MY INTERVIEW WITH…ELIZABETH GABAY

During Vinisud 2017 in Montpellier, I had the chance during a Master class about Mediterranean Rosé to meet with Sarah Abbott and Elizabeth Gabay – two UK Master of Wine. I do not know if you feel the same way as I do, but I am always impressed by this title. They are kind of Yoda Master to me!

They are really likeable and easy to talk to. Elizabeth who lives in France, naturally gave me her French phone number. Christmas present in advance!

I decided to call her and to share an extract of our lovely talk with you, dear DIVA friends.

Gabay-Elizabeth-MW

C.H.: I read that you have a degree in history, and you used to work in publishing and theatre. How and why did you get into the wine business?

Elizabeth Gabay: I received my first wine book for my sixteen birthday. I was surprised but I have been told that I loved already the wine. At university the career’s office told me to work in a restaurant because I was still talking about the wine. But for me it was not that obvious. I did not understand why everyone keeps telling that.

So I worked for a history magazine, then an editor and a theater. Then, I decided to take a break and to do a trip around the world. Of course, I visited some domains but it was not my first objective. At the same period, my parents were looking for a house in Provence and the winemaker near them: Chateau Mentone, was looking for selling his wine in UK. This Chateau was owned by an 80 year old Mme de Gasquet who told me many stories of Provence from her childhood. That is why and how I became a wine commercial at 26 years old. After all these years, I cannot stop being attracted to this field. It is so fascinating.

 What is the type of wine that you prefer?

For me, I like a wine that tastes different. What it is great about a wine it is when a winemaker decides to try something else, to be creative. I am more sensible to this type of wine, with a true personality.

What is the first wine that you remember?

When I started my wine studies, I had the opportunity to participate to a tasting organized by Steven Spurrier, on one condition: to do the service. Of course, I did! And I will always remember this taste…a Chardonnay, but not an ordinary one. A Corton Charlemagne… I remember it like it was yesterday!

Why are you interesting in Rosé?

I was curious to understand about how a wine could be only bought for its color and why French Rosés have the most important market share.

And that is why you decided to write a book about it: Rosé understanding the pink wine revolution? What will be the content?

Yes, it will be out for Christmas. We do not really know about it. There are 90 ways to make Rosé! Last time I tried a Rosé from Loire, they are much sweeter than those we are used to in Provence.

It will not be a consumer guide, but more a guide about the history, the European traditions, its marketing, image, economy, and the different styles and grapes used for Rosé. It will explain why there are so many style and after reading it, you will be able to explain why!

Why did you decided to become a master of wine? And how did it go?

I do not really know why. I started the MW courses in 1993, at this time there were 200 students and only 5 succeeded. Now, there are less students but it is more difficult. In the Masters of Wine, you really need to explain why this Corton Charlemagne is a Corton Charlemagne and why it is not a Chardonnay from California. I think it is important to understand the style, in order to sell it.

I was astonished when I passed the theory part! But the tasting part, I had all the 36 wines corrects and I got only 8/20. The reason was because I did not explain why this Rosé de Provence was a Rosé de Provence. I was so pissed! I did my research report on the clonal selections, at this time it was little known.

According to you, what are the changes in the wine business between 1986 and now?

The quality! In 1986, you could go to a tasting of Mâcon and find only one good wine. Now the quality is really different, you cannot like a wine but it does not taste terrible like before.

And also it used to be the old world (France, Italy, Spain, Germany) versus the rest. Central Europe? Ew! In 1986 in UK, we saw New Zealand and Australian wines coming, and it was so exciting! Every night was about a different tasting. World has changed and we made amazing discoveries. Now in London, and France, this is more established. But in New York and Israel, there are still this energy, this curiosity about all kind of wines.

Did the fact to be a woman changed something?

Before, even with the title of Master of wine, some sommelier tried always to teach me how to pour a wine. Now there are more and more women in the wine business, and this is great. It is like a lot of field, you need to be good at your job and prove your worth.

What do you think about biodynamic and organics wines?

Personally I do not like the idea of division, like at Vinisud and Millesime bio. Some of my favorite wines are organic and also some wines that I do not like are organics.

In biodynamics they do amazing things, but I prefer to say that the winemaker makes things great instead of only biodynamics does it.

And last question, what do you think about the Brexit and its impact on the UK wine business?

The major problem in UK is, we are totally divided. There is a group -and I am very active on it – who tries to stop Brexit. We (ndlr. her family and her) are European citizen, we have decided to live in France, in Europe, so we are really disappointed about this referendum.

The wine business in UK goes down, they live in the past when everything went well, our retailers had bad reputation about cutting the prices down. It could be a huge problem. Honestly, we do not know, it is a hazy period. For everyone in fact, even in France we really do not know what will be going on.

Thank you Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions. Her book will be out for Christmas: Rosé understanding the pink wine revolution. To find out more about Elizabeth, take a look to her website.