How did you get into wine and how did you get started in the business?
I kind of grew up in the business - my father owned a store. I worked in the store through school and when I graduated from college, I didn’t really have a specific direction. He was opening a new venture and when that store opened, I got involved and that is where really developed an interest and got passionate about wine. Not so much the business or the industry but wine. I do enjoy the business but it’s really about the wine. I started in retail 37 years ago. That lasted about 6 years and then I decided to transition over to something that was more wine focused and moved into wholesale where I have been since. Working for Slocum & Sons and then Worldwide Wines as a sales rep, and now as a manager.
How has going through the WSET educational process helped or impacted you with your place in the industry? You have passed Level 3 Wine.
Yes. Candidly, I wanted to get to Level 4, and I really originally took WSET studies through Level 3 because of that. Unfortunately, getting the Level 4 has not proven to be logistically practical. But where I am is kind of where I expect to end up in the industry, so that is ok. I did Level 3 Wine during Covid lockdown, so it was also something to occupy my time, But I did notice and I continue to see more people referencing their level of award. At this point in my career, I did not really see it as critical, but why not? I love wine, I love learning about wine, and I had the time. For anyone starting in the industry it definitely helps to provide a foundation or structure for learning about the trade, and I encourage anyone who is new or just starting in the industry to further their advancements in WSET levels.
What is your go-to wine for a Tuesday night?
On a Tuesday? Whatever is left in the sample bag…
I almost exclusively drink Italian. I will mix some French in from time to time. If I am buying my own wine, I am probably going for a Nebbiolo, DOCG level Barolo, Sangiovese-based such as Rosso di Montalcino or Chianti Classico, etc…
So what is the attraction of those? Obviously Italian is a favorite place, but stylistically I am guessing there is something there that you enjoy that is different than French or California or others?
Yes, definitely. That is a good question…I definitely prefer Old World to New World regions, just stylistically, but why Italy over France? Mostly because I love the place.
You mentioned Nebbiolo and Sangiovese based wines, and those are grapes that tend to have little more acid structure and tannin structure to them, so I am guessing that is something that attracts you to these?
I feel like I am immune to tannin.
After this long in the industry?
Yeah, it doesn’t bother me one bit…and I enjoy high acid wines as well – both white and red wine.
What is your favorite wine region or place you have travelled to?
Piedmont. Without a doubt.
Anywhere in particular in Piedmont?
In the past 6 months, what’s the favorite wine you have tasted?
…Past six months, ok…
I could ask you what’s your favorite wine, but that’s an annoying question. And since you routinely taste a lot of things, I thought I would ask what stands out in recent memory.
That’s a really good question…ummm…
I am in a tasting group, and there were two bottles of 2009 Barolo from Giuseppe Rinaldi that we had last fall (2023). They make two Cru - Brunate La Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo Ravera. Standout wines.
Tom and I have known each other for many years. We came across each other routinely as sales reps for competing companies, working a list of overlapping accounts. When I transitioned from wholesale to the on-premise, Tom took over the route I had been working and he became one of our reps for a number of years. He eventually transitioned to a regional sales manager in the same company, and we continue to see each other on a regular basis. A dedicated wine person, he has even inspired some of his children to work in the industry. I think he likes to box, as well.
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.