SURGICAL TRAINEES:HAVING A WINE
Whilst many readers will be used to traineeshaving a whine, I would wager far fewer will beused to trainees having a good wine. Having readProfessor Alderson’s excellent recent article onhis “Secret Life”
,Ifelt the need (after a glass of wine) to add a few further comments.There is certainly a lot of pretentious tosh spokenabout wine, and a straight-talking Geordieapproach is as good a way as any of cutting through that! However, wine is very subjective,and the need for ‘wine talk’ to describe it isimportant. There are as many different opinionson a bottle of wine as there are people drinkingit, a situation not a million miles away from someclinical encounters I have experienced. The“mumbo-jumbo” of wine tasting talk (think Jilly Goolden’s infamous
comments)is not always helpful. Nonetheless, I would argue that wine tasting has evolved its own technicallanguage through the need to give physicaldescriptions to subjective sensations or appearances, in the same way that our ownmedical language originally evolved for similar purposes
.These days, we take for granted the whimsical Greek tradition of likening anatomicalstructures to musical instruments, plants andanimals - perhaps Jilly Goolden’s elaborate wine tasting descriptors may have fared better in anearlier era? Wine tasting itself isn’t a magic art, although itsometimes appears so. It’s as much aboutexperience as confidence; experience in having tasted enough wines to make judgements, andconfidence to accept and interpret what your senses are telling you. Translating a physicalsensation like smell or taste into words
difficult,but it does get easier with practice.
“Tasting is completely subjective. Weeachinhabit a unique sensory universe, formed by memories and experiences. There are no rules, just opinions. However,some are more informedthan others”.
Tim Atkin, wine writer
Wine tasting is a contact sport, and the more youmake that contact the sharper you are and themore knowledgeable you become. Reading bookscan only get you so far. Like having a good mentor in surgical training, to really explore wine youneed a good coach to guide you. Finding a good wine merchant, or knowledgeable friend, is every bit as important in life as having a good GP(probably more so in fact, and certainly better for your health). But to really understand a wine youhave to go and visit where it comes from – nohardship, given that these happen to be some of the most beautiful corners of the world. Explore the land, meet the makers, and eat the region’scuisine. Only then, can you really get under the(grape) skin of what makes a great wine. This is asmuch about people, history and culture as it isabout ripeness, tannins and vine canopy management.Iam pleased to have sipped some of theoutstanding wines recommended in Professor Alderson’s article, including Moss Wood, GrantBurge, and Vasse Felix’s finest – but only when the boss is paying (hence rarely!) A great deal of my personal pleasure over the years has comefrom exploring far-flung or unfashionable wineregions in order to find the undiscovered, great value heroes of the wine world. This has only been partly successful, in that some of the wines Ifell in love with 10 years ago have now been‘discovered’ and I can no longer afford topurchase them! But, for fellow junior doctors onour meagre salary, it is worth spending a little time digging around off-the-beaten track:
“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.”
Sir Robert Scott Caywood
Getting good value from wine is not just aboutlooking for under-valued wine regions or grapes.Currency fluctuation plays a part, with South Africa and South America currently offering better value than Australia and North America. Alsoimportant are the actual cash-values of what you’re prepared to pay. Cheap wine is a falseeconomy, yet in the UK the average price pointfor a bottle of wine is only £4.85. Duty and VATalready account for half of this, and when theretailer, shipper and fixed-costs (bottle, label,cork, etc) are taken into account, very little is left
J o u r n a l o f t h e A s s o c i a t i o n o f S u r g e o n s o f G r e a t B r i t a i n a n d I r e l a n d . N u m b e r 3 6 , M a r c h 2 0 1 2
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