Q&A with The Vinorium Wine Expert, Stuart McCloskey
Stuart McCloskey founded Z&B Vintners, The Vinorium's parent company, in 2005 and expanded into the retail sector with The Vinorium in 2013. We discover how he became involved in the wine business and how his passion for wine can't help but get you excited about a bottle or two...
Can you remember your first taste of wine?
My childhood chalice was never filled with wine and we were complete strangers until I reached my late teens. I do vividly recall ordering, on many occasions, a bottle or two of the German colossus ‘Black Tower’. This became my fail-safe choice until I finally grew up and, more importantly, found a partner who was appalled by my vinous tastes! The Sotheby’s Guide to Classic Wines, was my first wine book and lit the touch paper that ignited my passion for wine.
It was at the tender age of eighteen, whilst drinking a bottle of 1976 Penfolds Grange, procured (amongst others) from the Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, that I had any epiphany. My olfactory senses were opened and I simply fell in love. Literally, I was stopped in my tracks. Yes, I was inexperienced but I could not escape the precision, the profound aromatics that perfumed the air around me.
I tasted: the wine was sweet at first, soft black fruits intermixed with tobacco, but it was the wines physical presence on my palate that I found most overwhelming. It was sensual, silky and the tannins were seamless. I had never tasted anything quite so extraordinary and, to this day, it remains one of the greatest wines that I have ever tasted.
How would you describe your love of wine?
If truth be known, I have an unworldly love for wine, I know not why, I care not why, only because they are what they are; because that one bottle moved me in some way which nothing else has done. I immersed myself completely in learning, collecting, appreciating and most importantly tasting wine. Thankfully, wine became my career in 1996, a blessing as I can honestly declare that I never tire of fermented grape juice.
My palate has worked incredibly hard over the years and has resented the long hours, purple-stained teeth, excruciating levels of tannins that have played havoc with my entire digestive system. Regardless of those endurance exercises, I am simply blessed, for more great wines have passed my lips than I would ever have imagined at the beginning of my career.
How do you taste wine?
My method is terribly simple: I look, take a deep sniff, taste, spit, occasionally dribble, jot down my thoughts, which become more illegible as the years pass, score and move on to the next wine. Wine, as with many fields is subjective, therefore I feel it is extremely important to be honest with oneself. There is absolutely no worth in echoing the exact same sentiment as my peers or the famous wine critics if I see the same wine from a different angle. Some, would say, that I am excruciatingly honest, which I actually take as a compliment. Of course I do not go out of my way to be different but, if it is to the benefit of my clients, then I am not shy in telling them to avoid buying a wine if I personally think it’s tosh.
What qualities do you value in a wine?
Personally, I favour wines with elegance, balance and a sense of belonging – ‘terrior’ as we like to call it in the trade. I have a fondness for wine that is produced in the vineyard rather than those stressed, overly extracted ones that are forced out in the winery. I adore crisp acidity, structure, and I have a real weakness for mature wines as they offer so much more: tobacco, lead pencil, truffles, a myriad of exotic fruit, spices, and tannins become seamless. I suppose this is wines evolution after spending 20+ years, locked in a bottle.
Discover something new with the weekly wine recommendations that Stuart puts together each week based on the weather, which foods are in season, what's drinking well now, plus a little bit of what is taking his fancy...