winter is coming

The other undeniable French connection with wine is just over the provincial border in Québec. There is a wonderful relationship between Québec and Bordeaux – I actually learned more about what Québec had to offer after I moved to France, as thanks to a particularly difficult inter-provincial flow of alcohol, there is little to no representation in the local monopoly stores. Frankly, it didn’t occur to me that it was even possible to grow grapes in Québec, as I assumed (as most people do about all of Canada), that it was too cold.

There is a beautiful quote that is often mistakenly attributed to Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanée-Conti, perhaps due to how regularly he references it:

“Il n’existe pas de vignoble prédestiné, il n’y a que des entêtements de civilisation.” – Pierre Veilletet

“There are no predestined vineyards, there is only the stubbornness of civilization.”

Aubert de Villaine, standing before the iconic cross of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. As a pioneer in biodynamic viticulture, he understands very well how to be stubborn. What else drives us to grow grapes on steep mountainsides like here in the Mosel, or in hot climates, like here in India?

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the final countdown

In one sense I have many things to write about – the classes being over, the Bordeaux en Primeurs 2016, our class trip to Italy and my subsequent visit to Bretagne – and in another sense I have only one thing to reflect on – that this is the end of my time in France. I’ll start with the first list, heavy on pictures, in an effort to gather my thoughts, and then we can talk about that last item.

The primeurs tastings take us all around Bordeaux: tasting Médoc at Château Arsac in Margaux with a classic(al) lake view (top left and centre); a classmate being interviewed at the Biodyvin tasting at Château Fombrauge in St Emilion (right); a picturesque setting for the Derenencourt Consultants tasting at Château La Gafflière in St Emilion; and a reunion with Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (bottom left) and tasting some of my own handiwork from 2016!

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falling down the rabbit hole

It is beautiful in Bordeaux right now: the temperatures are comfortably in the teens – Celsius, that is! Lest you think my cold-blooded Canadian genes allow me to survive in frigid conditions (they do… but that’s a secret superpower we don’t talk about…sorry!) – and even the 20s. While I, I am taking the road less travelled by – not travelling at all. By that I mean locking myself in my apartment to work on the big year-end audit, spinning the threads of our analysis into gold for the final report.

I’m following the “down the rabbithole” scientific method.

The benefit of my corporate experience, particularly my Procurement role where I had to sort through mountains of sometimes incomplete data to create solutions, is that I have become very comfortable with scaling said mountains of data quickly, and sketching out assumptions and insights . The downside is that it has not prepared me well for scientific research, which requires a more methodical approach, building insights and conclusions step-by-step from complete and verifiable data. Leaps of insight need to be documented, vectors calculated, rough sketches need to be fully coloured in and referenced. Each attempt to fill in the details leads me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Hmmm… this gets curiouser and curiouser…

Hours, or maybe days later… Read More

stop and smell the rosés

My mother used to make the best icing. Like many of her tried and true recipes, it came from the Joy of Cooking (to this day my first and only cooking bible), and called for confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and cream (and of course food colouring). There were two things that made it so special; the first was that it was only ever made to top birthday cakes (there are 8 in my family, so many opportunities in a year). The second was it was hard icing, unlike the soft butter cream icings that everyone else seemed to prefer. It was the hours-long (!) wait in the fridge between the time the cake got iced and the time it got served, which made it harden. And then when you ate it, the first bite or two of cake was framed with a stiff sugary crust, but then the third bite (assuming you could slow down and make the slice last more than 30 seconds) was when the icing would start to soften and even melt in your mouth if you let it linger on your tongue. That’s what made it sublime.

Vanilla beans, vanilla extract, vanilla flavoured icing. I come by this memory honestly!

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the maritimes, they are a-changin’

The official story is that I was waiting for the list of ingredients from our wine pairing dinner in Halifax over the holidays; but a slightly more true reason is that I’ve been enjoying the down time a little bit too much. Between the…. erm.. let’s call it ‘steady’ pace of work at Unilever, and the equally intense pace of what I expect entrepreneurial vineyard development to look like post-Master, I can’t help enjoying being a little lazy now and then, while I can. You got me, I was catching up on sleep! (An alternative fact of the matter is that the pairing portion of the story started getting too long, so I’m separating it into its own blog post, and also I got distracted making some pretty charts and graphs for the audit I’m working on. You know how it goes.) Read More