Competition – Simon Wheeler


Simon Wheeler writes, 'I’m a 50 plus male who has been fortunate enough to work in music pretty much my whole life and have been working with a group of independent record labels in London and New York for almost 30 years. Outside of music and wine my hobbies are food, travel and online gaming. You can find me on the forums of wine-pages and, Cellar Tracker is my wine app of choice.' This is his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition

I was and still am a music nut, and amassed quite the collection of music on vinyl and CD, but when I was younger I used to collect all sorts of things, from fossils and rocks, stamps, comics and probably more things that I’ve forgotten, I think the tendency to collect and be completist about things stems from my obsessiveness about whatever I do. Now I’m (much) older wine has become the obsession, but there’s much similarity between being collecting records and collecting wine.

My parents did some catering on the side when I was young and my dad had done some stewarding and silver service, we didn’t have much money but I do recall there being wine at parties and talk of wines at events, there was a curiosity but little awareness of wine let alone much understanding. My mum did an Oddbins tasting course once and taught us how to taste wine ‘properly’ that stuck in my mind clearly. She also brought a few bottles of Graves back from France once that she was going to keep so we could all taste what wine with some age was like. It was rather good after 5 years under the stairs.

The reality was that wine was something you drank, and around the music business there was a lot of drinking. I recall being in Cannes at a yearly trade event with some of my seniors, someone laughingly saying shall we order the La Tache, I think it was a joke, but it was the 90’s so may not have been, I remember that clearly and thinking it must be special, whatever it is. A wine I do recall drinking there was a Pommard, ordered by a senior lawyer at the same event and shared generously as a treat, and that was a treat, I had never drunk anything quite like that. It was another clear memory even if I never knew the producer.

The interest had been slowly kindled and I was in New Zealand with my New Zealander partner in the mid 2000’s, we went to Marlborough for a few days and booked onto a wine tasting tour, tasting wines side by side was a revelation, some wines were just simply better than others, made by the same people, sometimes from the same grapes, but they were different. We went tasting again the 2 nd day, but as we had not learned to spit this was a bit of an endurance test ! Those producers remain as fond memories, Jane Hunter, Grove Mill, Seresin and Hans Herzog in particular, I was not a sauvignon blanc fan then or now, but there were some delicious pinot noirs among others, select lots, limited editions, unknown producers and labels, it’s starting to sound a little like collecting records…

We shipped a couple of cases home and that was the start, at first a hall cupboard, then a fair sized rack in a cool bedroom, then a wine fridge, then lots of off site storage and finally a real wine cellar, collecting verticals of favourite producers and labels, hunting out the new winemakers with tiny production, paying a bit too much for something I just had to have, it’s all very similar to my music obsession.

With music having been my entire adult life and nearly 30 years of my working life, I use what limited downtime I have to explore other interests, with wine and food being by far the most prominent, reading and browsing wine related stuff is my unwinding time, so unwinding that I’ve passed WSET 2 and 3 confidently, I haven’t really got time for the diploma… I don't think.

Now as music has become on demand, and with my job being working on the digital supply of music, the music collection has largely been relegated to storage, I couldn't get rid of it completely but love the freedom of space in the house with more music than I can ever listen to at my fingertips and a nice glass of something in my hand, it could well be Pinot Noir but it’s unlikely to ever be La Tache mores the pity, I’ve heard its quite good.