Alan is a master chef, sommelier, wine importer, writer and wine educator and has been trained by Wines and Spirits Education Trust to Associate Member of the Institute of Wines and Spirits.
Where it all began!
“My passion for wine started way back in my early training years where I attended one of Europe’s finest specialist food and wine academies, concluding with a scholarship to the Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Park Lane.
To become a professional chef it was compulsory to learn how also to present and serve the best quality food together with the finest wines in a style acceptable to the world’s top dining establishments and their discerning clientele.
This path of development has enabled me to travel extensively, particularly within Europe, meeting many interesting and engaging people on the way whilst working sometimes in the most extraordinary of places. I have experienced every environment the drinks and food industry has to offer and this has enabled me to develop my skills within different international styles of cuisine and to also continue my wine learning adventure.
The Big Boys!
I have held sales and marketing positions for international wine merchants such as Saccone and Speed, Charles Kinloch, Stowells of Chelsea and Percy Fox along with 9 years senior management experience in sales, marketing and training within Whitbread Brewers.
Going it alone!
This journey inspired me to own and work my own Wine Bars and Restaurants in the UK and abroad and also to eventually become a wine importer, travelling and researching new wines to introduce to the UK from around Europe and the New World. Many of these wines have featured successfully in top dining establishments including Michelin Starred restaurants.
Wine training has been natural transition, giving me opportunity to share and encourage education at every level of wine and food. I have developed my own style ‘Simply Wine On Line’ course which you can share here at your Nosh Magazine – a complete learning adventure building issue by issue. I have also created a ‘Talks and Tasting’ programme of events that is adaptable to both the professional and private sectors.
The Grape Escape!
My ‘spiritual’ home is currently the Languedoc region in southern France and this is where we are also based with our ‘Vine To Wine Vacation at Chateau Les Carrasses’ and ‘The Chateau Raissac Wine and Culture Experience’. Here at both these beautiful locations we can introduce you a unique journey through wine, food and local culture or tailor make an adventure to enhance your personal or trade knowledge – all you have to do is just join us here at your Nosh Magazine – and we will do the rest”.
As it is harvest time now in most Eurpoean wine regions, here is a short story about one of my many experiences over the years – just to give you a flavour of what is to come:
It is hard work in a vineyard, I know, I’ve done it! Sounds glamorous and full of adventure and in many ways it is. If you keep looking down and not at the rows of vines in front of you, it’s not so bad, and when you finish each day you have wine and local food to look forward to. Some regional dishes that have been created for harvest time in many wine countries have become classics such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon in France.
“At a vendange [wine harvest] in the Languedoc of southern France, I remember the old and much dented Citroen CV van winding its way up the furrowed track early in the morning mists, bringing hot coffee and freshly baked croissant for us, and discovered the delight of how ‘Pain au Chocolat’ came to be created, in the northern Chablis vineyards of France’s Burgundy region.
Much of the time it was necessary to light braziers around the rows of vines to stop the night frost from settling upon the grapes. So at first light, on the dying embers of the smouldering fires, the workers would toast their newly baked bread delivered to them fresh each morning. They would melt locally made bitter chocolate in battered skillets over the heat and dip the crisp toasted bread in this rich molten treat, then into their hot strong coffee. This with a nip of ‘eau de vie’ [distilled wine brandy] would set them up for the next grape gathering session until lunch. This ‘continental breakfast’ invention still forms the backbone of the French traditional start to the day.
Most harvest festivals will commence with a service in the village church, followed by colourful processions through the streets with tractors laden with flowers and pickers in traditional costume. Wine and food dominate with impromptu banquets set in cobbled courtyards and town squares, everyone cooks and brings dishes to share. Band members with battered instruments playing what seems to be a different tune for each, but no one cares, as it all goes towards the atmosphere of thanks and celebration of a wine harvest year successfully completed.
So each time you open a bottle of your favourite wine, just think of all that it represents and capture the festival experience.