A T&B first! Over 30 members of the Company including the Master, Wardens and Acting Clerk, enjoyed a virtual meeting using Zoom videoconferencing for “A Virtual Vinous Journey Through France”, organised by Past Master Philip Parris, Chairman of the Wine committee.
The tasting was led by Francis Flavin, Head of Wholesale at Davy’s Wine Merchants, who has been with the Company for several years. Davy’s is the company who supply us with much of the wine consumed at our functions.
We are very proud to have an excellent cellar, supervised by our Wine committee, and are one of the few Companies able to serve our own wines rather than choosing from a caterer’s selection.
This evening, we were guests of the Wine Committee on a Zoom teleconference call hosted by our acting clerk, Deputy Master Lesley Day, who in a matter of weeks has become an expert in setting up such meetings. Easy-to-follow instructions were supplied for those less accustomed to the technology. In the Covid era, we are all getting used to new ways of communication, and Zoom is a market leader.
Following an introduction by Past Master Philip Parris, Francis took us on a journey through some of the top wine regions of France, with accompanying wines tasted in pairs. The 6 half bottles of wine had been previously delivered to each household directly by Davy’s, at a cost of £66. The logistics of this were remarkable, with the wine arriving by courier within two days of orders being placed.
Francis introduced each of the six the wines individually, explaining the process of wine making along the way, and comparing and contrasting the different qualities of each wine.
He discussed the importance of grape varieties, soil types and climatic conditions. Together we explored the differences between Pouilly Fume (from the Loire), and Pouilly Fuisse (from the Macon area of Burgundy). Whilst they sound similar and are both dry white wines, as they are made from different grape varieties they taste very different!
The wines of the “left and right banks” of the Garonne river which runs through Bordeaux are much closer in character, but the relative proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vary, as well the less common grape varieties of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and others. The two wines we tasted are often provided at our functions and have been much enjoyed by members of the Company.
The wines of Burgundy and Beaujolais are quite different in character despite originating from nearby regions. Beaujolais relies strongly on the Gamay grape variety, although many other types contribute. Burgundy relies on two principal grape types, Pinot noir for the red wines and Chardonnay for the white.
Using maps and diagrams, Francis brought the wine-making regions to life, and was able to demonstrate the importance of blending of several grape types to produce a more interesting and complex wine. He also explained the importance of barrel type (new oak vs old) and the value of maturation of wines, both in cask and in bottle.
Finally, he pointed out that all of the wines could be purchased direct from Davy’s Wine Merchants at an advantageous price, specifically available to members of the Company.
After Francis Flavin completed his excellent presentation, he was thanked by the Master, and many of those attending stayed on-line until 8 pm, catching up with friends in the Company in small groups arranged into virtual “chat rooms”.
At the end of the session, we re-joined the Master who concluded the evening by thanking all who had attended. A first, indeed, but certainly we hope not the last!
Whilst we look forward to resuming face to face meetings and dinners, government guidance makes this almost impossible at present. Teleconferencing does mean that we can continue to stay in touch with each other, and maintain the fellowship which is such an important aspect of being a member of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.
Looking forward, perhaps this format could be used to supplement our formal events, enabling us to remain in touch with those who cannot easily travel to London.
Prof John Schofield, 20 September 2020