For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of wine is its social side – opening a nice bottle with friends over a relaxing meal. That sharing stems from the first times that I really tried wine properly, which was while I was an international relations student at the University of St Andrews.
St Andrews is a small university and so our social life revolved around going to each other’s houses for dinner and enjoying a bottle or two of wine. It wasn’t snobby – as students we didn’t have much money. We weren’t drinking French wines either – it was Rioja and other decent earthy Spanish wines. We’d go to Luvians bottle shop to choose the wine if we had a special occasion – otherwise it was down to what was then William Low’s and is now Tesco – we weren’t always buying the cheapest, rankest wine.
After university, I joined the royal household as a marketing assistant at St James’s Palace in London. This was in the days before Buckingham Palace was opened up to the public and just as they became really hot on marketing. Unfortunately I didn’t come into contact with the wine cellar at St James’s Palace though. In those days, they had quite a hierarchical system and so if you were a senior member of staff then you got waitress service at lunch – and I think you may have even been served a glass of wine with your meal. At my level, it was just the staff canteen sadly, but the food was good.
Over the years I have been lucky enough to come into contact with some amazing wine collections. My eldest son’s godfather is James Thomson, the owner of the Prestonfield House hotel and The Witchery restaurant in Edinburgh. He has a fantastic cellar and is passionate about wine and food and I’ve been lucky enough to go on a couple of wine trips with him to some amazing places that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to do.
I’ve also bought some wine with him and Alastair Boogert from the Hospice de Beaune auction in Burgundy, which is almost a rite of passage for wine buffs. That was after the gastronomic trip we took about ten years ago.
Six friends including James visited Albert Bichot’s chateau and went to Dijon, then Beaune and ended up in Lyon – I couldn’t touch any wine or food after that trip. We had lunch at Bichot’s family chateau because he’s a friend of James, and we drank wine that you couldn’t buy. It was incredible.
My interest in people has served me well over the years, especially while I was managing director of digital agency RAPP Scotland and now as I’m part of the start-up team of CodeClan, which will help to fill the skills gap in the digital industries by training programmers from scratch. It’s the most exciting project I have ever been involved in.
Being a sociable person also meant that I wanted to share the wines I was asked to review, and the timing just happened to coincide with a BBQ we were having with thirty friends and family.
The Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe Soave was an ideal white wine for a warm summer’s evening. It was light and citrusy and paired well with grilled fish, although perhaps it lacked some complexity and was a little too simple.
The Le Miccine Chianti Classico on the other hand was a big hit across the board, displaying plenty of earthy, leathery and tobacco flavours while still remaining smooth. It didn’t give much away on the nose but it made up for it on the palate. We were having steak and chicken at the BBQ and I felt the Chianti was a perfect accompaniment for the red meat.
Rebecca Heaney is setting up CodeClan, Scotland’s first dedicated digital skills academy, which launches in October. Find out more at www.codeclan.com
Thanks to Rodney Doig at WoodWinters, 2 Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan, and 91 Newington Road, Edinburgh, for supplying the Soave (£10) and the Chianti (£14.50). And thanks to Alex and Jane Nicol from Edinburgh Gin for opening Heads & Tails Bar, 1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh, for the photography.