Competition – Stanislav Novak

Stanislav Novak’s unedited entry in our seminal wine competition is published below this charming description of himself: 'I am 32 and started my carrier in wine organizing large commercial degustation and did it brilliant until got bored and quit that job, though still grateful they allow me to start wine carrier. I live in Moscow and work now with wine in MBG-wine – the oldest distributor in Russia (since 1995). My job is to train people and tell them about wine. I do dozens of methodological work on my position – from photos till drawings, cause in Russian we lack good translation, so everything must be done from the very beginning. I also train myself preparing all of this. Some kind of wine prophet! Exactly like a person who was my own wine prophet – my colleague, Ekaterina Khudyakova. My second year in wine I ended with WSET-2, my third will be with WSET-3 qualification. I like to stay sober and totally control wine consumption. I speak German and English, a little bit Spanish and Czech. I love Riesling and Germany, Godello and Spain, Pinot Noir and Grand Reservas, Late Harvest and Eisweins. I read a lot, and do not have any wine education except WSET: so I am, as Tokaji Szamorodni, a Self-made.'

I started tasting wine than I was 28. It was August 2014. Moscow was full of contemporary art which I loved and tried to start working in. I was attending any opening possible. I was working on some freelance job like writing small articles about contemporary art. Well-paid, but sometimes money were delayed.

So I had plenty of free time – I was done in 4 hours with my work and had half day free. One day I was searching new events on Facebook to write about and came up with Free Bordeaux tasting. How was it possible to have wine for free, thought I, in a kind of «wow» and came to beginning, at 17:00, on Tverskaya street. Maybe they would make me pay for it. I went to the small wine store and downstairs, there I met sommeliers with 4 bottles of wine. It was Bordeaux wine which was about 10 euro each – too expensive for that time. Three wines I tasted and it was a complete disaster. Too high in acidity, too high in bitterness. I was walking down the well-known path of beginner – wine must be sweet and high in alcohol. But the last bottle wasn’t like others. It was Sauternes from Bordeaux. Just simple bottle, with «Sauternes AOC» on the label, not specific at all – no chateau, just grapes with Botrytis sourced from everywhere in Sauternes. For me that time it tasted like honey, I remember it well. Just some flowers, honey, acacia, but how can I be specific now, with this so long ago?

Today that very bottle came to price 20 euro. I started attending Thusrdays in WineRoom on Tverskaya. They had a new topic every Thursday, and I still missing that time very much now. WineRoom on Tverskaya is forgotten and gone, doors closed on that street and opened on another, which is far away from it. I always remember all experienced in this sacred place on Tverskaya, than I happen to be near, is it business or walking nearby. The so familiar doors are now covered with dust and there is also an old sticker «security» here. In the dark, gloomy rooms is nothing more than dust left – instead of spirits once stayed here. Good days are here again, I thought, checking on my calendar and understanding I can easily have a little bit more wine today – so spending time on my small kitchen with a glass full of wine. And passion I have from those days – passion in studying world’s hardest science – wine. Passion attracting me to everyday reading of Jancis Robinson Purple Pages in the office, and further at home – large book of Wine all in magnificent photographs with persons and grapes I never met. This spark isn’t gone.

These days I was just drinking, not realizing any difference between liters of wine I had. Unlimited supply is not for good: you continued drinking, not studying or else. But there must be something, some wine to try and to start making things happen.

One day in WineRoom we have Tokaji Szamorodni. This is translated from Hungarian as “self-made”, from grapes touched by noble rot. It was a discovery – and still sweet. It was also very low prized discovery – 5 euro for 1990 year. I bought also latest vintage, which was 2005, and started to observe differences. 1990 Tokaji was much like old dry flowers, honey, spices and so on – some kind of an old lady making sweet pastry in her 100-years old home. 2005 looked like fresh girl, with linden flowers turning to honey, June in mind and sweet cinnamon bakery in her basket. I continued taking these two wines from Wine Room. One – old lady, and the other – funny young girl. I did it till the wine ended in the shop and then on the company’s stock. I still remember this experience like it was yesterday. This led me to Tokaj region, to the small land of honey and white gold. Next year was crucial for my freelance job I lost. I went to Cyprus in despair and finally decided to start working with wine. Sitting in Larnaca with a glass of unnamed Shiraz from South Australia, after having cider with popcorn, I opened my first book about wine.

From that point on, with this oxidized wine, started my long journey in wine, first time looking like drowning, than swimming, and now – realizing, that I can hardly see sand beaches I took journey from left behind far, far away from here.  

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