Breaking Social Distancing - A Wine Tasting Mea Culpa

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Mahmoud Ali, Mar 25, 2020 at 10:01 AM.

  1. I broke the social distancing protocols here in Canada and had a couple of old time pals over for dinner and wine. The occasion was two-fold, a belated birthday for the the better half and my first wine session after being five weeks away from home. I really copped it from some of my aquaintences on a facebook group. What a waste of time they are.

    Anyway, about the tasting. We served spanikopita wrapped in thinly sliced basturma, sauteed shrimp and asparagus, Martin Zwick's Paprike Hendl, and roast lamb with mushroom and potato. All the wines were served blind. It was four people, seven bottles of wine and some rum, therefore notes are skimpy. Here was the lineup:


    N/V Bellavista 'Cuvee Franciocorta' Brut, Italy (12.5%) This had a few years of age under its belt and the moussse was decidedly restrained. It had fine bubbles, was a bit light bodied and was fairly lemony and acidic. It is a nice aperitif wine but not very complex.
    1995 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Pinot Chardonnay, Hunter Valley (13%) This is an iconic Australian Chardonnay, perhaps one of the earliest and certainly the most famous. The colour was a light gold indicating some age and one friend, on sniffing it immediately pronounced it a Burgundy. My other friend concurred, though he wondered if the oak profile might suggest an Australian chardonnay with an outside chance of it being from South Africa. The nose offered plenty of interest, nutty oak, lightly honeyed, and rather spicy. The palate was complex, broad, and long, the oak present but refined and deft. A truely nice wine.
    1998 Hamilton 'Marion Vinyard' Grenache Shiraz, Adelaide 14%) This is a rare and unique wine from a vineyard that is in the urban municipality of Marion whithin Adelaide. Hamilton used to make the wine from the vineyard but I believe this is no longer the case. I only gave it a quick decant before serving because it looked a little light through the bottle. It quite feral and full of barnyard elements but this slowly disappeared and was replaced by a rather vibrant red-fruited nose. This was in a very nice place, complex, mature, garrigue-like, and long. Everyone was sure that it was an old world wine. Surprise, surprise.
    1990 Pesquera Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain (13%) I was looking for something else in the cellar when I came across this. Jodie and I had been enjoying the 2014 Pesquera earlier this year so I thought she would really appreciate tasting an older bottle of the same winme. When I inserted the prongs into the cork it immediately started to leak wine along the sides but the cork came out nice and clean, soaked all the way through. This was a very nice wine, ripe, mature, and very Rioja-like, which what was guessed by those at the table. Drinking well now but not sure it is one to keep much longer.
    2004 Triacca 'San Domenico' Sforzato di Valtellina, Italy (15%) This wine was clearly Italianate but otherwise flummoxed me. I did not pick it to be a nebbiolo and certainly not an amarone style. This was my first sforzato and I have to say I was impressed. Very, very nice.
    2005 Montes 'Purple Angel', Colchagua, Chile (14.5%) Clearly a new world wine but the depth and intensity was impressive. I've had this before but did not recognise it, though at some point I dismissed the usual suspects and said it might be a carmenere. This is a very nice wine and will certainly last for many more years.
    1988 Fonseca 'Guimaraens', Vintage Port (20.5%) At this stage I cannot remember what people guessed but I'm almost certain they said vintage port and they would have been right, except that it was a single quinta. This was still quite youthful and fresh, lots of intensity, but quite broad and defined. A very nice port and well worth savouring. I wish I had more.

    We finished with some Favell's London Dock Rum, the 57.1% version bottled in Canada.
    Sam Wright and Charles Muttar like this.
  2. Hi Mahmoud,
    I was just going to walk away and not comment.
    Up to you and your friends to decide what to do but this kind of social gathering can lead to the transmission of this virus.

    It's not a good idea. It's reckless.

    And dismissing those who disagree with you as "a waste of time" is plain wrong.
  3. I take it you'll all be self-isolating for the next two weeks, Mahmoud.
  4. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    Is it the right time to ask people not to be judgemental? I don't know. I guess we all have a responsibility to comment or advise if we know people who are not following the rules in an effort to contain this disease, but I do hope relationships in this community do not suffer. We each have to adopt our own approach to these things, but as I say, it is fair in these times to remind others why they should not be breaking the rules. Let's just do it kindly and supportively.
  5. Ray,

    I fully respect your comments but I would like to say that I admit to being a little cavalier in saying "a waste of time" without explaining why. I said what I did because I believe that my facebook friends were somewhat ill informed about the issues surrounding the virus and the protocols surrounding it mainly because the Canadian government was late in addressing the pandemic and rather panicy in their messaging. I had been travelling before the Canadian government took much notice and witnessed first hand what other jurisdictions were dong and was well ahead of the curve when it comes to safety and risks.

    You can call me mad or foolish but in the two weeks since I've been back from overseas we have not bought any toilet paper, frozen foods, tinned goods, or any, repeat any, hand sanitizers - we have none at home, just soap. Also, the last time we bought toilet paper was when we were down to a couple of rolls back in January. We've been shopping twice in the last week and we bought some steaks on sale, some fresh vegetables. some cheese and crackers, some BBQ duck, and a couple of cans of bamboo shoots and chestnuts. Panic and hoarding are for the ill informed.

    Cheers ..................... Mahmoud.
  6. Wait, I would like to add that wine is always subject to panic buying and hoarding.
    Ray Queley likes this.
  7. With respect, whether or not you are stockpiling is irrelevant to the question of whether you have created a situation in which the virus can spread, which you surely have - irrespective of whether any of you has shown symptoms.

    We are all only as safe as the most irresponsible. It's not that complicated Mahmoud. For goodness sake exercise some self-restraint, it will only be for a limited period
    Tom Worthing likes this.
  8. Wine just isn't that important. Patience and responsibility trump self-indulgence until further notice. Good bottles will taste all the better shared with friends once the need for social distancing has evaporated.
  9. I'm with them.
  10. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    I suspect Mahmoud has got the gist of how his friends here and on Facebook feel about the tasting? Absolutely not censuring anyone for commenting, but adding more probably not necessary now?
  11. Good point, fair enough.

    Tom, let me tell you about the three days preceeding my dinner.

    Restaurants were open on Thursday limited only by size and capacity so we went out for an anniversary dinner in Chinatown. Not many people in the restaurant and we sat at a table away from others. I washed my hands after ordering but I have no idea who might have been at the table before we got there and whether it was disinfected.
    Later, at a bottle shop, I used the credit machine and did not know if it was disinfected. The next day I went to a registry office to pay for the car registration. Again, the credit machine was not disinfected before I used it. Saturday we went shopping, first at a Greek stiore for some olives, frozen spanikopitas, and basturma. The credit machine was not disinfected. At a big Chinese grocery store there were signs at the meat counters asking people to keep a 2m distance but the aisles were narrow and between other customers and the staff restocking it was not possible to keep any distance. Then there is the checkout counter, people in front and behind, what to do. Again, the credit machine was not disinfected. We stopped by another big grocery store to check out the cheeses but there was a lineup to enter the store and we didn't feel any need to waste time and neither did I want to enter a lineup. So we left.

    At a bottle shop where we normally pick up our inexpensive vermouth a couple of shabbily dressed, unkempt, vagabond-looking people were at the till buying the cheapest beer they could find. Even after purchasing their beer they hung around us offering to help us with our six bottles of vermouth (yes, literally stocking up on Stock!) and two bottles of wine. Again, no disinfecting of the credit machine. With no social distancing the two fellows stod behind us offering to help us with our box of eight bottles. They also asked us what kind of drink the vermouth was and so, just because I felt like it, I asked the clerk if he had any plastic cups. He obliged, and I opened a bottle of the Stock and poured each of them a small glass of vermouth for them to taste. As I got into the car I thought about how inadvisable it was to interact with them however, as I drove away, it occurred to me that neither of them are likely to be interacting with people who have been overseas or on cruises, and the way they looked the general public probably give them a wide berth.

    All this is not to say I am justified in having a couple of old friends over on the Sunday but to say that with normal, sanctioned activities, I feel I am subject to being compromised. (In order to drink my cellared wines I still have to go to a lockup and will continue to do so). It's not like I plan on hosting dinners on a regular basis, it was a planned birthday dinner. It was deferred by a week or so because I had returned from overseas, and though I was not required to "self-isolate" to use the current vernacular, I had to watch for symptoms. Meanwhile one friend is retired and the other is home because his workplace is closed. I was prepared to cancel the dinner if I had a temperature and in fact dug out our thermometer the morning of just to be sure. All in all, in my estimation, a one-off, low-risk situation, not likely to be repeated anytime soon.

    Cheers ...................... Mahmoud.
    Rudi Finkler likes this.
  12. Thanks Tom, but I am a big boy and can take the censure.

    The facebook business was my reply to a post by an elderly but sprite lady in a running and walking group. The runs and walks have been cancelled and the bars we retreat to after have been closed. She asked if anybody wanted to join her in a parking lot on Sunday afternoon for a walk and some drinks from the boot of her car. I congratulated her for her spirit and said I would have joined her but for the fact that I was having dinner with some friends. Well, that opened the floodgate. Comments like "you're supposed to be in quarantine" (not true), you're been to China (not true), etc., etc. Hence the "What a waste of time" comment in my initial post.

    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 at 10:46 PM
    Rudi Finkler likes this.
  13. There had been a lot of mixed messages going around the past few weeks, at least in the UK, before the recent tightening, which made it difficult to know how seriously one should take this. I have a few Italian friends, so was more aware of the potential seriousness of the virus. As a result, I started to social distance a bit earlier than others, because the argument about not overwhelming the health system was convincing. At the time, I think a few of my friends thought it odd that I cancelled social engagements and I did wonder if I was over-reacting. The clincher for me was having to take crowded public transport. So I do see both sides of this argument.

    Initially, there's was no real way to know what the right approach should have been for individuals, but a timelier, more focused and clearer response from the authorities would probably have helped, as well as a higher degree of international coordination and willingness to learn from other countries' experiences.
    Mahmoud Ali and Rudi Finkler like this.
  14. Provided all the gatherers isolate themselves for at least 2 weeks, I believe the potential damage may be limited to yourselves... So, I suppose you are all in confinement?
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020 at 9:14 AM
  15. Shamefacedly, I confess to similar reactions about the Purple Angel, which in normal times I suspect you'd have faced a torrent of abuse for liking, Mahmoud. I tasted it knowing that, with my laboriously cultivated Burgundian tastes, I should retch at its over-worked New World pretension. Instead I couldn't help but like it.
  16. Nice notes Mahmoud on some interesting wines. Only had the Purple Angel a few times, when it was young, and was not a fan. Good to see the age has helped.

    From what I read in the UK, I’m not surprised there are more than a few comments here on the fact that you had the tasting. It’s a hard one. The world is a big, big place and the rules that apply to one part of the world may not be applicable eveywhere, and even if they are, they might not be applicable at the same time. Aus seems to be a lot less restrictive than Europe at the moment and a lot of the rules that apply say in Italy or Spain have not been implemented here. They will probably come, but then again maybe not. Either way, I hope you and your friends stay healthy.
    Mahmoud Ali likes this.
  17. The current situation here in Alberta is that anyone returning from overseas must quaranatine themselves for 14 days (this advice commenced on the 12th of March). Anyone who has flu-like symptoms, or has come into contact with a person who has the virus, must also quarantine themselves for 14 days. All others are asked to maintain "social distance" and limit the number of people they come into close contact with. The government website defines this as:


    All Albertans are asked to practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. It can help you reduce your risk of getting sick, and help prevent spreading the virus to others..

    This is not the same as self-isolation. You do not need to remain indoors, but you do need to avoid being in close contact with people.

    To protect yourself and others:

    Keep at least 6 feet (the length of a bicycle) from others when going out for groceries, medical trips and other essential needs

    • Limit the number of times you leave your home for errands
    • Try to shop at less busy times
    • Order online to have groceries or other items delivered if possible
    • Go for a walk in your neighborhood or park while maintaining distance from others
    • Avoid overcrowding in elevators or other enclosed spaces
    • Follow Alberta’s recommendations on mass gatherings
    • Wash or sanitize your hands after touching communal surfaces.

    No lockdown as yet but some people have been overdoing things in that some of the parks and facilities look to be crowded. Just as I avoided a lineup when it wasn't necessary I would have thought that people would seek another location to walk or excercise if a place looked to be getting busy. Canadian snowbirds, returning home from the US have been out shopping prior to getting home to quarantine, sometimes parking their RV out of sight before going to the supermarket, and lying to get onto domestic flights. Authorities may have to crack down and institute fines.


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