The CIVC seem to be getting in a pickle with looking after the tasters at their annual Champagne tasting held at London’s Banqueting House (usually that is the case anyway; on my first attendance, about 5 years ago, it was held in a dingy hotel in Vauxhall if I recall correctly – the Banqueting House is a much better venue, with fantastic light and plenty of room to move). The pickle? Last year I was refused lunch.
Now before you accuse me of being a wine-trade-luvvie rest assured I’m no ‘Master of Lunch’ (the term for freeloaders who eat well simply by attending tasting after tasting, providing them with a good and free meal every day), and in fact at many all-day tastings I have gone without the free midday grub in order to keep tasting. My ability to keep going without fuel is a result of many long high-workload shifts as a junior doctor I think, but I don’t work that way any more (still do 56 hour weekends, with greater responsibility but lower work intensity – so I get to eat and sleep – usually!). So too I am less interested in going all day without food, and these days I prefer to eat something and keep a steady pace, and hopefully keep the tasting ability and thus quality of notes high (or at least higher!) as a result. So to rise at 4am, and to fly to London and back in one day, at some expense, to join in with the Champenois marketing machine for a few hours, and then to be refused lunch is pretty feeble on the part of the CIVC in my opinion.
I thought last year I had just been disorganised and missed out on reserving lunch (again a novel concept) but this year I heard of many more people who had forgotten to arrange lunch and who were thus turned away, or who were refused lunch altogether when booking attendance at the tasting. The CIVC make it hard for themselves by insisting on a sit-down, over-the-top three course meal with two sittings! Essential for Masters of Lunch of course, but not necessary for busy tasters. If they gave a quick sandwich option they would feed more people for less, and most of those would be happier with this I think. They won’t change of course; from their point of view it works well I think, and I can only imagine they see the lunch as an important part of the ‘image’ of Champagne. Sadly for them it means for them that busy critics, writers, importers and buyers who should be inside tasting are instead wandering around Whitehall looking for a sandwich bar for lunch. It’s the Champenois that should be complaining to the CIVC, not me…..