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Ep 382: Don Kavanagh on Wine's Next Wave and The End of the Cult of the Somm

Wine for Normal People

Release Date: 07/12/2021

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Wine for Normal People

Château Siran is an historic and innovative estate in the Médoc on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, in the commune of Margaux. In the mid-1800s Siran was purchased by ancestor of Édouard Miailhe’s family and today he is the 6th generation to run Siran.

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Petit Verdot is often the secret weapon in a blend -- providing unique aromas and flavors plus acidity and tannin. We discuss this essential grape and the vital role it plays in wines around the world.

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Ep 389: Chateau Doyac and the Diversity of Terroir in the Haut-Medoc of Bordeaux show art Ep 389: Chateau Doyac and the Diversity of Terroir in the Haut-Medoc of Bordeaux

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In our continued exploration of the Médoc of Bordeaux, Astrid de Pourtalès of Château Doyac joins. Doyac is a Cru Bourgeois Supérieur located in the northernmost part of the Haut-Médoc appellation. This show presents a high level overview of a family-owned château in a very different part of the Médoc that isn't often discussed - one that's far north and based on limestone clay soils, something you'd see in Burgundy rather than farther south in Bordeaux.

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Ep 388: The Greats - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano show art Ep 388: The Greats - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

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The Nobile Wine of Montepulciano is a wine based on a clone of Sangiovese and from a small hillside town in Tuscany called Montepulciano. It is, indeed, one of the great wines of the world.

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Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile show art Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile

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Veramonte is a medium sized winery in Chile, with an outsized impact: it's 100% organically farmed and makes up 15% of organic viticulture in Chile. Behind the four brands of Veramonte -- Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, Neyen - is Sofia Vermonte, head winemaker. In this show she talks about the transition to organic farming, the differences in the valleys of Chile and how she is making terroir-driven wines with pure fruit flavors, that showcase the Casablanca, Colchagua, and Maipo Valleys at their best.

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Ep 386: Natalie MacLean -- Author, Wine Reviewer & Podcaster show art Ep 386: Natalie MacLean -- Author, Wine Reviewer & Podcaster

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Natalie MacLean is an accredited sommelier who operates one of the largest wine sites on the web. In this fun show, we talk about Natalie's life in wine, her professional triumphs and trials that made her what she is today, and then we talk wine trends. We analyze everything from blue wine to raw wine to celebrity wine and White Claw! A very fun, yet very real conversation that covers the issues with wine (her description of what happened in 2012 is harrowing), with the best of it as well.

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Ep 385:  Anne Le Naour of Chateau Meyney - Redefining Saint-Estèphe of Bordeaux show art Ep 385: Anne Le Naour of Chateau Meyney - Redefining Saint-Estèphe of Bordeaux

Wine for Normal People

Anne Le Naour  is the technical and managing director for Château Meyney of St-Estèphe in the Médoc of Bordeaux. Since she began at Château Meyney in 2016, she has transformed it, improving viticulture, moving towards organics, and introducing better winemaking. Her deep knowledge of wine plus her unwavering dedication to quality has meant that the wines of Meyney are better than ever. She joins to discuss Meyney and the beautiful wines of St Estèphe.

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Ep 384: Txakolina --The Wine of Basque Country show art Ep 384: Txakolina --The Wine of Basque Country

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The Basque Country in northeastern Spain lies on the Bay of Biscay and abuts the Pyrenees Mountains, a mere 18 mi/30 km from the French border. Until about a decade ago, this area was relatively unknown as a wine region. But with the rise of Basque cuisine, an increased interest from wine buyers in native varietals, and a thirst for lighter wines, Txakolina (chock-o-LEEN-ah), a white, high acid, spritz wine started to gain ground. In this show, we discuss this historic region and its wine traditions.

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Ep 383: Domaine Wachau of Austria - One of Europe's Best Co-Ops with Roman Horvath, MW show art Ep 383: Domaine Wachau of Austria - One of Europe's Best Co-Ops with Roman Horvath, MW

Wine for Normal People

Roman Horvath, a Master of Wine, is the Winery Director of Domaine Wachau, a leading Austrian wine producer. The Domaine is actually a cooperative, meaning it is run by & owned by individual growers. But whereas most co-ops in Europe produce seas of mediocre wines, Domaine Wachau is known for its wines of origin & pure flavor. Roman tells us about the Domaine's range of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that reflect terroir & show that under the right management, the co-op system can make unbelievable wines!

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Ep 382: Don Kavanagh on Wine's Next Wave and The End of the Cult of the Somm show art Ep 382: Don Kavanagh on Wine's Next Wave and The End of the Cult of the Somm

Wine for Normal People

Don Kavanagh, editor of Wine-Searcher's news division, returns to talk about wine's next wave and Wine-Searcher's article: "Farewell to the 'Cult of the Somm.'" We discuss how the wine world is shaping up in a post-pandemic world where a shift towards stay-at-home drinking and more casual dining will likely be lasting trends. We discuss how sommelier "influencer" culture is dead, and what may be next. Don is infinitely entertaining; this podcast is bound to delight (unless you're a snobby sommelier!).

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Don Kavanagh who joined for "Episode 330: Journalistic Integrity in Wine with Don Kavanagh of Wine-Searcher"  comes back to talk about wine's next wave and Wine-Searcher's controversial article: "Farewell to the 'Cult of the Somm.'"

Don Kavanagh, Editor of Wine-Searcher

To refresh your memory from Ep 330, Don is the editor of Wine-Searcher's journalistic arm. He has spent the past 25 years either working in the wine trade or writing about it, in his native Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. He has a dedication to telling things as they are -- as a true observer of situations rather than a judge, jury, or partisan -- and publishes articles on topics that need to be tackled in the wine industry but that others won't touch because of wine politics. 

 

In this show Don and I discuss how the wine world is starting to look in a post-pandemic world where a shift towards stay-at-home drinking and more casual dining will likely be lasting trends. We address the (sort of earth-shattering, in our little world) quote from the head of Penfolds, Peter Gago, which was the highlight of the article in Wine-Searcher:

"The pandemic has probably diminished the 'cult of the sommelier'. Recent events may have also subdued their profile/visibility in the US market. Perhaps we're moving towards a new paradigm: less aspirationally rock star - more humility?"


Photo: Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker, Penfolds.com

Although he said what most of us in the industry were thinking, his articulation of this sentiment (with a hint of hopefulness) really gives permission to others to stop putting sommeliers on a pedestal. With his proclamation, he effectively has made it ok for restaurants and producers to stop treating these people as influencer gods (as Don and I discuss, beyond their bubbles and their restaurants they don’t actually sell wine so this makes sense!). He has sounded the death knell for sommelier culture. 

 

James Lawrence, the author of the piece in Wine-Searcher, contacted other heavy hitters in the industry, including respected importer Thierry Thiese in the US, who concurred that the ego and adulation of sommeliers needed to go away. Others in the restaurant world stated that the role of the sommelier needed to change to something more operational and more guest-focused.

 

I highly recommend reading the article to see the blunt nature of the comments made and how they represent a true shift in the wine world away from truly, ‘the cult of the somm’ as Peter Gago christened it.


Photo credit: Pixabay

As for our conversation, Don and I discuss the role of critics and sommeliers, the future of the wine industry, non-alcoholic beverage trends, and what we both hope will be a better, more wine-drinker friendly world with the wine industry requiring a total reset of the sommelier role, attitude, and ego.

 

Some heavy topics but Don is devoid of pretense and so very clear-eyed and articulate about the industry, what is happening, and needs to happen. Don is infinitely entertaining and this podcast is bound to delight (unless you're a snobby sommelier and then you'll really hate us).

 Sign up for the Wine-Searcher newsletter to keep up with Don

 

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