Now, right at the start of this post I know it’s not in really going to fit in with my usual material. It’s not about clothes, or cool old things, or any of my usual passions, yet it’s on my mind and I’d like to share it with you, esteemed reader.
Last night I was at a restaurant in Valencia with a group of colleagues. A four hour session of Tapas and booze is rarely a prospect that fills me with joy, as my introverted mind just overloads on having to spend this much time engaging in small talk, and my restless nature means I’d much rather just eat and be done with it.
Yet last night’s session was a little different. We had booked a session of wine tasting. At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I don’t like wine either. I really do not like it, neither smell nor taste. This does cause me some pain, as much as I’d like to appear a smooth and debonair operator, not being a wine guy doesn’t do my image any favours. I don’t like golf either, but that’s neither here nor there.
So, the prospect of 6 different wines to taste didn’t exactly fill me with joy. Yet wine apart, it was actually rather enjoyable. Why? The guy doing it was a joy to behold. He is an ex-pat Irish gentleman, of middle age and smart appearance, speaking in a thick Irish brogue, with a keen interest in wine and apparently excellent contacts within the local wine industry. With each wine tasting and smelling more revolting than the previous, I was none the less utterly taken in by the stories behind each wine.
Much like the stories I so enjoy behind things, be it clothes, cars or innovative engineering. How the climate and soil influenced the characteristics of the grapes, how it makes a huge difference to the end result if the grapes are harvested by machine, or hand-picked by dusky virgins in the dark of night. How the wines are processed, stored, stirred, bottled and handled and end up becoming either excellent or not so excellent. How ecological production is becoming the norm in this area when it comes to wine grapes, yet for all other produce, such as oranges and vegetables, it’s still artificial fertilizer that rules supreme. How Cava differs from Champagne, and red wines gain complexity through stirring, and so forth and so forth. Plenty of stories to be heard, and even if the end result is still undrinkable to me it was enjoyable to experience such enthusiasm.
So where am I going with this? Well, after all was told, tasted and wrapped up, I overheard him making his spiel about future bookings. How he was open to negotiate lower prices for weekdays, if we knew of others that might be interested in his services, basically doing a bit of a sad sell. And it made me sad to hear it. Here was this charismatic and knowledgeable chap going for the desperate sell and offering discounts, where he could have been upping his strong points and increasing his price. I realise the financial situation in general in Spain is pretty dire, though for a weekend tourist such as myself this isn’t actually very obvious.
Maybe quality loses out to deep discounts in the field of wine-tasting as well, as in many other areas? Why are we so fixated on always getting the best possible deal, to the detriment of actually doing business in a fair and proper way? Why do I expect to be paid a fair price for the services I provide (i.e. the job I do as an engineer), yet salivate at the mouth at the opportunity of getting a 50% discount when paying someone else for their services? Or are they only able to offer that discount because they’ve built in such a huge margin in their original price that they’re still covering their costs after discounting?
Oh, I should mention, the 6th wine, apparently a Muscatel desert wine, was actually palatable to me. So it wasn’t a total nightmare after all.