Skirmantas Milius writes about himself, 'I’m male, 33 years old and was born and raised in Lithuania. I left the country when I became 19, emigrated to London and lived here since. We never had any wine culture back in Lithuania. Growing up I never heard people talk about wine, I never saw any around. First time I think I tasted wine I was about 25 years old and already living in London. And it was not a pleasant wine. Up till that moment I never even had much interest in any type of alcohol and so was consuming pretty much none, save for an occasional glass of beer. I don’t work in the wine industry but wine today is more to me than a mere hobby. One thing I find interesting is that I believe the whole wine discovery thing in my life was somehow related to my love for Jazz. I find those two somehow related. Jazz has been a huge part of my life since I was a child. To me wine just like Jazz transcends even art. I certainly don’t view wine as mere alcohol. I don’t even place it in the category of food. Do I see wine as something divine and spiritual? I think I might. It’s all very mysterious to me. I’m just grateful I have found the joys of wine. It enriched my life.’ This is his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
Don’t be afraid of residual sugar in wine, was the lesson I learned. I began exposing myself to wine back in 2015, for a reason unknown to me till this day. Out of curiosity perhaps, or maybe I had the desire to step into unknown, to inject new forms and shapes into my life, new textures and pleasures. It was now late 2016 and I had found what I considered to be meaning and beauty in wine. I thought I had discovered truth – not capital T objective truth, but my truth, one of many plural truths out there. I had explored both Old and New Worlds, fallen in love with Pinot Noir and Syrah, realised I preferred Cabernet Franc over Cabernet Sauvignon, declared Chardonnay from Burgundy my number one, had succumbed to the subtle charm Nebbiolo is capable of treating us to, had been in awe of wines that smelled like floral cologne and sweet powdery lipstick and meat and soy sauce and salty sea and mud and truffles and multi-layered fruit and spice and smoke. I was a kid again in a toy store, having fun, once again spending summers in nature, or so it seemed, tending to my grandmother’s garden, bringing my nose close to the tuberose she planted, getting lost in a dense pine tree forest, jumping into fresh lake, lowering myself into a deep well to claim my reward – a bucket of liquid purity. But my grandmother had long left her body and taken her garden with her. I hadn’t seen an actual tuberose in years, and I heard rumours my once beloved well had been contaminated. Childhood was over, I was now 31, waiting for a friend to come over, for some food and wine. The bottle I chose was Noyer de Cent Vouvray Moelleux Vincent Careme 2002 – my first Chenin Blanc. And I was scared of it, for this bottle contained residual sugar. I didn’t know how much exactly. I knew it wasn’t a lot. And still I wasn’t sure: to open today or to give it away? My only bottle in the stash though and I need one for today’s lunch. Up until this point I only had some Sauternes some time ago, and disliked them all immensely. I like sugar in Napoleon torte, not in wine, became my mantra. My friend turned up, I took the bottle out of the fridge, pulled the cork, poured the wine. As it was landing in a wine glass, the wine appeared chunky and thick, as if containing gelatine, and this was new to me. An element of surprise, I like it. I smelled it. Back to my childhood again, my favourite fruit, the small yellow Mirabelle plums we used to pick off the freshly cut grass. The row of Mirabelle trees friends and I used to shake and let the plums fall on our heads and grass and pick them and eat them on an empty stomach and then shake some more some of those trees. And so this was what the wine smelled like: fresh Mirabelle plum puree and nature. I tasted the wine. Crisp and lifted and very convincing plum fruit. It took a second or two for a razor sharp and precise acidity to cut through all that sweetness. Wine coated my mouth, it extended deep and long. Hardly a sip, a wall more likely. Another surprise: no heaviness. Wine felt weightless. Not a trace of alcohol. So pure and fine and delicate and focused and yet so concentrated and powerful and persistent, almost too much of a good thing. How did the winemaker achieve this? This was the first time that wine was bending my mind. And I only paid £17 for a bottle? Another reminder, price isn’t everything, good value high quality wines exist, go out and find them. My friend, in the meantime, wandered off into another room, having left the note for me to read on the table. She’ll return once I start speaking again.