Concours des Vins Blancs du Monde or How I realised (once more) how lucky I am

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I am a lucky person and I have a lot to thank destiny for each day. But the great privileges of my life have always been the people I’ve met. The encounters I had with beautiful, talented and inspirational people who gave me a chance and helped me build my potential. One of the most meaningful encounters in my life was with Christine Collins. She invited me to Strasbourg to be in the jury of the Concours des Vins Blancs du Monde. And what a joy and privilege that was!

I called Adi, my good friend and travel expert and told him I wanted to go to Strasbourg. So far so good. I found out that I have a lot to discover. The stories about the wine, culture and people enticed me. The only downside, no direct flights. The closest airport is Stuttgart, but the suggested flying days did not match the time of the contest.

Okay, let’s go to Munich, then. I choose this option and decided to take the train to Strasbourg. After my trip to Argentina, this seemed just around the corner. What could go wrong? Inexpensive roaming, possibly a Wi-Fi connection, unlimited possibilities of communication. Before I left I saw that I was taking a 3 to 4 hour train ride to Strasbourg and the ticket prices started at 80 €. I could not buy it online because DB (Deutsche Bahn) does not accept cards from Romania. I was surprised at the airport to see I had to pay almost 100 €. Well, fine passions cost money, I told to myself.

The contest was wonderful. And so were the people I met there, old and new acquaintances. Beautiful, lovely people just like everyone else in the wine business, including myself 🙂 .Wine never appeals to people with bad vibes.

Insider’s view. When you sit on a judging committee, as we did, you practically have six people sitting together around a table. A particular connection is created just because you are judging the same wine. It’s fascinating. You can feel it. The fact that you share a wine with someone brings you closer. ☺ I am thinking this is why we have this saying in Romania, that one must drink a glass of wine before we can address each other by our given name.

I was fortunate (the people, again!) that the president of my judging committee, was a Romanian born Transylvanian Saxon from Sibiu, Prof. Dr. Georg Binder. Our similar training background was an unexpected connection. I have to thank him for the opportunity to be invited to so many international competitions. Ours really was an international committee. Alongside the OIV observer, Vicepresident Jan Yuban, we also benefited from the expertise of Yegas Naidoo, an extraordinary and exotic South African connoisseur and that of Joszef Kosárka from Hungary, the author of some wonderful articles about our Black Feteasca for Latin American publications. Daniel Hechter, another colleague from Alsace, France, gave us the opportunity to learn about these wines.

And now that we got to the wine … This was a contest exclusively for white wines. Christine proposed that for this year’s edition that a trophy be granted for the best-graded wine in the contest from among the Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner and cuvee. Participation in such a competition requires an intensive training, in addition to a good knowledge of the different varieties of wines appearing in each series. Alsace is the region where aged white wines are drunk. White wine should not be served when still fresh. Quite the opposite.

I knew that the Riesling has the potential for ageing, and that wines from the Rhine Valley are very elaborate. I have often experienced them while travelling to Germany as a distributor for several of the suppliers of filtering and oenological materials in the region. But for the first time I had the opportunity to evaluate them comparatively. This is more important and more telling. The expected oil flavours were not necessarily found in the older one from Alsace. Instead we found them in a gold-awarded Riesling from Kazakhstan. My colleagues were joking about the flavour being taken from the rich underground deposits ☺.This contest changed my way of seeing aged white wines and taught me to evaluate wines with a sugar remainder. Imagine having a series of Gewurztraminer Grand Cru. Top of the Top! In a nutshell, this was a great experience!

We also had the chance to go to Dambach La Ville, a grand cru zone not far from Strasbourg where we tasted the first wine that won this contest. And it’s still very good ! We matched the wines with the food…meaning macarons and gougelhupf (a kind of Alsatian salty or sweet pancakes). We enjoyed Alsatian traditions and the fairytale places from the stories of the brothers Grimm. If you are thinking of taking a romantic trip, I promise Alsace is a top destination.

All would have been perfect if I had not almost lost my plane ☺. I thought I had all the time in the world as my flight left Munich at 19:50. I checked the trains to Munich with the reception. I had a 10:46 option with no seats and a later one at 12:46. My plan was to visit the city earlier in the morning and then leave. But first I went to buy my train ticket, a mere 120 €. Looks like it’s harder return than to leave. Just like life, right? 😉

With the ticket bought I was more relaxed and enjoyed a tour of the city. But my later choice of a train to Munich had a 70 minutes delay because of an accident on the rail. It was when I started to worry. From the station to the airport there was still an hour’s train ride. I could already see myself cutting all the lines. Once more, I have to say that the DB does not accept payment with foreign cards, so I lost extra time getting cash out for the second train to the airport. I caught the S-bahn heading to Freising/Flughafen, wondering if I was on the right cart. I was already panicking with 1,5 h to go. The train was going to divide carts according to airlines. I assumed Tarom was part of Start Alliance and got off when I heard the alliance name being called. I was so wrong. I ran from one terminal to another… It sounds funny, but it wasn’t.

With a lot of luck, again, I didn’t miss my flight. I found an empty boarding line and a never before seen empty Munich airport.

I even had the extra time to enjoy a Pinot Grigio while waiting to board.

All is well that ends well… and with a wine!