Dream jobs. They definitely exist.
Travel writers, chocolate tasters, anyone who works for the Michelin guide.
But what about, wine taster?
What about being paid to scour the globe searching for great wine.
Visiting chateaux after chateaux, speaking with artisans, connoisseurs, wine experts.
Sniffing, swilling, gulping your way around the world.
Adam Breen from Verre Gourmand does exactly that and we managed to steal some of his precious time to ask him how he got the job and, more importantly, how we could do the same thing.
Hi Adam, so, first question that springs to mind. Are you sober right now or do you spend all your days in a fuzzy haze of alcohol consumption?
I am definitely sober. Believe it or not being pissed does not lend itself well to the role!
So what exactly does a wine buyer do? Because In my mind you sit around in linen suits wearing cravats and straw hats sipping from a variety of different bottles until you are red faced, red mouthed, blurred vision. Is this true?
[Adam laughs] [thankfully].
Actually a wine buyer is more akin to a dating agency. We spend time really getting to know our clients, understanding their needs and future plans, then we go and source the best wines for them.
So you are like an alcoholic problem solver?
I’m a problem solver. Exactly.
So… just out of interest, how did you get the job?
I was actually one of Verre Gourmand’s clients. I had worked for a chalet company in Courchevel for a long time and I was friends with the owners of Verre Gourmand. I knew the business. I knew what they were trying to achieve, and I understood firsthand the clients’ needs so they asked me to switch teams.
[stifled giggle] [me]
Wine is about stories and no story is ever the same.
When did your passion for wine surface? Do you remember your first glass of wine?
I don’t remember my first glass of wine, but I do remember when I started to enjoy wine.
For me, wine is about stories. Every bottle of wine has its own story to tell and I think that interest started with my father. He travelled extensively with his job and he would always bring home wine. It was a truly eclectic international mix – particularly North and South American – normally people start drinking wine from the Old World, the classics – France, Italy, Spain then branch out to New World wines, but I learned about wine in the reverse!
Throughout my early twenties I tried wines from all across the globe. I began to learn about each wine’s origin, about their country of birth, the climate, the grape, the grower. No story was ever the same.
Tell us about a typical day as a wine buyer
There is no typical day but there are certain types of activity that take place at certain times of the year. In autumn we meet with chalets and hotels, we organise wine tastings, we showcase our wine list for the coming year and see how we can meet our clients budget and needs. We also organise training so that our clients can effectively and knowledgeably speak to their clients about wine.
From January each year we start attending wine shows and visiting producers to begin sourcing and testing wines for the coming year….
Wine shows you say? I’d really like to know more about the wine shows. What happens at them? Are you paid to drink lots of nice wine?
I knew it!
The wine shows normally take place in football pitch-sized exhibition halls. Every wine producer of note has a table. We wander around, talk to producers, taste wines, start to get an idea of what we want to buy and what would meet our clients needs. Next week I will be in Aosta, Italy attending a wine fair, we are always in Dusseldorf in March. They are really effective ways to connect with a lot of wine producers in a short amount of time.
Best part of the job
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the wine. But also the work is very varied. The people are also a massive draw. Everyone is always incredibly interesting, our clients are like-minded folk, the wine producers are Artisans, it’s always a pleasure to do business.
Then there is the educational aspect of the wine industry. You never stop learning. There is always something new. It is a lifelong education which is incredible.
Worst part of the job
There isn’t really a bad side. There is a lot of travel which can be tough. And there is a lot of wine. And too much of anything can be too much, even wine tasting!
New World or Old World for the rest of your life?
For the rest of my life? That’s tough…
Old World is good for a reason! But New World is where exciting stuff is going to happen. If you look at somewhere like South Africa, the wine industry’s development post-apartheid, amazing things happened! So I am going to opt for New World.
Top Tip for this year
English Sparkling Wine
It’s right up there competing with the big guns. In fact in 2015 in a blind tasting organised by Noble Rot magazine British ‘champagne’ took the No.1 and No.2 spot beating off competition from Pol Roger, Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot.
Held at the Marksman Pub in Hackney, a dozen sparklers from England and Champagne were judged by key wine critics including Jancis Robinson MW, Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate and Dr. Jamie Goode. Wines were marked out of 20 and then added up to give them a final score. Hambledon Classic Cuvée led the pack with 178.5 points with Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010 close behind on 175 – so we became a distributor for it immediately!
2015 – the year
It was a wet spring followed by a long hot summer so 2015 wines will be amazing wines to buy. Buy them from spring 2016 onwards. If you can keep your hands off the likes of Bordeaux or Barolo, they will be worth a pretty penny in 2036!
Need some assistance with your wine buying?
Verre Gourmand visit all resorts, regularly, especially in autumn.
Why not attend one of their tasting sessions and see if they can help
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