Tiffany Vernon writes, ‘Growing up, I had aspirations of being a journalist after realizing it was unlikely I would become a Princess (what girl wouldn’t want that?!). I came across wine on a whim and keen to learn more, I volunteered at Wroxeter Roman Vineyard in Shropshire age 17. Shortly after turning 18 I gained a job with Tanners Wines in Shrewsbury. The past 6 years with Tanners has seen me undertake WSET exams, assist on buying trips, organize events, as well as contributing to the Tanners blog amongst many other things.
‘I completed my WSET Diploma in June this year and await my final exam results (fingers crossed) due this September. I have also arranged to work the harvest at Château Palmer for the 2018 vintage to gain further knowledge and experience in the industry.’ This is her (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
Oddly, my passion for wine was initially sparked by the fact I didn’t like it.
I, like many 17 year olds, assumed that all wine tasted the same, which was pretty disgusting. So then why did so many people obsess over this drink? Discovering a whole world that was dedicated to this specific beverage, I was intrigued to learn more. I did a little research, bought a couple of books and made some contacts within the trade.
Who knew wine could be so complex?!
Curiosity began to get the better of me and before I knew it, I was fully submerged in the fascinating world of wines. There was just one problem, however, in that I didn’t actually like the taste of wines! This fact baffled my friends and family, who exclaimed “But you don’t even like wine! How can you pursue a career in something you don’t enjoy?”
It was true- I gingerly tasted my way through a wine over the dinner table, often screwing my face up at the mere sniff of a merlot! Despite this, it didn’t deter my determination to quench my thirst for knowledge.
Throughout my research I came across the annual ‘London International Wine Fair’ open to the trade. I concluded that this would be a good starting point to learn to taste wines, and so I signed myself and my dad up to attend. The train ride from Shropshire to London was long and a little nerve wracking- I was sure I would immediately be asked for ID at the doors of the fair, and promptly be refused entry for being under the drinking age (although I must add that my 18 th birthday was only a month away at the time!). As we approached London I was taunted by visions of being interrogated over my age; hooked up to a lie detector and a bright light positioned in my face, whilst an angry security guard demanded me to state my age. I would definitely crack. But, to my relief, through the hustle and bustle of entering the gates, there were no questions. A good job too, as it was inside that very building that my wine epiphany occurred.
A contact I had previously made had suggested I visit the ‘New Horizons’ stand where Chris Parker would be, expecting to meet me for a chat. Chris was at the fair to promote recognition and awareness of talented wine makers in Virginia, as well as hopefully gaining some international business for the vineyards. After a long discussion with Chris, offering me some sound career advice, he said I must try the ‘Veritas’ wines whilst thrusting a glass of Viognier into my hand:
Intoxicating aromas of honey, peach, and orange blossom, lured me in to taste the opulent flavours of ripe peach, apricots, a lick of honey, sprinkling of orange zest, and a hint of smoke, all entwined with a mineral twist. My eyes lit up and a smile stretched across my face: I finally understood!
Returning home on the train hours later, I could still taste the voluptuous Viognier on my tongue (although that may have been due to my repeated visits to the Veritas stand throughout the day for yet another sip…). Even now- 6 years on- the taste of that wine is still embedded in my memory.
Fast forward a few years and it’s ironic to think that when recently undertaking my Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma, my tasting is my strongest point. Furthermore, I am often asked to train new members of staff at work on their tasting technique. There are still a few wines that I don’t particularly enjoy, but despite them not being to my personal taste, I can appreciate them and understand why others love them so much. But then again, what a dull world it would be if we all had the same tastes. Of course, a learning curve with wine is the realisation of what makes it so great. Not necessarily how it is made, or even how it tastes, but who you are enjoying it with. I love nothing more than to discuss a wine with like-minded people who burst with enthusiasm at the first swirl of their glass.
Since that first tasting back in 2012, Viognier has remained my favourite grape variety, giving me the reputation of the ‘Viognier fanatic’. That diva grape, if nothing else, holds such fond memories for me when it turned my world upside down. From that day forward I completely fell in love with wine; not just the technical side, or the knowledge, but the taste too. Sampling the Veritas Viognier confirmed to all my doubters that I could pursue a career in something from a simple spark of curiosity. After all, a spark is all you need to ignite a flame.