Weird Can Be Wonderful.

At a time when everyone is looking at what they eat, where its from and how it’s made there is still quite a big gap in choosing what we drink. When you go to most retail sellers the shelves will be filled with co-operative productions, own-brand labels and recognisable names.

I admit I shamelessly enjoy the 19 Crimes range (don’t judge!) despite the headache the next day. But really I find the more artisanal low-interference wines more interesting – my sommelier team and I have really come to enjoy them.

So the question is, how do we get our guests to experience them and discover more upon each visit?

My view here is that we aren’t necessarily trying to convince everyone that this style of wine is the future, just to be brave enough to mix them in every now and then.

A big challenge I had when expanding the “natural wines” part of the list was that committing to a bottle was a bit tough for many people, especially given the ethos of some producers.

For example when away on holiday my number two decided to buy six wines from a producer in Austria, all low sulphur and unfiltered, one of which was amphora aged and bottled in ceramic. He meant well but my god it was awful.

In order to expand the view of our clientele we introduced two wine pairings. But we didn’t take the usual approach of offering four/six glasses or a normal/premium version. Instead we gave them a choice of Classics or Weird and Wonderful. This gave the guest the option of experimenting or playing safe. I expected most diners to play safe, but in fact it was about 60/40 in favour of weird.

There is, of course weird and WEIRD, and we kept it relatively tame. So no Jura wines or whacking on a flight of Gravner Breg Bianco (although it did feature once). Rather, we used the ethos of low maintenance production and intervention in wines that still expressed freshness and had some level of familiarity.

Success rate of the weird pairing was fairly high, if people were not getting it after the first/second wine I would always suggest we swapped to classic. After all, it’s their money.

But the majority of my patrons who experienced this selection of “healthy” alternative wines were surprised with the overall quality and diverse flavours as well as the fact they were still able to speak after eight wines in a row (I pour generously).

They even came to me at breakfast the next morning, surprised and delighted that their head was clear and pain free! Often the wines I used were natural yeast ferments and therefore low alcohol as well as low sulphur.

Some of our best matchings from the ‘weird and wonderful’ wine flight

Don’t be feared of the weird. It shows that people can be encouraged to go outside their comfort zone if you make it easy for them.

Occhipinti SP68 Bianco, Sicily
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyrenne £12-£17
Served with a fresh crab dish.
Aromatic fresh and lively style.

Pheasants Tears Saperavi, Kakheti, Georgia
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyrenne £12-£15
Paired with venison during the season.
Bold flavours, leather, spice, mushroom earthy and autumnal but not overbearing.

Akashi-tai Ginjo Yuzushu Sake
Stockist: Wine Service £15-£20
Served with earl grey sorbet pre dessert.
Basically a lemon punch in the face, completely resets the palate before moving on. It woke people up pretty good too!

Five Tips To Great Studying While You Work

by Melania Battiston, Head Sommelier, Medlar

We all know how hard it is for hospitality professionals to find time outside of work to concentrate on their studies.

With the long hours, stress and pressure we face every day, it can be a real challenge to balance the two.

But during my time as a Sommelier I have developed – and fine-tuned – a few tricks to allow myself more time to include studies in my daily routine effectively. They could help you too if you’re studying for exams, competitions, or just want to learn more.

1 PLAN AHEAD – AND MAKE YOUR GOALS ACHIEVABLE

I always suggest to have your own agenda that guides you thorough the week. Every Sunday write down your study goals for the week to come. It doesn’t matter how many there are, you just have to make sure that they are achievable. So don’t be afraid to start small.

She’s making a list, checkin’ it twice

Then every night write a ‘to-do’ list for the day after. Divide your tasks into chunks of time and stick to them.

Why do this before going to bed? So your brain can process your easiest decisions (like what to have for breakfast or managing your schedule) during the night. This means you’re not expending useless willpower first thing in the morning when your brain is at its sharpest and should be concentrating on the most important decisions.

You want to make sure that studying doesn’t affect your real work; therefore the most practical tip here is to decide which days you’ll totally be focusing on your job and the days you will be adding studies as an extra. Try to recognise the time of the day where you’re at your most productive and then plan your study hours around that.

2 AVOID PROCRASTINATION

Ok, now that you have created your own weekly/daily schedule it’s time for some action! You’ll probably be studying only for a few hours a day; therefore you’ll need to act efficiently. Let’s get rid of the triggers that can distract you (phone, TV), have scheduled 5 minutes breaks every 25 minutes of work; and get yourself a reward every time you finish the session. It could be something as simple as “If I conclude this topic before going to work I’ll then have my favourite croissant at the coffee shop”. Again, structure is essential.

3 BUILD A COMMUNITY

It’s crucial to build up a community of like-minded people who can understand your journey, your difficulties and can cheer you on and encourage you to keep moving toward your goals and not to give up. Studying during a full-time job is hard, so you’ll need good support! Share experiences, learn from others and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

4 HAVE A REST DAY

Use your day off as a real day off. You’ve earned it and you need it. So spend it wisely by relaxing, nourishing your mind and your body. Exercise, meditation, listening to music and socialising are all good. But it’s good to try self-affirmation, too: saying positive things to yourself in front of a mirror for 5-10 minutes.

Not tasting – but necessary all the same

Things not to do on your day off: stay up late, watch screens all day, check work emails or jump onto social media as soon as you wake up.
You don’t need to feel guilty about having down-time, since your brain will work anyway in the background without you even realising it. It’s called diffuse mode and allows your brain to solve problems or make connections without you even trying.

5 KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED

There will be times when you feel tired, down and even demotivated. So keep reminding yourself why you are studying for this exam/competition/qualification. Visualise yourself achieving your goals and look back at all you have accomplished.

Imagine scenarios where you are succeeding (like acing a job interview or winning a competition), and be as detailed as possible – try to recreate the exact scenario in your mind, with sounds, smells and colours. Think big!