Aside from meeting great people, one of the best things about working in, and traveling to, different countries is the food. But to be honest, in my opinion, even better than the food is the wine. The food is important too, but to me, wine tops the chart in terms of critical mass since it’s typically the first thing discussed during an evening meal. Just think about it. It’s a conversation opener. An opportunity for the country’s host to boast about different regions of his or her country. There’s usually a whole menu devoted just to wine. And, there’s a whole language used to describe it… none of which I really understand or know how to use properly.
In any event, wine can’t but help bring people together. The list of different wines from within a country often leads to a natural discussion about the pros and cons of particular regions and the wines they produce. Often a friendly debate ensues among natives about which region produces better wine and why. When that happens it’s often the best of all worlds as that usually leads to the need for me to taste test different wines and enjoy the fruits of the friendly competition.
When I was working in New Zealand, Pinot Noir was particularly popular among the group of fine Kiwis I was privileged to work with. I learned about the regions, the stories behind the names of some of the wines and often, as New Zealand is, relatively speaking, a small country of about four million people and everyone knows everyone, a little something about the vineyard owners.
In Spain, I was steered toward Cava (the Spanish produced sparkling wine). To see where Cava was made, I was urged to take a train up into the mountains to a little town outside of Barcelona. When I arrived, the town was totally shut down, not a dog or person or bird in the street. It was eerie in its silence. I was soon told by a lone woman riding her bike through the middle of town on its dusty road, that there was a village wedding that day and everyone in town had shut down their stores and restaurants to attend the wedding. So I hopped on the next train back to Barcelona which happened to be packed with standing room only, singing soccer (futbol) fans headed into the city for a big game. No Cava, but a great day nonetheless!
So to me, wine is not just something to drink, it is a window into the culture of each country, and an opportunity to meet new people.