The most important thing you need to know about Elizabeth Schneider is not that she is a Certified Sommelier nor a Certified Specialist of Wine but a woman who knows how to spot a great wine and why some do smell a little bit like goat poo. She is a wine educator that holds your attention right down to the bottom of the bottle. With a knack for communicating her wine knowledge in a fun and enjoyable way, Elizabeth will help wine professionals and newbies alike to savour every last drop of mouthwatering wine-inspired information.
She is the host of one of my favourite wine podcasts, Wine for Normal People, and I was recently lucky enough to steal half an hour out of her busy time to find out what makes Elizabeth “accessible, but with an underlying complexity”.
Elizabeth, how did you get into wine?
My mom and especially my dad were into wine when we were young and we used to try it from time to time. But the real exploration came when I lived with my sister in Boston, right after college. We felt clueless on the stuff but were fascinated by it. We would each go wine shopping and then try stuff out but we had no idea what we were doing. We’d go to tastings and stuff, but all people talked about was their brands and that was SO not helpful in understanding wine on a bigger level. We took a class at the Boston Center For Adult Education on wine and the dude was awesome. Turned us on to a ton of stuff and answered so many of our questions. I was hooked from that point on and knew that I wanted to make a career in wine.
In wine terminology, how would you describe yourself?
Man, this is hard. I guess something like: Accessible, but with an underlying complexity. A good hit of spiciness but goes down easy – a middle ground between overly simple and overly complex flavor, there’s something for everyone here.
What is your favourite wine under US$10 and why?
This varies depending on the month. Right now I’m all about the bubbles. Seguras Viudas Brut Cava from Spain is $8.99 and at the top of my list. What a wine! Dry, refreshing, great with light food. Cava is made like Champagne but for a fraction of the price. It doesn’t have the complexity of the French stuff, but it’s still damn good! Great for spring.
Everyone picks up different smells and tastes in wine, what is the weirdest smell/taste you have come up with? What wine was it?
Goat poo in a red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) is always a little funny to smell, but it’s not that weird for the area! I had a Carmenere (I don’t want to diss the brand) from Chile that tasted like mothballs, sulphur, and tomatoes. I couldn’t even drink it.
What is the quirkiest wine and food match you have tried, was it good?
I know this sounds really lame, but I really practice what I preach in terms of pairing and I’m super traditional about it! I pair the wine against the final flavors of the food (sides included) and try to match wines and food from the same region. That said, I went to an awesome Champagne tasting a few years back with stuff like Krug, Dom Ruinart, Dom Perignon and they tried to pair the stuff with American Southern Fare – baked beans, corn bread, stuff like that. I stopped eating the food after the second dish. It KILLED the delicate wines! Total fail in terms of pairing experiment, in my opinion.
How would you suggest converting a beer drinker into a wine drinker?
I’d have to know what kind of beer they drank. If they liked lighter styles, I’d point them to something with moderate acid but good flavor, like a Pinot Gris from Alsace, France. If they were a dark beer drinker, a Shiraz from Australia would work well because it’s rich, mouthdrying, and flavorful. It’s not a one-sized fits all thing – beer can be pretty complex and their preferences in that could definitely determine what they may like in wine!
Finally, what wine region should we be keeping a watch on in 2012 and why?
I’m keeping an eye on Rioja, Spain. What’s old is new! I recently went to a tasting of a bunch of Rioja and I found that things have really changed in the last few years. The region seems to have hit a new stride and the stuff coming from newer producers is some blend of old school and new, and it’s awesome and affordable. I haven’t been excited about the region for a while, but now I’m on to it! Keep an eye out for it! For under US$15 you can get fabulous wine!
A big thank you to Elizabeth for taking the time to talk with the Travelling Corkscrew, we love your work!!
If you would love to see someone featured on the Travelling Corkscrew’s Q&A Profile section, make sure to email [email protected].