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BRITISH couple Carol Forrest and Gordon Blair believe they have uncorked a niche market in the Balearics by launching specialised tours of Majorca's wine country. Forrest's whole life and career to date has involved wine and food.
A qualified sommelier, she studied wine at Brighton University where the course also involved operating her own vineyard and producing her own wine. As a holder of one of the world's most prestigious diplomas in wine and one of a few female wine experts in the UK, she was invited to take over as the sommelier at Gleneagles in Scotland. She has also been involved in the restaurant trade - it was in fact one of her first jobs in Glasgow's best restaurant that introduced her to wine. Forrest said that each evening, the chef/owner would relax with his partner over a bottle wine which she would choose from the famous cellar. “They would then play their nightly game of trying to figure out where the grape and wine came from, its vintage and name. Obviously, not only was I exposed to great wines but also started to learn about them,” she says. However, after being in charge of one of the finest cellars in the UK at Gleneagles, “my budget was unlimited, we stocked wines which cost hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds a glass”. Forrest and Blair, a former Fleet Street showbusiness editor, who also runs his own PR company, decided they wanted a change and they decided to come to Majorca and introduce people to the “exclusive and largely anonymous” wines produced on the island. “Our idea was to offer trips to those who enjoy wine and want to share an adventure with us on an entertaining day out which also offers an insight into the way of Majorcan life.” Forrest and Blair have established very close working relationships with Majorca's vineyards. “We've found them all very welcoming and co-operative,” says Blair. “And in many cases, they will open up specially for us so we guarantee our clients a first hand experience and maximum attention from the vineyard owners and Carol. “One thing that we've also found about the Majorcan vineyards is that, because they are relatively small and still family run, we get much greater access on the tours, we actually see the wines being produced unlike the larger more commercial vineyards on the mainland or other wine producing countries where the tours are very clinical,” said Blair. The tours, which as a rule start in Palma, include visits to two vineyards and wine tastings along with a three-course lunch at a traditional Majorcan restaurant in Santa Maria. The vinyeyards will vary from tour to tour, but the idea is to feature a traditional family-run vineyard and a more modern high-tech outfit to provide people with as varied an insight into the island's wine country as possible. “Majorca produces some excellent wines and I've found it all very exciting because of the island's unique grapes and now some of the vineyards are starting to experiment with different grapes. “However, little is yet known about Majorcan wines overseas despite them regularly getting very high ratings an international tastings. “Few vineyards produce enough to seriously export so hopefully we can introduce a new market of wine lovers to Majorca's wine country while they are here,” said Forrest.