We’re pleased to share with you a post written by our friend Natalie who visited us in the midst of our wine scouting trip while we were in Croatia this summer. Nat is a Research Assistant and doctoral candidate in her home of Berlin, Germany. Enjoy! – Alleah
The first time I heard about Bliss Wine Imports was about two years ago, although it wasn’t named yet. I had come back to California to visit my best friend Alleah from grad school and over a cup of coffee she told me out of the blue, “I want to follow my passion and start a wine importing business.”
Well, we both liked drinking wine, even more after moving to California and being surrounded by wonderful opportunities to learn more about wine and to develop our taste. However, importing – that definitely took it to a different level. But being driven as she always is, she followed through with it – did all the paper work, got books on importing wine and learned about the dos and don’ts, worked on her wine knowledge and teamed up with her mum and with her partner, who happens to be not only an equally passionate woman, but also a highly professional web developer, who had the skills to turn an idea into virtual reality.
I closely followed their path of traveling the world, getting the backend organized and the website going live with their first wines offered from Spain and Portugal. “How exciting” I thought and since they were going to be so close to my home over the summer (Rijeka in Croatia is only a 1:20h flight from Berlin), I decided to get an up close view into what it means to “experience wine” and work as a wine importer. Said and done, I got my tickets for a whole week of what I thought was going to be a super relaxing vacation with my best friend. Well, let me tell you: it was HARD WORK!
Right when I arrived I was told that we had a tough program to work on for the week I was there. Wines from vineyards they had already visited had to be resampled and rated, new vineyards were to be visited and we had to drink wine basically everyday. What might sounds like a great vacation in the beginning really wasn’t that relaxing after all – although I cannot deny that we had tons of fun!
The first night I was introduced to their sampling procedure of blind tasting. First, the wines were grouped into batches of red, white and rosé. Then, about 6 wines were chosen to be tried every night. Every one of us got three glasses, a sheet of paper and a pen. One person in charge opened the bottles and poured everyone sips of the wines, which we then had to try and rate independently on a scale from double minus to double plus. Afterwards, results were compared, before we retried them a second time. In case preferences remained stable – which was usually not the case – the favorites were singled out and had to undergo serious screening. That meant trying them with cheese and bread, comparing them to other, previously high-ranked wines and finally making a decision whether they were candidates to be chosen for Bliss.
This was interesting as such, but it got even better, when Alleah took me on a scouting tour to three vineyards in Istria, the northwestern part of Croatia. She had the whole tour planned for us and had made appointments with the winemakers beforehand. They all were very welcoming, showed us around, told us stories of their vineyard and their wines, offered us snacks and had us try their wines. And what can I say: they all tasted very good, some better than others, but in my view they by far bested the wines we had tried the nights before. I told Alleah so and she only smiled mildly at me, knowing what lesson I would have to learn that night.
We ended up taking samples of the wines we liked home and got right back to work, which meant: retrying the wines! And, let me tell you: without the nice scenery, without the friendliness of the winemakers, without the hospitality and the snack, the experience was completely different. That’s when I understood how hard their job really is: Finding the best wines also means staying objective, taking your time to reevaluate and also resisting the many temptations along the way that might distract you from your actual mission.
Overall, I can say I learned more about wine in that week than in years before – and this does not only correlate with me trying about 50 in 7 days. I learned to taste more carefully, to really look for the special hint that makes a wine stand out, and to differentiate between good wine and very good wine that is unforgettable from the first taste. With that said I can assure you: With Bliss, you are really only getting the best!
Alleah, Nat and Erin visited the Plitvice Lakes in Northern Croatia when they weren’t tasting wine this summer.