The Oenophiliac

Bringing you stories from the world of wine and beer.

Interview with Cherie Agnew. Wine Tutor at West London Wine School, amongst other wine activities.

West London Wine School

1- Name?

Cherie Agnew

2- Occupation?

Wine Educator for West London Wine School, Wine Specialist for and Wine Advisor for Union Market.

3- How did you get into wine?

I have my sister, Nicola, to thank for this one. I use to only drink beer, until one balmy evening in Blenheim, New Zealand, Nicola poured me a glass of red wine and it was like no wine I had tried before. So smooth, soft, concentrated, pretty much the yummiest thing that had passed my lips. The bottle was the Pleiades Maia Merlot Malbec 1998. After drinking this there was no looking back!

4- What is your favourite grape?

I enjoy many grape varieties (pretty much all of them) but if I had to choose, it

Chardonnay Grapes

would be Chardonnay. Chardonnay can express itself in many diverse ways and works well in a range of climates. If I’m after a steely, crisp version – I can reach for a Chablis. In need of a rich, round, creamy number there’s always Gisbourne Chardonnay. Or if I want some bubbles there’s Champagne!

5- What is your favourite wine?

Hmm, very tough question.  I’m going to have to go for a Riesling from Alsace. Usually drier in style than German Rieslings, but with all the concentrated, punchy lime and honeyed notes. I always find these wines super refreshing and they make great summer drinking.

6- Do you have a country of preference?

It has to be France. There are so many wonderful wines produced in this country. Even though the wine labels and appellation laws can be confusing at times, all of these things add to the fascinating history, diversity and beauty of French wines.

7- How do you enjoy wine? With food, on it’s own, social etc.

My favourite way to enjoy wine is whilst catching up with my friends, with or without food. My least favourite time is when I have to sample wines the morning after having too many wines with my friends the night before.

8- What influences your wine choices? Price, occasion, season etc.

My preferences usually change with the weather (which changes a lot here!). Price does come into it as there are so many fabulous wines in London that are relatively inexpensive. However I don’t like paying less than around £6 as I like to know that the wine producers will be able to stay in business.

9- Champagne. Overpriced in the current climate?

I don’t think you can say overpriced. It all comes down to what you are personally willing to spend on a bottle. And it seems that many people are willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on Champagne which keeps the prices where they are. Champagne should be a real treat and I think the prices help keep it this way.

Nyetimber. West Sussex. England.

10- How do you think sparkling wines now fare against them?

There are so many amazing sparkling wines out there. Especially from England. With greater investment in the vineyard and winery and a greater understanding of how to work with the climatic conditions we face here, quality sparkling wines are being produced which are often winning international tasting competitions. Chapel Down and Limney Estate are two of my favourites.

11- Are boutique wineries the way forward?

Diversity is always the way to go and boutique wineries provide this. The flip side being, that smaller production usually means higher prices on the shelf. As consumers, we need to be aware of this and pay the extra few pounds to maintain diversity and avoid the shelves being dominated by the big brand producers.

12- Do you think the smaller, emerging wine producing countries do enough to promote their wines, and make them more accesible to the public?

There’s always more that can be done to promote and increase the accessibility of wines from emerging wine producing countries. One of the main ways this can be done is for merchants – independent or the big supermarkets – to put these wines on their shelves. Too many times I’ve seen retailers turn down the opportunity to stock these wines as the think they won’t sell, without even giving the consumer the opportunity to buy it. Of course they won’t sell if they’re not even on the shelf. And as consumers we need to be more adventurous and give wines from places like Croatia, Greece, Brazil and India a go.

13- Are retailers doing enough to educate the public on wine? I don’t mean health wise.

I’ve always found that most people that work in wine retail do it because they love wine. Not just drinking it, but talking about it. This is where independent merchants succeed because there is actually someone there to talk to and most independents that I visit are brilliant at answering all my questions and offering advice.  There’s often a bottle open to sample or in-store events occurring. Supermarkets on the other hand…

14- Also do you think the large supermarket chains help or devalue the concept of wine? Ie over discounting, loss leading cheap brands etc

There’s no denying that supermarkets have the power when it comes to off trade sales. And I have to say they do very little to help keep wine ranges interesting and diverse. Waitrose would be the only exception to this. The over discounting is great for the consumer (if you like the wine of course), but not so great for the producer and greatly reduces the sales of the smaller brands on the shelves. Thank goodness for independent merchants!

15- What do you think the wine industry needs to improve on?

It has to be maintaining sustainability and decreasing the environmental impact of our industry.  Whether it be in the vineyard through using less pesticides and herbicides, in the winery through using energy efficient techniques and carbon off-setting, right through to the consumers choice of whether or not to drink wines that have travelled half way round the world.

16- Which wines, countries or regions do you think are worth keeping an eye on for the future?

Falanghina  and Greco di Tufo from Campania in Italy are two scrummy whites that are worth hunting out.  Regions to watch out for have to be Croatia, Lebanon and China.

17- What tips do you have to anyone looking at getting into the wine trade?

Go for it. Wine is an amazing product to work with and most of the time ‘work’ doesn’t seem like work. Drink lots of different wines and always keep learning.

18- What is the best thing, for you, about wine?

The people I’ve gotten to meet and know through working with wine.

19- In wine terminology, how would you describe yourself?

A bit like a vintage Champagne – unique, balanced, complex and refreshing.

Union Market

Cheers Cherie for your thoughts.

Your a busy little lady aren’t you. Where ever there is a wine crisis you are there. Good work.

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This entry was posted on July 11, 2011 by in Interviews..

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