later, I was engaged to my now wife. On the second meeting with her father, he asked if I knew German wines. In my twenty something arrogance (notwithstanding my francophone experiences) I brashly told him that I understood all German wine to be sweet ‘Blue Nun’ like rubbish. He quietly left the table and returned with a 1983 Auslese from Graach: I ‘ate humble pie’ and was an instant convert. Soon after this, my father opened a Chateauneuf from a domaine I still love and visit; Pierre Usseglio. Sadly, the 1967 was a little over the top by then.

Once married, my wife and I always holidayed, in vineyard areas, in France, Italy and Spain. Trips to South Africa and Australia have added to my knowledge but we always came back to France and, before children, we dreamed of buying a place.

The children put the whole idea on ice for eighteen years but, once the time was right, we began to look. After many blind alley searches in the north of France we gave up for a year. Then asked ourselves, which area had we always loved on holiday, passed through frequently and never tired of? In unison we shouted, ‘Burgundy!’ So, we are now into the third year of owning our house on the Cotes Chalonaise. I have to pinch myself sometimes to believe that, as a humble primary teacher, Mercurey is six kilometres away and I can cycle up The Canal du Centre to Chassagne Montrachet. So ends my tale as I stare out The Couche Valley. I have a Rully chilling in the fridge for tonight’s barbecue. Sante!