So my baby bio says I joined A&H from Oddbins. What it doesn’t say is that I was there for 16 years and that originally I joined them “to kill a bit of time”. You might say that I've achieved that goal now!
What I knew about wine on 3rd December 1994 you could write on a postage stamp. Wine was red or white in colour, it was made from a fruit, probably grapes… it didn’t taste of Newcastle Brown Ale (which was my beverage of choice back then. This was mostly because all the biker, punk, metal and goth types I used to hang out with drank that, and I followed suit.)
The very first bottle of wine I bought for myself was recommended by my manager at the time, also called Paul, at Union Grove Oddbins in Aberdeen which ceased to exist in the 1990's. It was Colle Secco’s Montepulciano D’Abruzzo for £3.99. It was gorgeous. Having never drunk wine by myself before, I drank it like beer, and just as quickly. Before I knew it, I was playing my music extra loud and dancing in my room before heading out into Aberdeen city to hang with friends. To this day, my sense memory of that wine remains; soft, silken in texture and bursting with notes of sour cherry and chocolate. (Not that I could have described it to you back then as tasting of anything other than “red wine, man, it tastes of red wine!” Yeah, I did say “man” a lot in my early 20’s!)
But it wasn’t just the wine that thrilled. Before I’d done three shifts, I was going to staff parties and solving the world’s problems in the small hours with fervent discussions. The people I met from Oddbins seemed to have a chilled and welcoming attitude that was particularly hospitable and edgy at the same time. I thought they were great characters, and pretty cool - especially Laurie! Needless to say, the buzz of this new part time job (and it’s vocational after hours activities) took a toll on my day job in reprographics and printing. Something had to give. When a full time role in Oddbins came up, I was left with a simple choice: (a) learn more than most people know about paper, or, (b) learn more about wine! You know which way that went. Not long after this, I went to my first staff tasting. I'm not sure what I wrote on those very early tasting notes but I have managed to dig out a set I wrote in my first year at Oddbins - see below. (You know it was a while ago as a lot of the wines I tried were priced at £3.99 or less!)
SO. Here are my top three reasons for loving the early days of my career in wine: -
1. From the beginning, and to this very day, I got a real kick out of recommending wines I’d enjoyed to folk. It gives me an even bigger kick when said folk came back to tell me they love them too!
2. Wine tastes great and makes me happy, and I want to share this happiness with folk.
3. The people I've met and continue to meet through my job are, without a doubt, “cool”, both behind and in front of the counter!
You know how some people wonder whether they've made the right choices in life?On this one, here at A&H in Harrogate - one of the best independent wine shops in Yorkshire, I'm positive I've made the right one!
Next time – How my knowledge developed and what that meant to me and the customers I served. Plus “epiphany wines!”