The Present is Yours. So seize it tomorrow!

James Cullinan previewed Movenpick’s “Viva Espania” tasting which ends tomorrow (all branches till 30 January) and highlights two icons.


“An hour and a half”, we joked as we arrived, “that should be long enough to taste all these wines”. It wasn’t – our journey began as suave as Enrique Iglesias yet ended as frenetic as Speedy Gonzales in a tie-break!

Spain is an incredible country. The wines from the Iberian Peninsula are rich in fruit, intense in body, elegant in structure, yet innovative and passionate in the way they are crafted. Each wine we tasted demanded a certain period of reflection to fully comprehend, and though the entire journey was sublime, two wines truly stood out for me. One of these is Alion from the Ribera del Douro. We tasted the 2012, which was the year that Wine Enthusiast chose Ribera del Douro as their region of the year, and we began to understand why.

Alion’s label is classic, though fairly unremarkable. The crest it bears seems better suited to the blazer of a posh school. Perhaps it speaks of the Alion heritage, as part of the revered house of Vega Sicilia - one of only eleven family-owned wineries to accede to the Primum Familiae Vini.

On sipping it, I had to wait for a response as though I’d asked an impossible question in class, but when the answer came, it was an impeccable essay. Its foundation was deep and meaningful, yet the structure was refined and clear - you could see where it was heading. Its rich theme was embellished with opulent expressions of mulberry and prune, with rewarding final prizes of cherry and chocolate. Much to my pleasure, its monologue went on and on! it achieved a proud 20/20 Score as well as 95/100 by the fair but fastidious Michael Parker.


The other icon was Le Grand Goru, again a 2012 and one of the top 100 wines from Spain. Of course it had a story to tell. This time a cult wine with a cult label – which from a distance resembles the tortured face of a Goya etching. At first glance this seemed apt, given the winemakers’ constant struggle to produce fine wine - whatever challenges the elements throw at him.

Yet on closer examination, the enigmatic face is composed of the wispy threads of vine roots (or ‘barbus’ in winegrower’s idiom). It revealed what can be created, with the right artistic passion, working from the ground up and in their case favouring Monastrell - the native varietal of Jumilla.

Bodegas Ego was formed when three experienced, yet self-made winemakers came together to realise their vision. Their grapes (here accented with some Cabernet Sauvignon) were harvested by hand at the optimal ripening time, and gently macerated for over a fortnight before aging them for 18 months in American oak.

It’s as though the three founders ran a relay to create this iconic wine, with the first producing an engaging repertoire of aromas, perfected by the perfume of sweet cherries and rose-water, with top-notes of chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon. The baton is then passed to the second, who has confected a rich mix of succulent fruit-driven flavours which fill the pallet, flanked by nuances of pear, of spices and of wild strawberry. Again the baton is passed, this time to the third who proceeds to run a half-marathon, which is gripping, alluring, and lingering - only to fade after crossing the finish line to secure a medal for perseverance.

As the back-label of Grand Goru states: “the past is history, the future is mystery and the present belongs to you”. Life is too short to ignore the present – so drink fine wine. And these wines are amongst the finest.

Only, as with many fine wines, they improve with age. So today’s purchases can be consumed right now or, in the case of Alion, you can wait until 2028. Such future promise… No wonder they dressed it up in a blazer from a posh school!


Golden Years (1947-2016)

David Bowie was so timeless that I’d never thought it possible he could die. An artistic chameleon, he was full of surprises, and yet the only act that has truly surprised me since his elaborate alter egos of Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane was his sudden and final disappearance.

Like many, I was blissfully unaware of his 18-month battle with cancer. Three days ago, as he released his 25th studio album, I tweeted (in fluent hashtag) “Bowie, 39 in #RollingStone Greatest 100 Artists, releases Blackstar today. Dollar Days is classic #DavidBowie talent”. Deep in those notes was the tenor of China Girl.

Scary Monsters, his most successful album represented a time in my life when I was young, energetic, well connected and on the move. Now that Bowie has gone, I feel suddenly stripped of all that individual potential. A chunk of my identity has simply floated away like Major Tom.

When reviewed with hindsight, his albums form a kaleidoscope of sound and vision. He honoured those who impressed him (PinUps 1973) and inspired a myriad of successful artists from Iggy Pop to Boy George. This was his personal magic – Bowie was truly connected, majestically inclusive and forcefully inspirational. He helped Lou Reid produce his legendary album Transformer, just as John Lennon had help him write his first US number one single, Fame.

Bowie’s distinctive unmatched eyes were caused by a permanently dilated left pupil, which he sustained in a school-ground fight (over a girl) with George Underwood. And yet Underwood was the friend that Bowie chose to call on for the artwork of his earlier albums.

Even as an actor, Bowie was eclectic. Fitting for me was how elegantly he blended with the ageless beauty of Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon (the new face of L’Oréal) in “The Hunger” while in the same year his energy pulled me through “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” (1983) - a film as long as it was harrowing – thanks to the charisma he exuded as British prisoner of war, Jack Celliers.

He always was a step ahead. Not only did he push artistic boundaries, he helped redefine financial ones. In 1997 he sold (for $55m) the rights to the ensuing ten years of his music royalties in an asset-backed security which was dubbed the Bowie Bond. I’ve an inkling that the fourth track on his near-posthumous album may refer to the aftermath of this particular event.

Frankly, when I listened to his final album, I found it distasteful on first hearing, enchanting on its second, and exquisite from the third, particularly Dollar Days. And that was always the distinction between great music and pop music. Bowie has always produced great music, and in this album the aura of the “Thin White Duke” seemed to have returned.

Even when he left us, it was with a ruse. As his producer Tony Visconti put it "His death was no different from his life - a work of art”. The single, Lazarus, is possibly his own epitaph. In his 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, he’d played every instrument (including the famous guitar riff on Rebel Rebel). And in 2016, David Bowie had even sung his own epitaph.

While Lazarus was arisen from the dead, Bowie was taken from the living. This may reflect the polymorphic stance Bowie held on many subjects, notably his sexuality – where at any given time he could be male, female or androgynous.

The cultural legend of David Bowie will live on, as will his music, films and iconography. And yet my greatest hope is that something more transcendental will endure: that the presence of the man who influenced so many generations will continue to burnish my own youthful ambition.


Master Craftsmanship

If I mentioned international artists Chris, Will, Guy and Jonny, you’d be forgiven for assuming they were a trendy boy band – probably one in which the members didn’t actually play any instruments and had little artistic credibility, yet were propelled to stardom by well choreographed acts and a hologram of cut-out personalities.

This particular group is in fact Coldplay, the most successful British band of the decade, having received 43 major awards and sold over 50 million albums.

Coldplay SuperBowl L

They first met during their orientation week at University College London and they were friends for a year before they realised their shared dream of forming a band. They left university three years later as professional musicians after signing a five-album contract with Parlophone.

A model of excellence on many levels, Coldplay symbolises four of the main characteristics of networking. The first is that the personal connection comes first, and the business rationale usually only emerges later. We call this finding connectivity, and remind you of the chance to do this at the Léman Expat Fair in Lausanne this Sunday (Oct 2010). It’s a free event with over 120 exhibitors, all arranged by the excellent team at Léman Events.

The second characteristic is that deep inspiration comes from outside sources. It’s very rare that you will have all the best expertise in your own business team. The accepted wisdom is that you can find performance catalysts in the ecosystem around you. The versatility of Coldplay’s repertoire shows how they have sought and found inspiration from a spectrum of other successful artists.

Thirdly, networking is about collaboration. The spark of a new song may begin by idly strumming random chords trying to stumble upon an appealing melody (the band’s front-man, Chris Martin, describes this as the ‘fisherman’s bank’ because of the patient process of waiting for something to bite). It takes elaborate teamwork to refine this into a hit single – for the subtle lyrics written by one individual in the middle of the night to become a collective anthem to twenty thousand people at a live performance. Coldplay had experimented with over 80 variations of Viva la Vida before they finally agreed on one. The song went on to win last year’s Grammy award for Song of the Year.

Finally, networking is about loyalty – an enduring willingness to share your experience with others, and to have faith in the advice that others offer you. Unlike typical boy bands, neither Chris, Will, Guy nor Jonny have tried to break away to find greater success on their own. Once, however, they dropped Will (their drummer) from the group after they received negative technical feedback from some critics. Then, three days later, they pleaded with him to rejoin when they realised that music is about feeling and not about technique.

Coldplay never want to be bigger than they are better. I guess we can only dream of getting as much pleasure from our life in business as they clearly get from the hours they spend pushing the frontiers in their London recording studio – yet they personify four of the things that can make our business lives more pleasurable: connectivity, resourcefulness, collaboration and loyalty.


Choose the EasyWay or the EC Way?

The EasyWay to Stop Smoking is still one of the greatest pieces of stop-smoking literature. For some magical reason, readers develop the mind-set of a non-smoker somewhere around page 95, and quit without even wanting to finish the cigarette they held. Gone was the need for willpower or even fear as an impetus to quit. It all just happened naturally.

The author, Allen Carr, was a 100-a-day chain smoker, and while his revolutionary approach helped him quit, as it did for millions afterwards, it was too late to save his own life. On 29 November 2006 he died from an inoperable case of lung cancer, which is usually accompanied by a long and painful illness, but it in his case was a mercifully confined to a brief three months. So he never got to write his memoirs.

What he did produce was magnificent. A self-help book that accomplished better quitting results than the entire pharmaceutical industry at the time, and better sales than any other stop smoking guide since.

Allen's posthumous triumph was to win "the mind game" of quitting. He could convince smokers (somewhere around page 95) that they "don't receive a boost from smoking a cigarette" but rather that "smoking only relieves the withdrawal symptoms from the previous cigarette".

In his view, the physical withdrawal from nicotine provokes an "empty, insecure feeling". So he concluded that nicotine doesn't help us find a positive experience it only helps us avoid the negative one (withdrawal and deprivation). He vilified the "NicoMonster", and asserted that "it's a chain for life until you break it!" He explained that the only way to overcome this cycle was never to touch another cigarette, "not one puff".

The addictive force of nicotine is comparable to cocaine, so it's only natural that our first response is to "feed the monster". But some clarity is important here: while nicotine causes the addiction, it's the toxic blend of over 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette that harm you. Around 200 of these are toxic and about 40 are carcinogenic. It was enough to kill Allen Carr (and both my grandmothers, so a 100% strike rate there). Celebrity, politician or rock-star, no smoker is immune.

On its own, nicotine is no worse for you than the caffeine in your tea or coffee. However nicotine is lethal when it compels you to smoke. That's why the entire game changed with the recent arrival of electronic cigarettes. They offer a comparable experience to smoking, but instead they provide a clean stream of nicotine without any noxious smoke. Which means that you no longer have to break-free from the nicotine spell that binds you.

The trouble with nicotine (too late if you already smoke) is that it registers in the primitive "fight or flight" zone of our brains, and it remains a reflex in the event of a traumatic shock - even many years later. Triggers like this leave us all prone to relapse.

In our view of the world, nicotine is like the mythical siren, with her beautiful music, who lured sailors closer until they destroyed their ships on the treacherous rocks below the surface. So our solution is not to remove the siren and her beautiful music, but to remove the rocks – or in this case the harmful tobacco smoke.

That’s why we recommend switching to Electronic Cigarettes, which provide a stream of clean nicotine without the noxious smoke of burned tobacco. So you no longer have to overcome your dependency on nicotine. This is ‘the EC’ to stop smoking. It turns nicotine into an ally, whereas the EasyWay treated it as a monster.

E-cigs have helped over a million people become smoke-free in the UK and over 400,000 people stop smoking in France. Browse our website at for more information, and particularly for our approach which is called Flitting (rather than Quitting) which encourages smokers to reduce to the one or two cigarettes they cannot live without, and use electronic cigarettes for all the other pleasurable moments of their day. “Keep the best and vape the rest!” Please browse our website at for more information.

Why Flitting beats Quitting

If you are thinking about quitting smoking in 2016, this message is for you. You may also find it helpful if you are concerned about a friend or relative who smokes.

According to the World Health Organisation, smoking will claim a billion lives this century. More concretely, they estimate that cigarettes kill half of all long-term smokers.

Worse still is that affected smokers don't die straight away, they tend to get ill for a very long time and then finally succumb to their illness.

You may be amoung the millions who continue to smoke despite this gloomy picture. Every smoker has his own reasons for continuing with a habit that "robs us of our future, families and finances".

Yet at the heart of all cases is a seemingly unbreakable dependency on nicotine. Nicotine itself is only as dangerous as caffeine, but when it forces us to continue smoking, it becomes deadly.

Actually it's not smoking that kills, it's just the smoke. Which is why e-cigarettes provide a fresh alternative. They provide a clean stream of nicotine, in a very similar way to traditional cigarettes, but with a fine vapour in place of the noxious smoke that contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 200 toxins and 60 carcinogens. Now that's a breath of fresh air if you're planning to quit smoking in 2016.

The tricky part is not stopping. In fact most smokers welcome the ceremony of their 'last cigarette'. It symbolises breaking free of that ridiculous dependency on tobacco. Unfortunately five out of six cases end in relapse.

Our angle is much simpler: "If you encounter a obstacle, go round it". Which is why we recommend that you don't try to live without nicotine, but rather that you try to live without tobacco smoke.

In our book "Flitting - A Beautiful Choice" we encourage you to "Keep the best and vape the rest". In other words, rather than eliminating cigarettes completely you steadily reduce your consumption to the one or two traditional cigarettes that you cannot live without, and use ecigs for the rest of your daily consumption.

This approach may sound too simple to trust, however our guide book is based on the insights we've acquired since 2004, when we first helped two cohort studies to achieve 75% quitting success rates at University College Hospital London. Our success was based on a holistic approach which caputured the mind, body and spirit of quitting.

If you wish to break free from tobacco in 2016, you will have to think for yourself, since journalists tend to copy and paste the same information into their reports with little or no background research.

The advantage of Flitting, rather than quitting, is that it changes the dynamics of quitting. Instead of stubbing-out your final cigarette on the stroke of midnight, and doing your utmost to never light-up again, it turns your journey into a process that you can manage, rather like your weight or your fitness. By the way, it's the nicotine in cigarettes that contributes to weight control, so you'll still get this with ecigs. You don't have to fear putting on weight.

Flitting could be the solution for you if your next quitting attempt is likely to end in relapse. With traditional quitting approaches, lighting-up means game over - you've failed.

With flitting, while you will have good days and bad days, there's no point at which will you 'relapse'. It's all about progress towards your goal of becoming smoke-free.

This is a must read guide for your 2016 resolution.

Another Beautiful Choice

Today marks the start of Chinese New Year, which is based on their ancient lunar calendar. With it comes a second chance to honour any New Year’s resolutions that may have slipped your mind as 2015 got underway. Carpe Diem!

If you’re one of the 77 million people in Europe who smoke but wished that they didn’t, you may have once promised to quit. However Time magazine lists quitting smoking as the second most commonly broken New Year’s Resolution (shaded only by resolving to loose weight by getting fit).

If you’ve had no luck with ‘quitting’ this may be exactly the right time to consider ‘flitting’. Flitting is the latest plan for smokers who want to reduce the harm of tobacco without having to break with cigarettes. It entirely changes the rules of the game by allowing you to ‘keep the best and vape the rest’.

So instead of smoking a pack a day, as so many do, flitting is a way of reducing your daily intake to the two or three cigarettes that really move your world, while enjoying the clean nicotine of ecigs for all those other ‘pleasurable moments’ of your day.

"Flitting - A Beautiful Choice", which is available for $9.95 on Amazon, encourages you to balance the pleasure of cigarettes with your desire for a healthy and fulfilling life. It offers an incredibly simple approach, based on seven powerful insights.

Insight #1 describes the ‘butterfly effect’ and shows you how small change can have a big impact.

Insight #2 defines the new challenge, by explaining that nicotine isn’t particularly harmful, but smoking is. It reveals how ecigs can continue to provide the pleasures you enjoy without the associated risks. After all, it’s not smoking that kills, it’s the smoke!

Insight #3 reminds us how we cannot have beauty without health. With ecigs, you allow your organs to function effectively and your beauty to shine through.

Insight #4 explains why regular quit attempts, which are based on deprivation, leave us feeling that we’re missing out, and how this can ultimately provoke a mutiny situation.

Insight #5 shows how the best plan for you is one that you can stick with. It weighs up quitting, switching to ecigs and flitting, and shows how flitting probably beats quitting.

Insight #6 explains how we have no regrets about the past or anxieties about the future when we ‘live in the now’.

Insight #7 reveals three important breathing techniques that will allow you to heighten your enjoyment of ecigs and to down–play your reliance on tobacco.

Flitting is particularly helpful for ‘trapped smokers’ — often those in their late thirties who have already made several quit attempts, and now live in a love-hate relationship with tobacco. Particularly when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions!

So why not check it out, it really is “A Beautiful Choice”. You too may decide to join the growing community of those who now “keep the best and vape the rest”.

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