Today I am going to pen down some of my reflections on my affinity with wine lovers, and also a book review on Chris Milliken’s “White or red, it’s all in your head”. It’s a really cool book! Chris’s the founder of Peng Wine, and you can read one of his interviews here.
I was really happy to finally try Peng Wine at The Halia yesterday.😀 Peng Wine is lovingly and proudly made-in-Chile.
Brief context: My relationship with wine.
I’d always have some sort of affinity with people who love wine.
When I was doing my year long student-exchange in Japan, I worked at a club in Roppongi. No idea if it is legal or not, but I did pay 10% income taxes LOL. So that was my first experience with wine–prior to that I’d never opened a bottle of wine before. There, I met some customers who really loved wine, and I started drinking myself because they treated me. HAHA.
I learnt how to open wine bottles and choose the right wine glasses from the club. Also, I learnt that white wine should be chilled in a bucket of ice, but it is not necessary for red wine. Well, that’s a good start though😛
When I was in Finland doing my masters, I attended this class “Fashion Marketing”, and there was a guest lecture by Professor Antonio Catalani, from SDA Bocconi School of Management. The case study was on wine–it was Châteaux something something, and I was very surprised because…what has wine got to do with fashion marketing?
But anyway the nice Professor Catalani was saying a lot about the vineyards restricting supply to jack up the prices, something which I could understand as an economics-trained person, haha. This nice professor was also someone who loved details and life. I mean, I couldn’t understand like 50% of whatever he said in class on wine marketing, but I do remember him ending the class by saying “Remember to appreciate the beauty behind the little things in life.”
For some reason him saying this simple statement really moved me–I think that’s Professor Catalani’s heart, to appreciate details and the heart behind the prettiest things in life!
I remembered also learning in his class that the Chinese elites were the biggest spenders of wine, and apparently they spend not because they liked the taste, but because it is expensive and therefore a symbol of social status. It’s quite interesting really, because do you know that recently Jack Ma bought over the Bordeaux wine estate with Château de Sours?? I really wonder how the French people feel about this.
So anyway, last year I attended this Fashion Marketing Conference in Florence, Italy, and I got along really well with another wine expert who is Professor Benoit Lecat. He’s a professor in…wine business.😮😮😮 This means he made an academic career out of wine, and I’m totally mind-blown with that specialisation HAHA.
I attended one of the conference session he chaired, and learnt quite some stuffs about wine! Apparently the mark-up to some luxury wine is due to 90% marketing and 10% production cost. Interesting right!
Also, imagine drinking wine everyday “due to work”. (-sigh-) LOL!!
So blessed. *_*
Anyway, Prof. Lecat is a really nice and kind gentleman. He took care of me during the formal dinner reception at the conference, when I didn’t know where to sit because I went to the conference reception dinner alone. Also, although the entire table was French-speaking, the professors switched to English to accommodate me, even when they were talking amongst themselves.🙂
This isn’t always true for all Europeans btw! When I was in Finland, sometimes certain Finns won’t give a damn whether there are foreigners at their table–they will just continue speaking in Finnish even though they are clearly fluent also in English. #justsaying.
So there are considerate Europeans, and there are non-considerate Europeans, and it is essential to mix around with people you are most comfortable with. So yes, I don’t take such graces for granted anymore. :P
Review of “White or red, it’s all in your head”.
So you see, I had the privilege to interview Chris for the purpose of the wedding book with La Belle Couture, where I’m a contributor. So I was telling Chris stories about these two kind professors who taught me stuffs about wine. I also mentioned that I’m quite ignorant about wine, and Chris mentioned his book–“White or red, it’s all in your head”, and gave me a copy.
So i thought today, I’d do a review today!
I really liked this book because it’s very easy to understand, especially for a beginner like me. I almost completely never drink wine in Singapore, unless I have events. This book can be called “unpretentious”.
I like the part on PRONUNCIATION GUIDES HAHAHAHA, page 30-34. Like…how do you pronounce “Pinot Grigio” or “Botrytis”. The guide is sorted out by the most popular varieties red grapes, white grapes and special wines. So anyway you can read, memorise and practise at home before going to restaurants to order…confidently!
Chris is sometimes even slightly tongue-in-cheek, when it comes to talking about wine pricing. In Chapter 4: Don’t judge a wine by its label (p.59), Chris talks about what goes into the wine, and in general, how wine is priced. He also mentions that in recent times, more transparency is demanded on the part of consumers (p. 72), a.k.a more wine education probably has taken place, and he hopes that more consumers are educated on the dedicated process of wine making. “These winemakers aren’t looking for shortcuts; they make wine because they love the process and the product.”
I really think Singaporeans should understand this heart of wine makers, leh. Because you see, when you choose a bottle of wine, you support the wine producer who makes the wine. So I agree very much with Chris that it is important to also support smaller wine producers too, especially if you like the taste of the wine, because it will keep their business and passion alive.
When it comes to understanding wine, I really appreciate the table on page. 56, summarizing the difference between old world and new world wines. Also there are different “speeds” of wine too–Slow, Standard and Fast! (Isn’t this totally like the study of fashion? Couture Vs made-to-measure Vs fast-fashion) I mean, I sort of knew this happened in Whisky-making from my interactions with the folks at Macallan, I definitely knew that wines “age”, but it didn’t occur to me that there is such a thing as “fast wines”. I always regarded “fast wines” as “one year old wines”, lol. So it’s interesting to conceptualize “age” differently and draw a parallel to “fast” stuffs.
I think “fast” stuffs are convenient, perhaps even of lower pricing, but some “weight” and details are lost along the way.
On page 96, Chris spoke about an interesting personal experience of “Trapped by convention”. A guest actually scolded him for pairing red wine with fish, even though the sauce was the dominant flavour of the dish, and the sauce goes better with red wine. That sharing of personal experience really got me thinking too, that can you market anything just by repetition? Sometimes when we dine, we forget that the important thing is to enjoy the meal with the person you are dining with. Instead we get stressed out over rules and conventions.
No seriously, that is just so weird if only if you were to take some time to think about it.
Also, as with all professional and reputable wedding vendors, I’m impressed by how Chris has the humility to ask the guest “Do you feel that the wine does not go with the dish?” only to have the guest answer “I refuse to even try the wine with the dish.” SO Chris got him a glass of white wine then.
That was total humility in action, I think. Always putting the emotions of the guests first–regardless of right or wrong– because the spirit behind wine is appreciation and enjoyment with the people around you.
There is also a food and wine pairing table in the book (pp.154 ~ 158) which I found very useful–which you might want to consider too, in future. At least it is some basic knowledge for cooking at home and wine-pairing with The Boyfriend HAHAHA. Our common challenge is that Niko doesn’t usually drink red wine, whereas I never touch white wine. >.<
I actually feel comforted, therefore, that it is sometimes difficult to tell white wines apart from red.😀 What is most important is to get wine that you like and enjoy.
So yes, I think “White or Red, it’s all in your head” is a great book for most of us who are pretty ignorant about wine. At the very minimal, you’d learn to appreciate the wine making process more after reading this book, and learn how to order wine with grace.😀
I’m unsure where you can buy Chris’s book, but I’d ask and let you know once more details are out?😀
OKAY I’m off to work, see you! Cheers to good health! =)