Wine Down With Wine Wisdom: Interview With Lisa Denham (Part 2)

Community Manager
Community Manager



Part 2:


CP3: What can you tell us about the importance of pairing of food?


LD: Food and wine pairing is great fun and can dramatically improve the dinning experience.   Wine that perfectly compliments the food can change the ordinary into the extraordinary. 


CP3: What are wine ratings and how can they impact wine selection and the wine business?


LD: Wine ratings (usually from 1 to 100 points) are one of the few standardized references available to consumers and the trade that can be used for wine purchasing decisions by determining the quality of a wine, that can be compared to other alternatives.  Robert Parker was a pioneer in the wine rating system, later followed by major wine publications, especially in the US and the UK.  Rating wines is very tricky business, requiring the objective classification of a continuously-changing product, subject to the tasters’ interpretations at the moment the wine was tasted.  The wine rating system is one of the only ways to standardize and rate quality, then communicate this to consumers. 


Consumers, retailers, distributors, importers and producers depend on this system, which is generally considered to be relatively unbiased due to the high level of professionalism and reputation of the internationally renowned tasters.    


CP3: I attended a dinner at a nice restaurant recently and the Wine List was the size of a phone book! How do you narrow down the choices? What things must you consider before making a decision on which wine to have?


LD: A wine list the size of a phone book will usually be dealt (with) by a Sommelier.  It is best to take advantage of the Sommelier’s knowledge of the wine list, menu and expertise.  There are several important things to consider when choosing a wine.  One is how much are you willing to spend.  Another is what is everyone else eating?   The general rule is White wine = fish and poultry; Red wine = meat.  Rosé and Sparkling wine can be the most flexible.  Rosé is fresh and unpretentious.  Sparkling is festive with good acidity that is fine as a starter, good to continue with food, and always a perfect finish!


Often, it is necessary to order a bottle of Red and a bottle of White to satisfy the diverse menú of your fellow diners.  Otherwise, if one person is having fish and everyone else hearty meat dishes, you can order a White wine by-the-glass and a bottle of full-bodied Red. 


Large wine lists, usually have a great selection of wines by-the-glass.  It can be great fun to try different options, then compare the results with fellow diners. 


Try wines unique to the región that where you are traveling.  If you are dining Chinese, try Chinese wines. 


CP3: During dinner conversation that night, a few of the guests shared some interesting stories of several wine tours they took part in. Explain what a wine tour is and how to maximize this experience.


LD: Wine tours are great fun!  They can be combined with a culinary tour!


CP3: What kinds of careers exist in the wine world? You mentioned the importance of a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities & Threats (S.W.A.T.) analysis in a recent interview. Tell us about the business skills you’ll also need in order to succeed.


LD: A career in the wine world is very attractive to many, albeit hard to achieve due to the specialized knowledge and tasting skills required.  It takes years of tasting to train one´s palette and achieve a decent level of expertise.  The training business skills required depend on which aspect of the business one will pursue:  production, distribution, import-export, retail (stores, internet, hotels, restaurants, catering), etc. 


In my business of exporting bulk wine the constant evaluation of the supply chain is essential to determine the cost of wine delivered to the final market and compare this cost between different countries that can supply similar wines to determine which source is the most attractive at any point in time. 


CP3: What can someone expect to have to do in order to succeed in the wine industry? (What tips for success, importance of a mentor, what to read, the “heavy lifting” stuff, etc.?)


LD: It isn´t easy to get into the wine industry.  It takes years of tasting just to understand the product.  However, the enthusiast has an easier job now than ever.  Stores are full of bottles from every corner of the world, waiting to be discovered.  The internet is bursting with information about every aspect of each of those wines, their makers and their origin.  The fast track into the wine industry is to study as a Sommelier, in the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and/or at my alma-mater, the BEM (Bordeaux Ecole de Management) Wine & Spirits MBA.


CP3: Thanks for sharing your expertise in the wine industry Lisa! Cheers!