What does it take to win Ontario’s Best Sommelier competition? What’s it like performing in front of a set of very stern-eyed wine judges and a live audience? What is the smartest question you can ask your sommelier in a restaurant? What is the deductive tasting technique and how can it help you drink better wine?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Emily Pearce-Bibona, Certified Sommelier and founder of Femmes du Vins.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- How did Emily go from government employee to sommelier?
- What’s aspects of wine are involved in the Ontario’s Best Sommelier competition?
- What does it take for you to be named Best Taster?
- How do you cope with intense pressure during competition?
- How do you train for sommelier competitions?
- When should you use a deductive tasting technique?
- How can you describe the tasting experience with Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling wine?
- What’s the most important rule you should remember when pairing wine and food?
- Which questions should you ask your sommelier to get the best wine suggestions for you?
- How can you subtly indicate your wine budget to a sommelier?
- Why is taking a wine course an important part of expanding your palate and becoming a better taster?
- How can a trip to the grocery store improve your wine tasting skills?
- Why should you approach learning about wine tasting like you would playing an instrument?
- Why does Emily love Burgundy Pinot Noir?
- How can you approach improving your tasting vocabulary?
- How does Emily train for sommelier competitions?
- Why should you try grower’s Champagne?
- How does Emily handle it when guests send back their wine in her restaurant?
- What should you do as a guest if you don’t like the wine?
- Why does Emily love Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Anna Maria Clementi Franciacorta?
- What are the top wine tips Emily wants you to remember?
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About Emily Pearce-Bibona
Emily is the sommelier at Barberian’s Steak House in Toronto and part of the group Femmes du Vins. After a day-long series of competitive challenges in front of a panel of expert judges, peers and the public, Emily triumphed to win the competition at the Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts at George Brown College on March 5, 2017.
Emily began her wine journey in Toronto and is now a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She has worked in top hospitality positions throughout the city. Her passion for learning continues as she pursues the Master of Wine program, offered in the UK. As a contributing writer for Decanter Magazine, Emily writes about the Canadian wine scene.
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 81!
What does it take to win Ontario’s Best Sommelier competition? What’s it like performing in front of a set of very stern-eyed wine judges and a live audience? What is the smartest question you can ask your sommelier in a restaurant? What is the deductive tasting technique and how can it help you drink better wine?
That’s exactly what we’ll learn in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. We’re chatting with Emily Pearce-Bibona who was named Ontario’s Best Sommelier in a gruelling day-long competition. We go behind the scenes with Emily to chat about her experience. Plus, she shares her expert tips on tasting and enjoying wine, including how to choose a great bottle from a restaurant list, with the help of your sommelier, of course 😉
This conversation first aired on my regular Facebook live video a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Emily’s comments. She occasionally shows us things on camera, so you’ll want to watch the video version for that.
The audio is a bit wonky at times due to our internet connection, but this content is soooo good, I wanted to share it with you.
Also, you’ll hear me respond to viewer questions. You can be part of that conversation every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern, including this evening if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published.
I’ll include a link as to where you can find us tonight as well as the video version of this conversation in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/81.
If you want to discover mouth-watering juicy wines and what to pair with them, sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!
On a personal note, when it was announced that salons would re-open yesterday, I immediately direct messaged my hair dresser on Instagram.
I casually mentioned that I had several TV segments coming up…
I know, sounds ridiculous and vain.
Just thought she might move me up sooner when she triaged clients 😉
I think we’ve all missed the “little things” that make life enjoyable during the COVID lockdown, whether it’s a haircut, wine with friends or going out to a restaurant.
For the first time in months, Miles and I are dining out this evening.
We’ll be on the patio and it’s going to be chilly, but that’s okay as I was going to wear a big winter hat anyway since my COVID coif won’t be fixed until 8 a.m. tomorrow… she’s going to need hedge trimmers 🙂
What about you?
What have you missed most (and look forward to enjoying again soon)?
I’d love to hear from you on social or email — my contact is in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/81
Okay, on with the show!
You can also watch the video interview with Emily that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Emily Pearce-Bibona.
Here are my takeaways:
- I admire Emily’s dedication to her craft, and how she entered the competition as a way of furthering that. I love how she talked about the mental prep she did to compete, and how it’s so similar to what many athletes do. She is the Rocky of the wine world.
- Emily has some terrific insights into deductive tasting that can help all of us. We can better understand what we’re tasting by a process of elimination just as a detective solves a case. In doing this, we come to appreciate what we’re tasting, and ultimately, enjoy it more.
- I’m adopting some of her wonderfully descriptive phrases about wine from its mineral drive to its autolytic richness.
- She has great practical advice for choosing from a wine list, from being upfront about price to signaling stylistic preferences by which wines you’ve enjoyed lately.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips that Emily shared. You’ll find links to the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, including tonight, at nataliemaclean.com/81.
Finally, if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Suzanne Mustacich, the author of the Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines. Suzanne is a contributing editor at Wine Spectator magazine and as a print journalist, she has previously reported for Agence France Presse, Wine Life (China), and Wine Business International. She holds a BA from Yale University in Economics and Political Science, an enology diploma from the University of Bordeaux and an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from the University of East Anglia. She joins from Bordeaux next week.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a Central Otago Pinot Noir with its wild darkness or some farmer fizz from a grower Champagne maker!
Emily Pearce-Bibona 0:00
So it’s the idea of deductive tasting and just going down the path and asking yourself questions. Can I see through this wine? Is it a thick-skinned grape, is it a thin-skinned grape? If I can see through it, it’s not going to be Shiraz, Syrah or Cabernet, it’s gonna be like your Pinot Noir, your Grenache, Gamay, things like that. And so very, very, very often I have no idea what’s in the glass, maybe more often than not, but it’s just moving through all these questions. It’s sort of like a detective evidence to solve a case putting all the clues together and then at the end, just taking a big breath and saying what you think it is.
Natalie MacLean 0:42
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie McLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 81. What does it take to win Ontario’s best simile a competition? What’s it like performing in front of a set of very stern eyed wine judges? Not to mention a live audience? What is the smartest question you can ask your family in a restaurant? And what is the deductive tasting technique and how can it help you drink better wine? That’s exactly what we’re going to learn in this episode of The unreserved wind talk podcast. we’re chatting with Emily Pearce-Bibona who was named Ontario’s best simile in a gruelling day long competition, we go behind the scenes with Emily to chat about her experience. Plus, she shares her expert tips on tasting and enjoying wine, including how to choose a great bottle from a restaurant list. With the help of your family, of course, this conversation first aired on my regular Facebook Live video show a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Emily’s comments. She occasionally shows us things on camera, so you’ll want to watch the video version for that. The audio is a bit wonky at times due to our internet connection. But the content is so good that I wanted to share this with you. Also, you’ll hear me respond to viewer questions. You can be part of that conversation every second Wednesday at 7pm. Eastern, including this evening. If you’re listening to this podcast on the dates published, I’ll include a link as to where you can find us tonight, as well as a link to The video version of this conversation in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash 81. Now if you want to discover some juicy mouthwatering wines, and what to pair with them, sign up for my free online video class, the five wine and food pairing mistakes that can ruin your dinner and how to fix them forever. Go to NatalieMacLean.com forward slash class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you there. Now, on a personal note, when it was announced that salons would reopen yesterday, I immediately direct messaged my hairdresser on Instagram. I kind of casually mentioned that I had several TV segments coming out. I know sounds ridiculous and vain. I just thought she might move me up sooner if she was triaging clients. During this COVID lockdown, I think we’ve all missed the little things that make life enjoyable. Whether it’s a haircut wine with friends are going out to a restaurant. In fact, for the first time in months, Myles and I are dining out this evening, I am so excited. We’ll be on the patio and it’s projected to be chilly. But that’s okay because I was planning to wear a very big winter hat anyway, since my COVID coiff won’t be fixed until 8am. Tomorrow, my hairdresser is going to need hedge trimmers. What about you?
Natalie MacLean 4:27
What have you missed most and what do you look forward to enjoying again soon? I’d love to hear you on social media or via email. My contact is in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash 81. Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 4:49
We have a really special guest, Emily Pearce-Bibona and she has just been named Ontario’s best sommelier. Congratulations Emily.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 4:59
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Natalie MacLean 5:01
Oh, our pleasure. We’re so glad you’re here. And of course you’re sommelier at Burberry and Steakhouse in Toronto, very prestigious, we’re going to ask about that the wine was there. And any tips that you have to share about choosing a wine off restaurant list? Why don’t you start off Emily just giving us a bit about your background, how you got into wine, sort of your training, that kind of thing.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 5:24
Wine is actually my second life. My second career, I was working for the government of Ontario in the Ministry of Economic development and innovation. And I started taking culinary arts courses at George Brown College. It really fascinated me. I had this wonderful chef who taught me French cuisine. She was phenomenal. And I remember she was teaching us the dish bouillabaisse. And it was just so fascinating. It was this time in the place of what the ingredients were, where it was made, who made it, why it was made the way it was, Why it tasted the way it did. And the dish was such an expression of culture and time. in place and people, I really fell in love with that idea that I sort of asked myself, Well, what about wine? I think as we all know, wine is really that expression of time, place and people and culture and that really resonated with me. And so while I was still working at the Government of Ontario, I began to moonlight as a sommelier at torrone Italian restaurant in Toronto. And eventually it came to that point, where are you going to leave your government job and pursue sort of what you’re really passionate about this, so to speak, crossing of the Rubicon. And it came to that point in my life, and I did and I sort of never looked back. So once I got I started working full time in wine.
Natalie MacLean 6:39
Let’s dive into the competition and then we’ll work backwards to some of your experiences. It was a day long event. So take us through it. What were the components of this competition that you had to go through to be chosen Ontario’s best sommelier.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 6:54
you have to be an industry professional, someone working in wine to register so there’s that part and when you get that There’s the first round and it is composed of theory exam and tasting for wines blind. The wines can be from anywhere in the world, they can be any group, any vintage, they really can be anything. So you have to check your biases at the door and just understand that it can be anyone in your class. And so it’s about a belief it was in our theory test questions ranging all around the world, anything at all. And then your blind tasting for wines. There was two whites, two reds, the winds were Oh gosh, goodness, that is so funny. They go so quickly out of your mind. And it was the Shannon long from the lower Valley said on the air and a certain age and the Niagara peninsula and Gosh, there was a canal from Sardinia was the third one and the last one was from Veneto in Italy, based on the written test, which was 60% and the tasting, which was 40%. The top three candidates were pitch now, from the tasting area, the beginning you also the winner of the Lyford best taster award was given so So there was that award as well as the top three. And what
Natalie MacLean 8:03
did I have to do to win that? Like how did they determine that you were the best taster.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 8:07
So it’s four wines and you have to deal with the describe the wines aromatically. And visually on the nose and on the palate, as well as structurally quality assessment surface temperature, how would you serve it and what kind of food you would pay. So it’s sort of the highest points of those four ones, one of the best teacher and then the top three moved on. And that’s really one of the kind of starts, you have an audience, four to five minutes to 15 minutes, maybe even close to an hour and you service a sparkling wine service, formal champagne service, decanted aged red wine service with the basket and the candle, all that sort of stuff. And then you blind case three wines, you blind taste three sparkling wines and three sweet wines. Wine is a correction identification. They’ll show you pictures of people or vineyards of different things you have to identify them.
Natalie MacLean 8:56
Now it’s done all in front of your peers. There was a large audience right for the past. component was your peers, this panel of judges and then the public like it looked like from pictures that I saw there was like, I don’t know more than 5100 people there a big crowd.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 9:09
There’s quite a bit and it’s all here too right?
Natalie MacLean 9:14
How did you stay so calm? There’s 24 competitors is the panel of judges is public watching you. How did you keep calm?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 9:21
I think everyone has to do with it stay calm and get neurons are happy place and it depends on who you are. For me, it was really, I listened to music I put my headphones on before I go out there and I’m in my zone, more of a mental prep, you talk to a lot of small ways that compete or do big exams and they compare it to sports psychology, and getting in that zone and then deciding to perform. I can really only be myself. And I think when you are yourself, you’re your most relaxed and you’re sort of the best version of
Natalie MacLean 9:53
yourself. I was just showing them the pictures because you can’t see this live feed Emily have you on the tractor in a vineyard Absolutely love and then you decide the statue you have a great sense of Thank you. Yeah, you’re right. That’s the only way I can keep calm like is to just be your authentic self. So is there a wine equivalent of the you know, when rocky you’re not like running upstairs and drinking raw eggs but what’s the somewhat equivalent of training?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 10:18
I guess I just ordered a picture of myself at the Starbucks Starbucks at the corner of my block my headphones in and I sat down studying and writing, you know, subpopulations over and over and over again, that repetition or I have a lot of great girlfriends and students in the city. And, you know, I think two of them have come over today just pouring them on blind and over and over and over again. It’s that, that practice, it’s about repetition. That’s my rocky moment.
Natalie MacLean 10:44
Did you struggle with any of the wines or did they come to you right away? Did you recognise the ones that you were blind tasting in the competition?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 10:52
That’s a really good question and a blind taste, probably five times a week in flights of four, six or eight or 12 different nominations and someone’s will just speak to you. And absolutely that will happen. You’ll you’ll put something Do you notice like, wow, that’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, like that has to be that one. There’s nothing else in the world that this wine is. And then they’ll smell another wine. Like oh, Minnie. This is just a really unusual This is a kind of acid and an underrated fruit and then minerals or maybe smelling red wine. red fruit. I don’t know, there’s nothing really going on here. I’m not sure. And so it’s the idea of deductive tasting and just going down the path and asking yourself questions like, Can I see through this one? It says, excuse me, is it a dentist integrated if I can see through it, it’s not have any stress or or having a it’s gonna be like your keynote or your Grenache Ma, things like that. And it’s so very, very, very often I have no idea what’s in the glass, maybe more often than not, but it’s just moving through all these questions. It’s sort of like a detective evidence to solve a case putting all the clues together and then at the end, just taking a big breath and Saying you think it is
Natalie MacLean 12:02
Wow, this is great advice for people listening to. So, Emily, you’re very well spoken in addition to having all these great tasting skills. You also are a contributing writer to decanter the oddest British magazine. Indeed I am. I’ve written a few
Emily Pearce-Bibona 12:17
articles for them, I have to get on it and maybe do a little bit more work. It’s been a bit since I’ve published for them. Sometimes, Yeah, a little bit busy here and there, but they’re a great organisation and it’s a real pleasure and a real honour to be able to have my name associated with them. It’s truly the website I go to all the time personally to keep abreast of what is going on in the world of wine, the news, vintages there’s great commentary, graded pieces of education there. It’s really
Natalie MacLean 12:43
fantastic. The other thing of course, let’s talk about where you work. Currently in Toronto, the Steakhouse barbarians tell us about the wine list. They’re like what’s in the cellar? How many labels on the list? I know it’s
Emily Pearce-Bibona 12:57
it is actually and that is the technical term is gargantuan before, I’m just going to open this wine here. Because we haven’t opened anything and I got my glasses really
Natalie MacLean 13:06
bold. Which one are you opening? By the way?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 13:09
I have this fantastic wine from the Niagara peninsula. It’s riddle. Whoo. You love this. The 20 mile bench is a fantastic one’s 2009 It’s a Chardonnay. I love this wine. And people that don’t like messing around with you can just use a beer opener, which I love it because it’s a crown cap. So you know if you’re out with your friends, and maybe they’re not less a little less handy with the openers, you can just get the beer opener from your drawer and just go to town.
Natalie MacLean 13:36
I write your lack of pretension and you’re right a lot of people are nervous about opening that champagne cork or exactly
Emily Pearce-Bibona 13:42
this is this is the best solution then let’s just use a crown cap
Natalie MacLean 13:45
better than teeth.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 13:47
It is that is science. That is a proven fact better than tea. So cheers.
Natalie MacLean 13:51
Cheers, Emily. Please describe this wine do take a moment to sip drink, but it was it ever nice and toasty and robust.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 14:00
How’d you describe it? I think this morning is really special. It’s a wantable home. So it’s made from white grapes is sharpening and it’s made in the Niagara peninsula and so it’s got a really beautiful limestone base. Not exactly the same as same as champagne. But just as limestone Greek creates a nice mineral drive and because it’s a belong to belong, you have this just beautiful finesse and crispness and, and there’s this
Natalie MacLean 14:23
Emily Pearce-Bibona 14:25
metal drive through the wine and, and with the auto lytic characters, very silly word
Natalie MacLean 14:30
like big words, but defined so we can use them to we can drop them.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 14:33
So automatic, meaning that the second fermentation was done in the bottle. So same as champagne, it’s done in the champagne method. And so you get these really beautiful, beautiful toasty ready brioche notes with a little bit of like yellow apple and green apple. It’s sort of To me it’s going to be walked into a bakery in the morning and some of the nice brioche just came out of the oven and it fills your nose and it’s just just really really nice. And then when you put it in your mouth, it has this low bracing acidity that curious this wine. I’m a big fan of this one
Natalie MacLean 15:04
wow mineral Dr. acidity that carries I love the way you’re describing this and why? Holy smokes, this is going to be fun. And so back to your restaurant, barbarian Steakhouse. When you get a customer coming in ordering a classic steak I know a steak is easy to pair with a lot of big brands. But what would you suggest with your caring suggestions differ by type of steak or is that getting a little too precious? I think that’s a great question. I
Emily Pearce-Bibona 15:29
think my pairing suggestions. Yeah, it’s about the food but it’s mostly about the person and the guest. Because a perfect pairing is about the food but it’s also about who’s drinking it and what that person enjoys. Always what I asked when I go to a table is what do you typically enjoy? It’s a simple question, but it’s such an important question. And if the guest says
Natalie MacLean 15:51
oh, you know, I really enjoyed
Emily Pearce-Bibona 15:53
apothic I drink apothic at home you know, it says a big mass commercial brand and wine and sort of a lesser price point I’m in kind of an idea what they’re drinking or maybe they say oh, I you know I really am into dominance or I really like Napa Valley floor fruit and or maybe they’re really been drinking a lot of 2009 Ron Burgundy from sherbert. Shepperton. So those are the three very, very different people. And so it’s less about the perfect pairing with the food but also the perfect pairing with that person. I think it’s really important to not just consider the food but also person I mean, some people also don’t want to spend $500 on a bottle of wine, some people will enjoy a nice Malbec or you know, 60
Natalie MacLean 16:35
That’s great. It’s about the person pairing the wine to the person. It’s kind of like that Amazon algorithm If This Then That if you like basically, it’s a select question to for you to ask as a simile to your patrons. What questions would you suggest that those viewing ask there’s some way to get the best recommendation from there solely or perhaps there isn’t an official summary at the restaurant but someone at least to my list I think a big thing that we all need to
Emily Pearce-Bibona 17:01
get a little more comfortable with. And I know sometimes because a lot of us are Canadians, and we’re a little polite about things and some things are up off limits, be upfront about price points in the restaurant. It’s okay, first of all, you really just put it out there and it’s fine and your sommelier person working there is going to be able to find something that’s appropriate for you and your price point. I think that’s a really big thing, just to share what kind of wines you typically enjoy. If you like big bold fruit forward wines, you like a dry steer wines, do you like dark rooting wines, I think about the character fruit in the wine and how it feels in your mouth. And I think that with those things, and if you can get where you want to be, be
Natalie MacLean 17:41
upfront with the price, especially if you’re with people, you know, well, one tip I heard though is if you’re on a first date, or maybe at a business dinner, you don’t want to actually declare out loud how much you’re willing to pay for love or the contract is that if you’re the person with the restaurant list, tip it up towards you and just say I’m looking for Something in this range and you’re pointing to the prices, not the actual lines. Do you have anything along these lines? And only you can see?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 18:07
Absolutely. That’s a great trick. And sometimes people are a little shy to say that the price I’ll have the list and I’ll say, Oh, you know, here’s this one, sort of, and then I’ll just pull my finger over to the price. I’ll say something kind of around here. And I picked something in a very different price band. So it’s a little more subtle. If you’re not in a position to just say it right. How much nothing you want to spend every penny that you spend a night you’re you want to advantage. Exactly,
Natalie MacLean 18:33
yep, no subtle, very subtle. Emily, what advice would you have to help amateur tasters expand their palates to be better tasters and provide better descriptions in our tasting reviews or notes?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 18:45
Right, that’s a good that’s a great question. I think that understanding theory is very important anyone thinking of course can be very helpful. theory is intricately linked to what’s in the glass, the region ality of what wine is whites should taste the way it does. So the more you can learn about the theory, the better taster you’re going to become. And also just taste it. It’s a tough job but no, you have to taste more, taste more and teach wines that you don’t necessarily taste all the time. For example, I’m not a big Zinfandel drinker. It’s not something I would go out and buy. But you know, you need to taste the wines to understand them more. Another very important thing is we don’t drink wine all the time that we do go food shopping all the time. So when you’re in the grocery store, pick up an orange and really smell it smell the zest of it and pick up asparagus. What does that smell passion fruit, what does that smell like when you go by the floral department and pick up roses and really smell them smell everything around you peppers and peppers and, and herbs because your brain can’t register Oh, I smell I don’t know green olives. If you don’t if you don’t go and smell those things and taste those things. So be a conscious person when you’re smelling and tasting and try to smell and taste as many things as you can You will look a little odd at mark and I’m not gonna lie knowing everything but that’s okay.
Natalie MacLean 20:06
It’s like your grocery stores your Vinay kit your you know I’ve heard the advice so keep smelling and also sometimes if you cut this has to do at home not in right in the middle of loblaws but if you’ve cut a piece of fruit like cantaloupe or whatever cinnamon you’re sprinkling it on your toast when it’s fresh and cut to smell it when it’s that aromatic and people will even do things like smell leather sofas and things but again be cautious about who might be watching you do this crazy person yes
Emily Pearce-Bibona 20:35
you’ll be taken away after rains in the summertime go outside and smell when the pavement smells like and it’s wet with rain and it’s a you know, I guess literally taking the advice and stop and smelling the roses. And is this is the best some of the best advice I can give.
Natalie MacLean 20:50
stop and smell the pavement especially at
Emily Pearce-Bibona 20:53
exactly the pavement
Natalie MacLean 20:55
and you touched on something else so there’s smelling there’s Oh being consciously attended You know, I think that a lot of us when we’re beginning to smell and taste wine, we think, Oh, that must be something magical. But it’s actually a skill that you can develop by intention. And it always seems like a great mystery or a super skill, all these people smelling and you know, getting no raspberries and fruit salad, but it’s actually about just paying attention and registering in your mind and your library of smells and, and nomenclature, just be more conscious of it.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 21:29
It really is in practice, and I think you really touched on that. And it’s a skill, you know, will always be some people like the Beethoven’s they just have that natural, amazing gift and, you know, are just fantastic tasters and people ask me that all the time. You just must be an amazing teacher, you must be a great taste. And it’s like, I’m not really, I just do it a lot. I work really hard at it. It’s something that you do need to train on a regular basis. Very few people can sit down and edit again, for example, you know, they have to practice over and over and over again. And I think it’s tasting is very similar to that. Being aware of what you’re tasting, trying to structure when you’re tasting and making logical deductive conclusions from what you’re seeing and smelling and tasting in the glass.
Natalie MacLean 22:11
Laurie earlier asked, what are your favourite pinata words and Where are they from?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 22:17
I mean, gosh, it’s got to be burgundy and I’ll say it I love Canadian wines, but sort of a mecca or the Alma Kanaan or I think for me will always be in Burgundy. Very expensive, obviously. Not really a Tuesday night wine, but I love on a and shovelled with any shipwrecks in Britain in Palmer. That’s sort of dirt wildness of Hallmark. I think those would be my favourite regions for peanut or New Zealand have some really interesting if you know Norse. They’re strange to produce kind of austere and lovely and black raspberry. I haven’t started to enjoy it credited up you know, to work from Central Otago in New Zealand as well. Really interesting.
Natalie MacLean 22:56
Yeah, cool climate and yeah, it’s gotta die. A signature there that’s unlike anywhere else. Elaine Bruce. She’s saying the discussion about what the smells so that you enhance your vocabulary. She’s finding it so interesting. What else could we be sniffing and smelling to enhance our vocabulary when we come to describing wine Emily?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 23:16
It’s sort of putting the idea of fruits or vegetables or earth or mineral into the box. So you’re looking at a red wine. Oh my gosh, there’s there’s red fruit. Alright, so there’s red fruit. Well, what red fruits are there? Is it on an underrated scale? Are we talking about rhubarb and cranberries and sour red cherries are sort of like fat, right? overripe fruit like sort of when you think of if you went to pick strawberries in the summertime and you forgot the pint of strawberries on your front porch and they’ve kind of been sitting in the sun and they’re really juicy, to try to think about that ripeness. So put your fruits into buckets is red fruit is black fruit is it blue is blue fruit, and then describe the ripeness of the fruit and then the specific fruit and do that and same with like earthtones So is this an earthy wine? Okay, fine, it’s earthy is it break that out? Is it like a hard baked clay earthy? Is it a potting soil earthy? I think all probably pretty familiar you know when you’re when you’re planting things and you get it potting soil in the dark and it’s moist you can think of that in your mind so I think just putting everything into buckets and then breaking it up from there
Natalie MacLean 24:21
that is a great concept a well thought out Emily and it’s also so concrete in terms of how people can identify with that
Emily Pearce-Bibona 24:29
certain big category so you’re like okay, I know there’s red fruit in here and there’s black fruit in here start with that and maybe in like a you know, as time passes on and be able to break it out a little bit more. Let’s start with the biggest stuff.
Natalie MacLean 24:39
Did you have a trainer like rocky
Emily Pearce-Bibona 24:40
Did you know what I don’t want a specific person I would call my trainer I work with a number of ways in the city that will come by on the floor for me and know the poor winds of multiplying tastings. I have one person search IANA he is an amazing sommelier a he actually started Wide agency right now, him and I spend quite a bit of time studying, we do a lot of Skyping. And he’s a bit of a theory monster. And we really jam it out online all the time. And I’m really grateful for him for all of his time and training. We work together quite a bit.
Natalie MacLean 25:13
Okay, so tell us a little bit more about your training. You also took courses from the court of master sommeliers that correct,
Emily Pearce-Bibona 25:21
exactly. There’s two that you can go up to your master Scalia and your master Why? Those are kind of the pinnacles of your wine training, one might say, and they’re, in my opinion, equally difficult, and equally valuable, and they’re challenging, very, very challenging. The master simile through the quartermaster sallies is more service driven. So are you working in a restaurant? Are you a beverage director? Are you things like that? Are you working on the floor where the master of wine is more business driven? So you’ll deal with more technical questions. Not that they’re not geared on to working on the floor of a restaurant. So I currently I’m doing both of them. Because I like to punish myself. No, I don’t I don’t know. I yes. So I’m currently doing both the quartermaster Sommeliers and the master of wine right now. And I think that they teach different things, but both very equally valuable things. And I think both have added quite a bit to my Trinity.
Natalie MacLean 26:18
Got it all together, my goodness. And how long have you been working in the wine world? I know you had the government job. But how many years is this been?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 26:25
I was just talking to one of my girlfriends about that today. It’s been less than five years actually, Emily? Totally, I
Natalie MacLean 26:33
obviously, really, congratulations. Back to wine and you also selected this champagne that I went out and bought this afternoon. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about why you like this champagne, please. And again, the links are in the post.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 26:49
So this is from the Champagne region in France. I like the champagne and I wanted to bring this to the forefront because this is a grower champagne, or locally known as farmer fizz. Most champagnes that we have on the market are owned by large companies like your boobs and your mo s and your polar J’s things like that. And they buy in the grace and they make the wine. And that’s how most champagne is made. But this particular champagne is a rental home. And if you want, that’s a French term for meaning that the person who made the champagne also grew the grapes. So that’s why they call it the farmer is because the farmers growing the grapes and making the wine and I think that these wines are really interesting. I would say yes, you can taste the love. You can take the love in these wines because it’s from but great to bottling. There’s either a family or a group of people that are all in charge of nurturing and getting this one in a bottle and I really do think he can teach the love and the uniqueness and the terroir of the wines and I have something here phenomenal value. They pack a tremendous punch in terms of value most of the time less expensive than your coasts or your MLS or your polarisation Or your nonvintage. Champagne has this big ship. And so I think that these are great wines. And when you go into your lcbo to ask for grow or champagne, and there’ll be a little RM, those are the initials that will be on the bottle somewhere if it’s a brochure, so look for that and ask someone at your local wine shop your lcbo to point you in the direction of gross champagne, I think is a fantastic category. We’re starting to see more of this material and I hope we continue to see more of it.
Natalie MacLean 28:28
That’s awesome. I can definitely taste the love taste alone. Especially the more I the more love I get from the
Emily Pearce-Bibona 28:36
Well yeah, very, very beautiful.
Natalie MacLean 28:37
This is really a terrific champagne Emily. So got a question from Dave head who asks, How often do people send bath bottles in your restaurant and how do you deal with it, Emily?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 28:48
Well, the customers are always right, even when they’re wrong, doesn’t happen very frequently. And that would be when I’m opening the bottles you have a pretty good idea if there’s a problem with them. You don’t really even have to necessarily taste them. Usually when you open a bottle, the fall will jump out of the bottle pretty quickly and I wouldn’t want to put a faulted wine in the glass of a guest that sort of part of my job right is to make sure that gets served drinking faulty wine. But if it does happen, immediately take it away. And you obviously want your guests to have the best time and enjoy their time enjoy their meal and the company that they’re with. So taking the bottle away, like a bottle of the same line, but a different bottle, or perhaps something different and it can be off sometimes they don’t like the style of the line. say they typically drink valley floor Napa Cabernet, which is a very opulent and luscious and rich and fruit forward. And then they order a very traditional Barolo Nebbiolo from northern Italy. And it’s quite austere and dry and reserved and the acid is quite raspy. They’re not really going to enjoy it. So sometimes we’ll take it out in lines that aren’t necessarily offer corpse It’s really about ensuring that the guest enjoys the one.
Natalie MacLean 30:04
So you’re taking back wines that aren’t faulted, but are still good. It’s just the guest taste. What do you do with those wines?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 30:12
Well, what you can do, if the wine is sound, you can sell that by the glass to other guests, because they’ll still be maybe you’ve only poured a glass of wine out, you can put that on as for the evening special, and sell a couple of those by the glass as well.
Natalie MacLean 30:27
And then what if you’re on the other side of things? You’re the guest or the patron who is not sure is this wine bad? Or is it just me? What do you say to the sum of the two?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 30:36
And it could be really honest, then it just say, you know, I’m not really sure if this line is off. I’m not sure if there’s a problem with this line. Would you mind checking it and then just being really honest, I don’t know if this one is off, but I really don’t enjoy it. I’m really not enjoying this one isn’t what I was expecting. I’d really like something else. Maybe they can take it back. Maybe they can. It depends on just kind of on this stuff. minute they can financially do that, or if that’s their policy, but just be honest, you’re not the first person with a faulted bottle of wine or wine and you didn’t like I’ve gotten bottles of wine in restaurants that I really didn’t like, and it happens, it’s okay. And my consumers are more embarrassed about things around wine. You know, they don’t want to say, Oh, I don’t think this is right, or I don’t like it and you shouldn’t feel that way.
Natalie MacLean 31:22
That’s true. Like, you know, if a piece of chicken is bad, and you’re confident, or this lettuce is definitely old, but when it comes to wine, people are like, Is it me? Or is it authentic? It’s silly. Yeah,
Emily Pearce-Bibona 31:34
they don’t look silly. But I think just just being honest with your Sommeliera or your server, and most places, I mean, they want you to be happy. They want you to enjoy your time and your meal. So just let them know.
Natalie MacLean 31:44
Do you think there’s any difference between when the Sommelier a recommends the bottle and you don’t like it and you pick the wine and you don’t like it?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 31:51
There shouldn’t be at the end of the day. It’s all about the guests and the guests experience and their happiness and their meal and you want them to leave and say You know, I had a wonderful time with my friends or my family. The meal was great. The wine is great. And that’s the goal. You know, we don’t want it to feel disappointed.
Natalie MacLean 32:09
We’re all coming to Burberry’s very soon Emily. You also picked next this is the cousin to a wine that you chose Cal del Bosco, which is an Italian probably the one I have is 100% Chardonnay, you picked one. You can tell us about it. This one is about $42 and is owned by Santa Margarita, famous for their Pinot Grigio. But tell us a bit about this and the upper echelon cousin and why you chose this one. You said you buy it by the box?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 32:38
I do. I do. I think it’s this one is a phenomenal wine. So this is French Quarter. This is from the Lombardy region in Italy. And it’s done in the champagne style and they use the same grapes, similar similar grapes into champagne. So Chardonnay, you know, narrow, you know, blank. And I think that that one in particular is incorrect. value at 40 something dollars. I think it hits way above its weight in comparison to large champagne houses on the market. And the one that I recommended is their prestige Kobe called Mr. Ray Clemente. It was amazing, graceful wine. I love French Quarter. I love champagne. Of course, everyone loves champagne. I always like to think of it. It is distinctly Italian though, where I describe if champagne is sort of a supermodel with that lean, austere and angular fringe quarters, Sophia Loren. You know, it just has that little bit more body in it. It has that sort of styled of Italy and I think it’s a fantastic and just so beautiful to
Natalie MacLean 33:40
drink. And I do buy the case in around Christmas time. That’s correct. I love the way you described things. Okay, so thinking about where you work at the Barbarian Steakhouse. Is there a time typically when you’re on the job on the go? I’m so glad I do this. I’m so glad this is what I do for my life. This is my work like, Is there a particular moment that strikes you or brings you that joy?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 34:06
There’s a couple of moments that stand out in my head. I remember showing guests things that they didn’t know before or maybe just proving a misconception that they had. I recall a guest coming in and saying how much they dislike Rosie, because they only ever really had really bad Rosie. I think we’ve all had really bad roses clearly sweet, sort of like a more of a white Zinfandel style. The sweet doesn’t really have the acid to carry the wine and bring them three different roses from around the world. They’ll dry and style one from Provence one from Southern Rhone, and I believe the other one was from South Africa. And just watching this person’s face light up and say, Oh my gosh, I had no idea that that roses could taste like this. This is delicious. This is so unique. I love moments like that when you open someone’s mind to something that they hadn’t tried before. They didn’t understand before and then they love it. It’s such a great thing. It’s such a great gift to be able to give something And they and then they continue to enjoy it for years afterwards. That’s phenomenal.
Natalie MacLean 35:04
Yeah, it just takes that one pivotal moment or experience. It’s often the the moment we discover wine and changes us on that track for life. But wine is so evocative because as you know, you know them, the emotion, the memories, everything is tied together to that sense of smell. You’re out there healing wind scars. Emily, I am, as we talked before, again, we’re not doing you know, we’re not curing cancer, but we are bringing people joy, and even the people who do cure cancer need this sort of joy in their life, discovering new roses, and so on. So what’s next for you, Emily, you’re in the middle of balancing two of the most major courses you can take master why master suddenly, what other things are on your horizon? What new projects are you embarking on right now?
Emily Pearce-Bibona 35:49
Oh, gosh. I am getting ready to write my master of wine exam in the summertime. That’s a little scary little intimidating, but probably not as intimidating as the Going to the nationals in Vancouver in September because I don’t speak French and you have to speak in not your mother tongue. So that will be very interesting and painful for everyone to hear because I speak French very poorly. And it was a national summit a competition.
Natalie MacLean 36:17
Yes. in Vancouver to compete against all of the provincial winners.
Unknown Speaker 36:21
Natalie MacLean 36:23
You have to enter in your non native tongue like language.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 36:27
Exactly. So I think more difficult. It is and it does give a certain province a certain advantage. I guess you don’t name names, but it’s definitely not my province. So I’m a little apprehensive I have a very good friend and student who is bilingual. So I shortly after winning bossk or the Sommelier a competition I called her up and informed her that she would be giving the French lessons moving forward. So I have that six months to not embarrass myself with my friends. So that’s really focusing on
Natalie MacLean 36:59
someone to talk about Everything else master one chord master some ways, let’s just learn the French language for fun.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 37:05
Natalie MacLean 37:07
Emily, we’re all sloths. That job. Wow. So we’re going to wrap this up. This has been a great discussion. Emily Are there any other tips you’d like to add about enjoying wine, choosing from a restaurant list anything at all related to wine
Emily Pearce-Bibona 37:27
to drink what you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s okay not to like things. And you don’t have to like what everybody else likes. If you do enjoy sweet Rieslings, or really dry, austere Italian wines, you know, make that your thing and learn as much as you can about it and why should be fun and you should enjoy it. It should be something that you look forward to look forward to drinking and drinking wines and learning about wines. And so I think that that’s really the most important thing.
Natalie MacLean 37:54
That’s so sounds so grounded. Emily, you’re just a treat such great advice. I mean, I think there are so many learning points here. Emily, thank you so much for joining us. This was an absolute delight. I love the way you talk about wine, your advice, it’s solid. You have such knowledge and yet such humility. We wish you all the best in the national competition.
Emily Pearce-Bibona 38:16
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It was a real treat.
Natalie MacLean 38:19
Take care. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this chat with Emily Pearce-Bibona. Here are my takeaways. I admire Emily’s dedication to her craft and how she entered the competition as a way of furthering that. I love how she talked about the mental prep she did to compete and how it’s so similar to what many athletes do. She is truly a rookie of the wine world. Number two, Emily shared some terrific insights into seductive tasting and how that can help all of us. We can better understand what we’re tasting by a process of elimination. Just like a detective solves the case. In doing this, we come to better appreciate what we’re tasting and ultimately, I think enjoy it more. Number three, I’m adopting some of her wonderfully descriptive phrases about wine from its mineral drive to its Auto lytic richness. And finally, number four, she has great practical advice for choosing from a restaurant wine list from being upfront about the price that you are willing to pay to signalling stylistic preferences by telling your family or your server, which ones you’ve enjoyed lately. If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it. Especially one who might be interested in the wine tips that Emily shared. You’ll find links to the wines we’ve tasted a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat and where you can find us on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm including tonight. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash At one and if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash class you won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Suzanne must visit the author of the thirsty dragon China’s lust for Bordeaux and the threat to the world’s best wines. Suzanne is a contributing editor at Wine Spectator magazine, and as a print journalist she has previously reported for as Jones, France press wildlife in China and wine business International. She holds a BA from Yale University in Economics and Political Science and an enology diploma from the University of Bordeaux as well as a Master of Arts in creative writing, specialising in crime fiction from the University of East Anglia. She joins me from Bordeaux next week. Thank you for taking the time. Join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a Pina Anwar from Central Otago with its wild darkness, or some firmer fizz from a grower champagne maker.
Natalie MacLean 41:19
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com forward slash subscribe, maybe here next week. Cheers.