So why do we have an urge to order a Bloody Mary when on an aeroplane? Do you know when to stop when telling a story? Has 50 Shades of Grey changed your life as much as it has for Meininger magazine’s Felicity Carter? And where in the world can you sell five million mobile phones in five seconds? Questions that might not come immediately to mind, but are just an example of some of the illuminating facts, figures, debates and tastings that took place at last month’s MUST Fermenting Ideas conference in Portugal. Thankfully Sorcha Holloway was on hand to pick out the best bits…
If the idea of attending an event where your imagination is challenged as much as your wine palate then it appears the MUST Fermenting Ideas summit is a very good way to spend a couple of days, says UK Wine Hour’s Sorcha Holloway.
Estoril, contraception, HRT, October 2000… No, no, no – wrong conference! That was my last visit here, in a previous life. Things couldn’t be more different for me now, yet Estoril/Cascais remains largely unchanged, a real little gem on the coast just west of Lisbon, dominated by a rather large Casino as is often the case in the more obviously affluent European playgrounds. The Estoril Congress Centre is the home of the MUST Fermenting Ideas Wine Summit, now in its second year, where prominent wine experts get together to share ideas and discuss the future while mingling freely with us mere mortals.
This concept is the brainchild of two rather distinguished Portuguese gentlemen – Rui Falcão, wine critic and consultant, and Paolo Salvador, TV presenter and executive editor of channel TV1. They came up with the idea over some fine Madeira and managed to put the first conference together within nine months, a staggering achievement resulting in a high calibre inaugural event in 2017.
When I first came across this event last year, probably on Twitter where I seem to live, I really felt a longing to be there but unfortunately had other commitments at that point. I made it a priority though this year, and I guarantee it was much more interesting, and much more fun, than Women’s Health! Here are the video highlights of the event some of my top takeaways:
Gastrophysics- what’s that, you say?
This was my first encounter with Oxford Professor, Charles Spence, Experimental Psychologist and Gastophysicist – yes, it was new to me too. How glad I was to dip into this interesting field during Prof Spence’s fascinating lecture. A natural orator, he had us entranced and certainly left many of us wanting to learn more.
Have you ever wondered why wine tasted on holiday is often so disappointing when tasted at home? Or why food and wine tastes different on an aeroplane? These are some of the subjects of research in Gastrophysics. The former has been coined “The Provençal Rosé Effect” and is a real thing, not just your imagination.
What we taste is greatly influenced by our environment, and this is also why, for example, people are inclined to order tomato juice on an aeroplane when they would never normally touch it. Charles’ experimental lab has shown that this, in fact, is not due to atmospheric pressure effects, but to sonic effects. Yes, the sound of the plane’s engines affect how you taste! Well I never!
Did you know they have shown that wine tastes better when you hear the sound of the cork being popped, or that the tasting experience of fizz is better if you can actually hear the fizz? These effects have been largely explored by Charles and his team, and I was so intrigued I ordered his book immediately.
Should we be afraid of Unicorns?
Yes, according to wine fraud expert, the formidable Maureen Downey, the unicorns in this instance, of course, referring to rare bottles of fine wine. Maureen doesn’t hold back “Unicorns don’t f***ing exist” – “If it’s too good to be true, it typically is”.
If you think you’re safe because you can’t afford high end wines, think again. Bulk wine can also be massively counterfeited, and is a huge problem in California. Asians are more wary than we are in the UK or US, apparently, since they live in a counterfeit culture, whereas we are, perhaps, a little more naive and unsuspecting.
It is thought that more than $550million worth of Rudi Kurniawan’s counterfeit wines are still in circulation, and that funding is ready and waiting to get him going again when he is released from prison. Beware of unlicensed vendors and auctions, and be vigilant!
We touched on the Asian counterfeit culture already, but oh my, we have so much to learn here in our little bubble. Debra Meiburg MW astonished us with stories of scale – it’s really quite hard to comprehend the numbers. For example, virtual shopping malls in China hold mega sale days, a couple of times a year. Recently, on one such occasion, 10 million mobile phones sold in five seconds! Yes, you read that correctly.
Also, social media influencers are highly regarded and businesses are very progressive in understanding how loyalty and trust for these people can be used to advantage. KOLs are Key Online Influencers, just like we have here except that in China they attract numbers of followers we could never envisage here, in the millions! Now that is quite an audience.
One other little snippet from China – I never knew this but they simply don’t drink Rosé. Debra wrapped up by considering what opportunities there might be in the Chinese market and wondered if Rosé might be one. She thinks “if we call it a light red we might have a chance!”
Tell me a story
Felicity Carter was fabulous with her analysis of what makes a good story. Stimulating a cortisol response focuses the attention of the reader or listener, while an oxytocin response promotes empathy; meanwhile a linear success story can be so boring without peaks and troughs, and therefore not very memorable. Felicity herself really had us hanging on her every word – maybe because she kicked off by telling us how 50 Shades of Grey had changed her life (!) but also because she is such a skilled and entertaining orator.
This may be just as well since she thinks we are entering a new age of the spoken word, as we have seen with the huge success of TEDx talks and the soaring sales of audiobooks.
Felicity also told us that according to scientific anthropological studies of communities with strong storytelling traditions that “storytellers have more sex” – so what are you waiting for? Time to brush up those storytelling skills!
“Know When To Stop”
Another key bit of advice from Felicity. So I’ll wrap up by saying the Top Takeaway of all for me personally from the MUST Fermenting Ideas Summit was the importance of talking, networking, sharing of ideas. We are all united in a love of wine, our common denominator; sitting down with legends like Gerard Basset MW MS and Robert Joseph, with old and new social media contacts alike, this warm feeling of friendship and togetherness in one common goal – working towards the best possible future for the wine world. Roll on next year and see you there!
- If you want to find out more about the MUST event then go its website here.
- You can follow Sorcha Holloway and her UK Wine Hour every Thursday night between 7pm and 8pm on Twitter at @ukwinehour and @sorchaholloway.