Josh Lachkovic is 'under 30 (just), did the WSET L2 this year and is now boring everyone who will listen about wine via his weekly email'. Here is his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
Of course I remember the bottle that did it: it was terribly disappointing.
Last year, I think around October or November, I marched into my local high street supermarket. The rain had begun, I was without an umbrella, sodden and miserable on a Tuesday night. I headed straight to the tiny wine aisle.
L.A. and I had taken to a certain bottle of mass-produced Fleurie over the prior few months. It was frequently knocked down to the £9 mark, and we often went for it as our 'splashing out' option. It was reliable. It made me fall in love with Fleurie and meant that I had an opinion on Beaujolais.
The wine we fell in love with was easy-going. It was a quiet night in while the rain beat down outside. It was a fire on a cold winter's night. It was that partner you could sit silently next to without any pretence.
This particular Autumnal night was the sort of night we needed that Fleurie with its silky texture and sweet-tasting fruit. When I got in, I rushed to open the wine. Pop. I poured the glass in anticipation knowing what I was about to taste.
And then I sniffed, and drank: something wasn't right. At first I doubted myself. What’s wrong? Was it me? It sort of smelt like something I was used to, but there was a difference that I couldn't place. On this cold night, I was suddenly let down by an old friend.
A few weeks later, I realised what had happened. The Fleurie which we had grown to love was the 2015. This new one that paled in comparison was the 2016. I missed my old friend.
More important though, I saw very, very clearly for the first time ever, what a difference in vintage could do. Even this mass-produced wine with its seeming bottle-to-bottle uniformity was not without its yearly differences.
I've been drinking red wine roughly since I was 18. And for the first 10 years, I never really knew anything about what I was drinking. Sure, I read the occasional article or bought the odd bottle of something expensive for a special occasion. But I never really knew what I was doing.
Then, last Autumn, that single bottle of disappointing Fleurie taught me how different vintages could be year on year. I knew I needed to learn more. But after ten years of drinking wine, I clearly hadn't managed to teach myself much on my own. I’d need some more structure.
Six months later, I was completing the WSET Level 2. Three months after that I started Josh's Wine List, my own weekly email all about wine, trying to get people as excited as I was in that single discovery.
I hear many stories from wine professionals about the bottle. The DRC, the La Tache, the Opus One, the Cheval Blanc. The Greats. All these bottles that I can't even begin to grasp how delightful they might taste, that got them all into wine.
I wish sometimes that for me it was one of The Greats. Now, I have found wines that surpass my bottle. I drink wines every week that bring me more joy and pleasure than that 2015. But that Fleurie set me on a journey: to answer a question of just why those two bottles tasted so different. And if they tasted so different, then how different could other bottles taste? From different growers within villages? Or the same grapes from different countries? Or different grapes in the same appellations? The possibilities felt endless.
On this journey I have discovered that wine is – to borrow from Kermit Lynch – wild and alive. Of course it should taste different year to year. It can taste different bottle to bottle, day to day. That is the new pleasure I seek that I'm sure so many before me have found.
It brings great delights. Whether searching out English pinot as good as any Burgundy I've afforded, or finding unfiltered Sicilian cattaratto that I want to drink all summer long.
So, yes, of course I remember that bottle. That utterly disappointing bottle of 2016 Fleurie (and its one-year-older sibling). It started a passion. It began a journey. It ignited an obsession that grows by the day.
Since then, I have found more rarities, more obscurities and more surprises. But, if I ever see a bottle of the 2015 vintage, even after all this time, I will buy it in a heartbeat. And I would urge all of you to do the same.