James Dowdeswell and Vladimir McTavish: The Grain And The Grape
As any wine or whisky connoisseur will attest, some things get better and better with age. Oenophile James Dowdeswell and whisky fan Vladimir McTavish certainly know this to be true; on October 28th they're bringing their vintage booze-based shows to The Stand for a one-off heady double-header.
McTavish's 2010 show Whisky: An Idiot's Guide explores the pivotal role of a wee dram or five in Scotland's cultural history - how else do you explain the bagpipes, for example? What better show to pair it with than James Dowdeswell Sticks His Nose, a comedy show about wine first performed in 2007. "It's just something I'm into," he explains, "the idea is to make wine fun, rather than some snobby older person's pastime."
So where does his love of all things wine come from? "Well, I was lucky; I grew up in a pub. For a weekend holiday one year my parents decided, instead of going to the seaside, we'd go wine tasting in France."
Despite his red-leaning tendencies, Dowdeswell's first wine epiphany was a chardonnay, "It was called Puligny Montmarcheg, from 2003 – a hot summer so it's a beautiful wine. I had it for breakfast and thought 'Wow, what a way to start the day.'"
The show is part journey of discovery, part anecdotes, fun and adventures, "blagging my way into wine tastings, scoring free expensive wine." The most expensive? "Either spending £60 on a fairly cheap bottle getting shipped from Australia, or a try-before-you-buy thing, £90 a bottle. It was about nine quid for a tiny glass – me and a friend shared it."
If, like me, you're more of a 'what costs less than a fiver and doesn't look crap' kind of wine drinker, your days of picking up something distinctly vinegary may well be over. Dowdeswell's best tips for picking up something decent aren't all that difficult. "If you just spend a tiny bit over five quid, you'll get a much better wine. Just go into Oddbins and ask for recommendations – they won't try to upsell you. Tell them how much you've got and what you're eating, what would you recommend? Be adventurous, go to try-before-you-buy shops." In the end though, it's all about what you like, "If you like a £3 bottle of wine, brilliant. You're going to save a lot of money."
Predictably, says Dowdeswell, the idea to put the two shows together sprouted from "chatting late at night at the Stand." For aficionados and beginners alike, and who knows – maybe your love affair with whisky or wine is waiting to be kick started.
To whet your appetite, Dowdeswell gives us a rundown of his top three favourite 'easy drinking reds'. Cheers!
Cono Sur Pinot Noir, Chile £6.99. It's silky smooth, the perfect accompaniment to crisps and a DVD.
Paul Jaboulet Parallel 45, Cote Du Rhone £10. Great with a Sunday Roast.
Barbera Monleale 2004 by Walter Massa, about £12. This obscure Italian poet, painter and wine maker produces incredible and original wines. One for the wine geeks. Available from www.winetraders.org.uk