Friday, 3 December 2010

Bottle Shock

It has been a curious day in which I ventured out, changed my Internet provider and watched an excellent British bid, and brilliant presentation for the 2018 FIFA World end in humiliation.

I went out for the first time since Monday, not for food but ink cartridges for the printer. I nearly left the outing too late wanting to finish various activities and then to have lunch before going out before the forecasted next snowfall occurred. It was not as cold out as anticipated but I took time placing trousers over the track suit bottom I usually wear in the house; a second pair of socks, long one to tuck the trousers in as well as fitting my feet to the size eight boots, climbing and walking boots acquired at least 25 years ago in Scotland at Fort William; carefully doing up the house jacket and placing a scarf before the outdoor coat; and then a woolly hat and wool gloves.

It had been evident when I looked out on waking earlier that there had been no overnight falls and apart from the horizontal roads on the hill the first four of the five roads downwards were completely clear except for where cars remained parked. I went downwards at the first opportunity and therefore passed the recently opened Morrison’s cafe which was jammed packed with those enjoying late lunches and snacks. I would have had a cup of tea on the way back with a mince pie treat had it not been for darkening clouds coming from out to sea. At the junction between Ocean Road, Kings Street, and the roads from the station up to the Town Hall and onwards to Harton and Cleadon Village, children from a local primary school were singing carols to a good audience who I suspected included many proud parents. The reason that they were able to do this is that area around the tree and up to the King Street Metro entrance had been completely cleared of snow and beyond that there were only small traces. I still made my way cautiously to the computer store, using the walking stick in case of meeting ice.
On the return journey I took the escalator up into the Morrison store to but some grapes and some pressed pork slices before making the rest of the climb home. It was a good decision to resist the temptation of stopping for the mince pie and tea as on reaching the home straight the snow came down as hail which swept to the face and where my glasses provided added protection. I should not need to go again until making the fourth of the five weekly shops of over £40 pounds to qualify for a total of £30 of discounts being offered. I might venture out for a haircut tomorrow morning depending on what happens at the cricket overnight, although I plan to watch the opening hour or so if I remain awake.

The letter from Sky on the activation of the Internet was confusing. Today December 2nd 2010 was the stated date, but the letter appeared to warn that problems could arise if the unit was assembled and attached before activation which was promised to occur by the end of the day. My existing provider had already terminated service so I was without use until early evening when I decided to make the switch removing one modem and replacing with the new, carefully noting the various slots and connections used by my existing service. Before commencing the process I had to turn off my existing security service and as before did not attempt to use the wireless aspect with the desktop. I will convert the lap tomorrow. The system came immediately into operation although I did have a problem logging into the new email address, although I will continue to use my old ones in the main.

I have mixed views about the Olympics and the World Cup as well as other International sporting events being held in the UK because of the cost if attending live events, the additional costs of travel and accommodation and because television provides a better experience, especially with 3D and as I shortly hope the interim measure of High Definition. However I do appreciate that there can be substantial gains for the nation, not necessarily commercial, but in attracting those who could become more frequent tourists, improving facilities and generally raising the profile of the activity as well as raising the standing of the nation if the event goes well.

I also have mixed views about FIFA. There is no doubt that FIFA as all international organisations, including government who offer contracts, provide or are sweeteners in various forms. The level of hospitality and gifts is always an issue. There is a substantial difference between what is acceptable and is usually open such as the England bid providing designer handbags and luggage to the decision takers, and touting or accepting substantial financial sums for personal use which can be criminal if proven but not everywhere. The two main criticisms of the FIFA location decision taking process is the narrowness of the selection panel, 22 individuals representing the over hundred participating nations and the individualistic nation of the decision taking. There has also been allegations of corruption with one agency offering to be able to deliver votes for substantial sums of cash and within weeks of the decision day one newspaper investigation in the UK resulted in two individuals having to be replaced for the vote and then BBC Panorama provided fresh information on the extent of previous payment not previously published and in some instances not previously investigated.

The British presentation this morning was exceptional communicating the message that the money which is usually needed to provide stadiums and infra structure would be used in this instance to develop football internationally, matching whatever FIFA spent. What then happened raises very big questions. England was eliminated on the first ballot securing only two votes with one of these from the British voting member on the Executive Committee. My own view is that British Football fans should boycott going to Russia in 2018, the country awarded the event and regarded a Mafia dominated nation despite its veneer of democracy.

It is also time to mention that I have success in playing 1000 games of Patience called Hearts on my desk top without losing or making a mistake. The previous run of just over 800 games ends when I unintentionally stopped one game. In the beginning I did terminate several games where I could not find a solution so that overall in having played over 3333 games with over 99% completions.

I am way behind is covering the films that have been viewed over recent days but I will continue as I have commenced to provide a good and fait account of all those viewed as well commencing to remember films that I have experienced over the past decade. I begin with a light hearted tale of a battle between the old and the new. There is no doubt that many of the great wines have and continue to be produced in France and that French wine has been enjoyed by Englishmen and women for centuries despite the rivalry and sometimes enmity between neighbours.

I enjoy wine especially reds and while I did for a year or more take quarterly cases of red retailed for around £9 but provided £5 to £6 via a club I tend to pay only a few pounds a bottle and certainly would not consider paying £100’s let alone £1000’s even if I became a multi millionaire. For several years I also made up my own wine from ingredients purchased at Boots and a local specialist shop in Sunderland. Tried to restrict consumption to a couple of glasses with one meal a day but it was tempting to drink ,ore. It all came to end one summer when leaving my home in the case of relatives they closed the door on the cupboard where several months work was getting ready in demijohns or ready for consumption in bottles corked and labelled.
I must also confess that I had not previous heard of the Paris competition in 1976 at which wines from San Francisco were chosen by French wine experts as better than those home grown. For the French this was worse than the gaining only one other vote to hold the 2018 football world cup yesterday afternoon.

The organiser of the event, British Steven Spurrier, a wine merchant then based in Paris had not expected the result. The event was ignored in France but created world wide attention after the journalist present gave prominence in Time Magazine. At the age of 23 Steven who had attended Rugby school and the LSE entered the wide trade as a trainee and six years later had the financial means to open a store in Paris where he invited customers to taste the wine before ordering cases. He also established his won wine school which led to several well known French wine personalities and his increasing standing among French growers and experts. He now resides in England where he hold several positions including Director of the Christie Wine school which he founded with Christie education in 1982.

In 1976 Steven organised a competition where none French experts, himself and one other tasted and marked out of 20 points wines he selected as the best Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons from France and California, bring back sample bottles from a visit he had made there.. When I say that the Stag Leaps Wine Cellar beat the Chateau Mouton Rothschild and that the Ch√Ęteau Montelena from California headed the list of Chardonnays, with two other USA wines in the top four, the extent to the humiliation will be appreciated.

The event has been marked by an Independent film called Bottle Shock and features Jim and Bo Barrett the two wine producers and makers behind the Chateau Montelena. How much of the film is romanticised and how much is accurate is unknown. James known as Jim, Barrett, an established wealthy corporate lawyer purchased the established vineyard and outsourcing Chardonnay grapes until he was ready with his own Cabernet vines. In the film he is divorced and his hippy son Bo although living with him and officially assisting in the enterprise he spends most of his time with hippy friends bemoaning the fact that the years were passing since the era of Woodstock.

In the film Jim decides to return to his former occupation when the first bottling of his planted vines tastes perfect but is brown in colour and effect called Bottle Shock, the title of the film. However this is a temporary condition which the son discovers and through the good fortune intervention of a friend, the 500 cases sent to land fill are saved. A second and more potentially disastrous development for those selected for the competition is that Spurrier on arrival at the airport is told he can only take one bottle as hand luggage which means the remaining bottle have to travel as cargo which damaging consequences to their the quality. Bo who has arrived with the two bottles from his father’s vineyard helps persuade other passengers to each carry one bottle with care.

In the film there is a love triangle interest involving an intern, Bo and a young Latin American Gustavo Bramblia Gustavo, his period of 22 years at the vineyard commenced after the competition was held. He did go on to own his own vineyard as mentioned in the end credits. The growing expert behind the success of the Cabernet was Mike Grgich who is not mentioned in the film. Miljenko Gric, Croatian born, studied viticulture at the University of Zagreb. He obtain a visa to study in West Germany, emigrated to Canada and then moved to California when the job offer was made. After several job he became the winemaker and limited partner at Montelena and it was his Vintage 73 Chardonnay which won first prize at the competition. With a new partner he established his won winery to on going success. In 1982 Jim transferred responsibility of the Montelena to his son Bo. Bo married Heidi Peterson, the daughter of a Californian wine pioneer. After graduation she went on Internships in Germany and Australia and in 183 became a head winemaker at the age of 25. She went to have her own wine label, to become a wine consultant and to be regarded as the first lady of wine by one writer. I switched on tot he film because Alan Rickman played Spurrier, a an actor who never fails to engage and keep attention. The film was enjoyable and I will, try a Californian wine or two in the future.

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