In the run up to Fizz Feast, which I organise and run in Edinburgh every November - pandemics permitting! - I’m up early to creep into my office for an hour before the rest of the family wakes up. I plan the day ahead and work on any creative pieces. It’s a time when I’m only likely to get distracted by the dog looking for an early walk, so it’s invaluable.
I get my daughters up and we walk to school with our Labrador. I’ll listen to a wine podcast on the way back, if I have a presentation to prepare for. When time allows, I meet a friend for a quick swim in the sea at Wardie Bay. It is getting noticeably chillier now, so it’s all the more rewarding afterwards when I’m warm and dry, and have a cup of tea in my hands. I sometimes bump into Kirstie Campbell, who is an exhibitor at Fizz Feast for the first time this year. Kirstie’s vitamin-packed Seabuckthorn raw juice drinks clearly work as she is always full of life, energy and enthusiasm.
Back at my desk I tackle what frequently feels like a never-ending to-do list. It is always full of interesting things though and, at the moment, involves catching up with the fascinating people who are taking a stand at this year’s event. With 18 wine producers, several from overseas, and eight artisan Scottish food or specialist drinks producers attending, there is a lot to organise. I regularly have wines to pack up for tastings that need to be booked in with the courier by midday. There are often new drinks to be tasted, notes written, and bottles popped in the fridge for an evening of Zoom tasting. I do wonder if the neighbours who don’t know me well raise their eyebrows at what I’m doing with a dozen bottles of wine every evening.
One of the positives from Covid is that my husband now works from home too, so we always stop for a bite of lunch together. It has become a welcome ritual. He is also in the drinks industry, working in whisky, and used to leave at 7am and return at 7pm, or would be travelling away. After 17 years, I finally have someone to share the ‘joy’ of family food shopping. Since the pandemic, I present a number of events by Zoom and have at least one a week for wine lovers or corporate clients. The bets thing about the industry is you never stop learning, there are always new wines to discover, producers doing something different or more to find out about specific regions. I write a newsletter for subscribers every week, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting news in the trade press to share, along with wine recommendations and occasional book suggestions.
School pick-up time always seems to race round. I collect our youngest daughter, who is quite capable of coming home on her own, but being the youngest of three, I’m keen to hang onto this opportunity to walk with her and chat about her day. I try to be around as much as I can, although things often crop up in the last few weeks before Fizz Feast. For example, our recent photo shoot took longer than planned, which had nothing to do with the fact we were photographing an open Magnum of Taittinger Champagne. I wanted to create a Champagne tower, which was great fun but much trickier than I imagined, especially to set up, style and photograph. You only get a single chance to pour a tower of glasses full to overflowing while holding a very heavy magnum, The results were great though. I’d say they’re well worth the aching arm and what felt like hours of smiling.
It’s on with the make-up and all the other preparation for the 7pm tasting. I was lucky enough to visit Napa Valley a few years ago and took a photo at the stunning Inglenook Winery, one of the oldest in Napa. The picture, which shows a vineyard stretching into the distant hills under a brilliant blue sky, is my Zoom backdrop - even on the dreichest, darkest days, it makes me feel as if I have blue skies and sunshine to feed my soul.
Wines are open, the scene is set, connections are checked and an entertaining hour or two begins. While my role in this tasting is to share wine knowledge, information and stories, those attending are always keen to get involved with thoughts, questions and shared laughs.
The tasting is over and I am always delighted to have shared new wines with people. These events are very relaxed with lots of hilarity, and receiving great feedback always makes me feel that all the extra, behind-the-scenes organisation has been worthwhile. It’s at these times that I know I have the best job in the world. If I’m lucky, by now the girls will have eaten and cleared up, and my husband will have cooked something for me. All I have to do is bring the wine.
Fizz Feast takes place at The Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh on Saturday November 19; there are two sessions to choose from: 12-3pm and 4-7pm. Tickets start at £25 per person from www.wineeventsscotland.co.uk/fizz-feast/