2019 is most definitely proving itself to be the Year Of New Beginnings and Leaps of Faith.
2012 saw my initial entrance into the world of wine - I moved to Beaune as a stagiaire for Louis Latour on my year abroad (I studied French at the University of Exeter). 2013 was occupied by my thesis writing at university, the title of which was To what extend did the monks of Burgundy influence modern day wine, a piece of writing I had so much fun compiling and that cemented my admiration of the wine world (I was fortunate enough to handle a bunch of Medieval manuscripts in the Beaune archives).
2014 saw me move to London, to Cricklewood of all places with university friends (don’t go there - seriously, there is absolutely nothing there, but it was cheap rent and we had a garden), and I joined Westbury Communications as an intern. I chose Westbury as I had enjoyed my PR work at Latour, and I loved wine. I didn’t even know wine PR was a thing, I simply googled “wine PR London” and up popped Westbury, Phipps and R+R. I chose Westbury as I bonded with Sue Harris, MD, in my interview, and at the time, Westbury had Beaujolais as a client, a region I already adored. I didn’t know what the on and off trade meant, and I don’t think I knew how to pronounce Chianti.
I took to the job like a duck to water, and loved every minute I spent with Sue and the team (apart from the time a journalist made me cry. Not to self: be kind ALWAYS, and never make PRs cry).
The same month I joined Westbury, I started a wine blog called vintageofallkinds.co.uk (now defunct). It was so named because I wrote about both wine and vintage clothes. My boyfriend at the time (now ex), told me once, “wine isn’t very cool, why don’t you do music PR?” I seriously considered it - I was rather under his spell and when you are in a morally questionable relationship it does strange things to your mind. Thank GOODNESS I didn’t leave the wine trade.
I loved writing about wine. I have always written - when I was nine years old I wrote a “series” of “books” (they were around 30 pages each) about a horse called Firefly. I’m fairly certain the font size was closer to 22 than 11, but it was a start - I was hooked on writing. I went on to win lots of creative writing competitions at school, which spurred me on to choose French literature at university, which I adored - everything from Camus to Marie Darrieussecq - the latter wrote a feminist masterpiece entitled Pig Tales - a Novel of Lust and Transformation. It is the single most Fucked Up & Brilliant book I have ever read. I was mesmerised by the power of words.
Vintageofallkinds had about 20 readers (nearly all of whom were my family) for about a year. Then, in the summer of 2016, The Buyer launched. Sue and I went to the launch party, and we sat and had a glass of Champagne. Sue asked me what my career dreams were, and I cocked my head to one side and admitted, “well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” She took me by the arm and introduced me to Richard Siddle, one of the cofounders of The Buyer, and said, “Christina would love to write. Just introducing you.”
I shyly muttered to Richard something along the lines of, “umm.. well.. I’d uh… I’d really like to write something to send to you, if you might have a look… don’t worry if not,” etc. Richard said, “go on, send us something,” so - I did, and it was published.
That was really the beginning. I went on to write several pieces for The Buyer, all of which I’m still proud of, even though I do cringe a bit at my early writing. It’s difficult as a writer to find “your tone” - it is something I that I believe is born out of confidence, (but never arrogance), and when I started I had very little confidence.
Writing and my PR job lent itself to travelling, so I was off - all round the world - I was completely and utterly hooked. From having my hands in the dirt with Eben Sadie in the Swartland, to sitting in a snowy mid-winter Styria around the dinner table with Ewald Tscheppe, Sepp Muster, Andreas Tscheppe and Margaret Rand pondering The Greatness of Wine, to drinking old Barolo in Burgundy with Diana & Jeremy Seysses, to my first times stomping grapes with Johan Meyer in the same bin of Touriga Nacional that my best friend Imogen Taylor fell into, to drinking Abe Schoener’s first vintage (1999) out of magnum at Swan Lake, to standing on Raj & Sashi’s plot of seedlings, to navigating the serpentine cellars of Kongsgaard, to dining solo all around the world, there have been so many moments where I’ve marvelled not only at the beauty of wine, but at the kindness and generosity it gives birth to in the people that care about it.
I am so fortunate to have had the kindest, most supportive mentors from the beginning. Sue Harris, Peter Dean, Richard Siddle, Jamie Goode, Mark Andrew & Doug Wregg - I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. The key word here is kindness. They have smothered me in kindness, honesty and constructive criticism since Day One.
I clearly remember a couple of years ago writing a rather dogmatic piece about terroir, and receiving some pretty sharp criticism, and being quite upset by it. Jamie & I spoke, and he said, “Never Complain, Never Explain.” It remains my mantra. As writers, we put thoughts, notions and opinions out there for the world to see, so we are very open to criticism. Having someone criticise a piece of yours can feel a bit like someone ripping out a page of your notebook, crumpling it up and shooting it into the fire, but hey - if someone reacts that way, you’ve engaged with them - and that is A Good Thing.
I launched christinaramussen.co around the same time. This became my home to all sorts of musings, as well as a place to put my published pieces. People started to engage with my writing, and I was pretty shocked - (woah - people actually like what I write?), and so encouraged. This gave birth to more writing, which in turn gave birth to more approaches by the likes of Les Caves, Sprudge, Bibendum, Tim Atkin MW et al.
After four and a half years at Westbury writing in my spare time like a crazed sleepless wine obsessed pencil clutching madwoman, friend and co-founder of Newcomer Wines, Daniela Pillhofer, approached me with the idea of launching a new company.
She said, “I’d love for you to contribute, or to become a partner in the company, or anything in between.”
The role would involve me becoming a full-time journalist, editor and art director all rolled into one. She would become CEO & CFO, which led me to sigh with relief for I can barely do simple sums.
She is, by nature, an entrepreneur, and that means I’m now also an entrepreneur! Who would have thought?!
Suffice to say, my answer was something along the lines of, “Hell Yes.”
The company will be a new platform for wine content (that’s all we’re saying for now). We began building it two weeks ago, and we aim to launch in October/November.
In the meantime, I’ll also be jetting off to California in July to do harvest for the first time with the inimitable Abe Schoener, in Los Angeles, on a site that was a winery in the 1800s, to finally learn how to make wine (books can’t teach you these things).
If you had told me all of this in 2016, I would have gawped at you, but as I sit here now, I feel calm, content, and truly happy. We need to take these leaps of faith in life - because, simply put, we do have just one life.
Whether all of the above happened by chance, or if it was somehow in the stars, I don’t know. What I do know, is that we must follow our own conviction, and take chances and risks if we are to find true contentment. Imagine if I had been sitting at a desk at a music PR firm, thinking, “what would have happened if I’d stayed in wine?”
I cannot wait to see what the future holds, and I cannot wait to make mistakes, and to learn from them, and to grow with our new little seedling of a company. I cannot wait to support younger people coming into the industry, and I hope to inspire people with our content, and to spread our love of wine as far as we can.
In the meantime, this website will be home to my contemplations and reflections. All the wine geekery and enthusiasm will be stored up in a notebook (or should I say GoogleDrives), ready to launch with the new company later this year.
Wine Love & Kindness,