My family is no stranger to alcohol, with dad and mum always having a fine collection of spirits for special occasions. After settling in Melbourne in the mid 1980s, my brother and I would follow my parents as they began their own journey with Australian wines. Mum’s favourite back then was a Sauternes and they were on the hunt for a sweet red to try.
I would never forget the time we rocked up, unbeknownst to us, to one of the premier wineries in the Sunbury region in Victoria – Craiglee, asking if they had a sweet red. Funny story to look back on, but every journey has a beginning.
My own wine journey started in the early 1990s, freshly out of high school and reaching legal drinking age, with cheap beers and Southern Comfort. That phase went cannonballing out the window when my brother started university and his best buddy hails from a family of grape growers in the Barossa Valley.
Despite the “recession we had to have”, we would cruise the aisles at Dan Murphy and little bottle shops in the suburbs, with the latest copy of the little gold book, Australian Wine Vintages. The goal was to collect and drink as many wines from Red Five Stars rated wineries as we could. With a houseful of famous wines, I was successful in hiding the fact that the sum of my knowledge about wine at the time was whether I like drinking it or not!
Fast forward 2 years and my brother scored some contacts with wine importers and opened a whole new playing field. The very first night we had our in-home tasting, it took all of just a sip of the first sample for our wine rep Jason to declare that he “needs to go get the other sample case from the car”. Jason (and Nicole later) introduced us to some truly amazing wines from France, Germany and Italy. They knew what we like better than we did. Our conversations never involved “this wine has x number of stars” but always with “this wine is yummy” with a grin! It was like having 2 wine expert friends refilling our personalised cellars.
Wine continued to be a regular feature in our households over the past 20 years. However, instead of chasing after highly decorated wines like before, I have been really keen to find every opportunity to push my own boundaries and try and discover new things. This took on a new level when I was lucky enough to work with some amazing people from the wine industry who I now call friends. The fun and joy of discovering new wines from all over the world with friends, away from the glitzy marketing and awards, is something that is sadly out of reach for most punters.
2020 and COVID 19 has fundamentally changed so many things in our world. It has forced many of us to make changes we probably did not have the courage to make before. I am not an expert by any means, but I remember where I started and the lessons learnt. What vintage books and awards do not take you on, is a personalised journey tailored for your palate, whatever stage you may be at today, tomorrow, post pandemic. I love trying wines, sharing what I discovered, there is always a story behind each wine. With so many choices in the market, I value the friendships and advice from people like Jason and Nicole to make experimenting more enjoyable and less costly!
With that in mind, I have decided to take the plunge and Vinoclock is my platform to take you all on your own journey. I invite you all to join us and together let’s taste some amazing wines to find out what tickle your fancy. You may stay to some tried and trusted varietals, but you will certainly have the opportunity to branch out and broaden your senses. Just like my mother who did not take long to move out of her beloved Sauternes and into the grand crus, and loving everything in between.
Stuart Cheng - Chief Drinking Officer