Recently, two members of the IT team and I travelled to St. Emillion in France for an IT conference. As we work in the wine industry it is fitting that our conference was in the heart of the spiritual home of wine.
The main venue for the conference was Le Chai, a winery owned by Tony and Barbara Laithwaite, and now producing wines again as well as hosting conferences for the Direct Wines Group (of which Virgin Wines is part). On the banks of the Dordogne this 19th century building has been restored to produce red and white wine in the gleaming new steel tanks. Wine is aged in the building in stacks of oak barrels all looked after by the wine makers Jean-Marc Sauboua and Mark Hoddy.
The trip started with an early flight from Gatwick to make the most of the day when we got there. The weather was beautiful and warm with temperatures of 29 degrees Celsius for the 3 days we were in France. The conference started in earnest with various sessions being broken up by team building exercises and group activities. Virgin Wines main contribution was to present on an IT methodology known as Scrum that we have been using for several months now and which looks at how we organise our software development. It was good to share our experience with the others at the conference.
Leaving the IT aside (well it would be rude not when your conference takes place at a winery!) one of the other highlights was the ‘Pick and Mix’ session. We were given three wines (Grenache, Carmenere and Syrah) and told to mix them to form a new blend. It’s not as easy as you might think. My team went for 75% Syrah with 25% Grenache. Not a popular choice with the judges. I think I will leave it to Mark and Jean-Marc to blend the wines in future.
In the evening we sampled the fine food and of course some of the local wines but all too soon the few days were over. We headed back to Bordeaux for our flight home leaving the warmth behind for the long drive back to Norwich once we landed in England.
John Marsh, IT Director, Virgin Wines