Competition – Matt Milne


Matt Milne writes about himself: 'I am a 41 year old left-handed Aquarius from Guildford. I have worked as a TV writer and a Retail Manager. I’ve pursued my interest in wine through the WSET (finished Level 3 and considering the Diploma) as well as travelling to most of Europe’s key wine regions. I’m a bit of a dreamer and thus intend on one-day owning a vineyard and producing a fine red wine in England. Thanks for reading!' His equally unedited entry in our seminal wine competition is this: 

There is a moment early on in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie Jaws, when the town’s beleaguered Police Chief witnesses the aftermath of a second shark attack and realises the severity of his plight. This is conveyed in a single shot, where he appears stationary in his chair but the perspective of the background pulls away from him. The effect, known in film-making as a Dolly Zoom, is an oft-replicated shot used to portray a sudden shift in a character’s consciousness. It’s a shorthand way of encapsulating awe; dread; astonishment; inspiration. It translates for us the revelation of a new truth and a sense that a marker has been placed past which things will never be quite the same again. For myself, watching Jaws as a child, the moment resonated in a different way. Here, in the most gloriously apt way, the possibilities of visual story-telling were revealed to me and I realised I wanted to become a film-maker.

In the years since, there have been many moments in my life when it felt as if a Dolly Zoom would have been appropriate: seeing the Grand Canyon; the first time I heard Radiohead’s OK Computer; learning that no piece of paper could be folded in half more than seven times; recent US Presidential elections; and the time a school of dolphins passed by me whilst swimming in Australia and banished decades of Jaws-induced fear of the ocean. Another time, in my early twenties, I was walking past a branch of Nicolas Wine when I saw a beautiful young woman smiling through the window at me. I was so struck by her beauty that I wandered out of my imaginary Dolly Zoom shot and right into the store. This was my first time in a wine shop and I hadn’t a clue what I was doing there. The young woman greeted me with a charming “Bonjour Monsieur” – charming because this was Guildford, not Beaune – and was promptly scolded by the Manager for her incorrect choice of language. This left me alone to browse. Only, I wasn’t browsing, at least not for wine. I didn’t like wine. I had flirted occasionally with cheap whites at University, but had vehemently written off red based on a sample size of one bottle that I remember finding quite bitter and astringent. But here I was in a shop full of nothing else. I didn’t even know how one browsed for wine. Was there an etiquette? I figured I should at least try to look cultured if I was to impress the young lady (who I was far too shy to ever actually express interest in). So I ran my fingers over a few bottles in a manner one might if they were idling time in a library. And then she spoke to me. She asked if I was looking for anything in particular and the response my brain came back with was “Yes, a bottle of red wine.” Red. I had sabotaged myself, again. She asked what type of red I liked and based upon my single experience I advised that I wanted something sweet. A sweet red wine? This puzzled her and she sought advice from her Manager. He stepped in and clarified with me that I actually just wanted something fruity and not a desert wine. In truth I didn’t want anything, but I was now trying to get myself out of the shop without looking like a fool. She offered up a suggestion – Burgundy. Gevrey-Chambertin to be precise. I didn’t know if Gevrey Chambertin was a person, a place or a grape. But I responded “Ah, perfect”, as I would have if she’d offered me anything down to a can of soup. She took it to the till and rang it up: £25. This represented the equivalent sum of pretty much all the wine I had drunk in my life. But I did my best to look blasé whilst pondering internally if I could refund it in another branch. Do people return wine? I was out of my depth and was convinced by now that she knew it and so hurried out of the shop and out of her life.

That night I opened the Gevrey Chambertin; ok, what the hell. I poured it into a glass and gave it a quick sniff, as I knew I was supposed to. But hang on, something was different. This wine had a perfume to it. It held some pleasure in its scent alone. And then I tasted. Well, somebody call Steven Spielberg. It was a revelation. Not only did I enjoy the wine, but its flavours were evocative of the most unexpected things: damp autumnal leaves, rust, a melancholy stairwell. Prior to that moment I wouldn’t have listed any of those smells as desirable in a food, but this was new territory and the fresh terrain opened up before me with a world of possibility. The wine continued to evolve over the evening, transcending all the things I’d ever consumed in its ethereal grace. The marker was placed, and things would not be quite the same again.

In the years since, I have had several more bottles worthy of a Dolly Zoom. Unfortunately though, my career as a hotshot Filmmaker never materialised and so I have had to make my finds on a tight budget. Sometimes I feel like the Police Chief from Jaws staring hopefully at a garden pond and wishing for a stir that might just reveal the unlikeliest of sharks. But though the truly memorable wines are seldom, the hope remains that the next great one, like the next great movie, the next great song, the next great love, is still out there, somewhere.