Synthetic Wine, Alcohol-Free Wine and Sabering Champagne with Dragonvine’s Steven Laine



Can you imagine a world where there’s only synthetic wine? And what is synthetic wine anyway? How does removing alcohol impact the tasting experience?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Steven Laine, award-winning restaurateur, hotelier, and author.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • Can you imagine a world where there’s only synthetic wine?
  • What can you expect from Steven’s upcoming books, Jupiter’s Blood and The Somm?
  • How did Steven end up working at two fantastic wineries during the pandemic?
  • Which surprising insights did Steven learn from working the harvest?
  • Why is a vineyard the ideal setting for enjoying a glass of wine?
  • What is it about Torres Natureo Syrah that makes it a great non-alcoholic option?
  • How does removing alcohol impact the tasting profile of wine?
  • What makes English sparkling wine a great alternative to Champagne?
  • Why should you add Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Dry Riesling to your “wines to try” list?
  • Which unpopular wine belief does Steven hold?
  • Which wine would Steven pair with his childhood favourite, lasagna?
  • What are some of Steven’s favourite wine books?
  • Which writers would Steven like to share a bottle of wine with?
  • Why has travelling been a boon to Steven’s writing?
  • What wine message would Steven put on a billboard?
  • Which wine would Steven want to be served at his funeral, and why?
  • Why does Steven believe it’s important to drink what you enjoy drinking?
  • What’s on the horizon for Steven’s writing?


Key Takeaways

  • I enjoyed more nightmare scenarios from Steven this week. I can’t imagine a world where there’s only synthetic wine. Wine is both art and science, but it’s also natural and an extension of the earth.
  • His insights into how removing alcohol impacts the tasting experience were interesting.
  • I have to agree, given the sheer labour intensity of producing wine, much of it is underpriced.


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About Steven Laine

Kirkus Reviews called Steven Laine’s first wine thriller, Root Cause, “An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.” The Washington Post wrote; “If Michael Pollan and Dan Brown sat down over a bottle of Barolo and brainstormed a novel based on the neuroses of the natural wine movement, they might have come up with something like Root Cause.”

As an award-winning restaurateur and hotelier, Steven has travelled the world working in luxury hotels such as The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Pan Pacific. He developed his passion for wine as a Sommelier and Beverage Director in London, England. Since then, he has visited hundreds of wineries around the world.

During the pandemic, Steven worked the 2020 harvest as a cellarman for three months to learn the winemaking process firsthand from the winemakers at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in British Columbia. In 2021, he worked at Trius Winery in Niagara-On-The-Lake, where he put his winemaking and forklift-driving skills to use.

He is currently living in London writing his next wine thriller, The Somm, and is looking forward to the release another wine thriller, Jupiter’s Blood.




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Steven Laine 0:00
Every summer a wine lover should have a champagne savour.

Natalie MacLean 0:03
Yes, this is a serious looking daggers, it’s

Steven Laine 0:05
not terribly pointy. It’s just a beautiful way to open champagne. There is a trick to it though the bottle must be a champagne bottle because it’s thick, it must be cold as possible. So it’s brittle and the champagne doesn’t fly out. You just got to be very safe when you do it. I’ve never had an accident. But if you go on tick tock or YouTube or Instagram, you’ll see all sorts of disasters. So if you tried, just be very careful, do a bit of research. And yeah, make sure you do it properly. Actually,

Natalie MacLean 0:28
don’t try this at all. There is a technique of course, you have to find the seam of the glass going up the side and you’re looking for the structural weakness in the glass. So you really do have to know what you’re doing.

Natalie MacLean 0:45
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 Maclean. 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 224. Can you imagine a world where there’s only synthetic wine? And what is synthetic wine anyway? And how does removing alcohol impact the tasting experience? You’ll hear these tips and stories in part two of my chat with Stephen lane, author of the wine mystery novel root cause you don’t need to have listened to part one from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one. Now a quick update on my upcoming memoir, wine which on fire rising from the ashes of divorce defamation and drinking too much. So pre orders can make or break a book launch. These are the orders or purchases that customers make on bookstore websites for a book before its publication day. So why are they so important? Well, I’ve learned that high preorder numbers sent three vital signals. The first is that they tell bricks and mortar bookstores that they should stock the book on their shelves, maybe even display it. And that’s critical since the majority of the 2700 books published every day, don’t even make it to bookstores. The second is to nudge online retailers to show the book to those browsing in a relevant genre on their website. For example, if someone types in best memoirs into the search bar, your book comes up. And third, it lets the publisher know that they can be confident in printing enough books to satisfy demand, rather than being caught out of stock without enough books ready to go on the publication launch day. And well every preorder is a vote of confidence for a book, the purchase of several copies per person is often the difference between success and failure. Why would you want to buy more than one copy of a book you ask? Well, I have seven reasons as they relate to my memoir. So number one, you can be someone’s book Angel and give them this book, especially young people entering the workforce or early in their career, or career veterans who face similar issues of sexism and divorce and everything falling in on your head at once. You may not even know who this person is right now. But you’ll have a signed book ready to give them to get a signed copy now for Mother’s Day or for someone’s birthday or holiday. signed copies may not be available in a few months from now. So get them while you can. Three, gift one, two, a little free library. Those are those little mail boxy looking things of books that you might see in your neighbourhood. And they’re wonderful ways of spreading the joy of reading for be part of the team that gets this book on the bestseller list to spread its message of hope, justice and resilience. All pre orders now count as the first week of sales and it’s that first week of sales that a book has its best chance sometimes its only chance of getting onto a bestseller list. Five buy copies for your book club or your wine group to read together even if you don’t have an official group. There’s a book club guide that will guide the discussion and suggest wines. Six qualify for juicy bonuses. So if you buy one to four copies, you’ll be part of my private Book Club, which will be an online wine tasting and book reading plus an open car q&a discussion. You’ll also get six wine and food pairing templates, and personally autographed book plates for your books. And seven, if you buy five or more copies, you’ll get everything I just mentioned. Plus, you’ll be in on my writers workshop to get started on that book you’ve been thinking about for a while, what it takes to land an agent, and working with a publisher plus all kinds of other juicy tidbits that I don’t share on the podcast or anywhere. You’ll also get a wine and food pairing course with me, uh, last chapters that didn’t make it into the memoir, and exclusive interviews with the main characters in the book and what they’re doing now and how they reacted to the memoir. Wine which on fire rising from the ashes of divorce, defamation, and drinking too much is available for preorder now from all bookstore websites. Please consider ordering your copies today to send those make or break signals to the bookstores and qualify for those juicy bonuses. You’ll find all the info about the bonuses and links to retailers on my website, as well as on the website, wine which on Your support for this 10 year labour of love would mean the world to me. Thank you. Here’s a review from Lee Romano, an early reader from Durham, North Carolina. quote her writing style is wonderfully engaging as if she’s right there with you sitting on the sofa across from you sharing the no holds barred ups and downs of her life and the secrets of the wine world. Natalie’s book will have you feeling all the feelings along with her. And when you’re finished, you’ll pour another glass to toast to her grit determination and her love of all things wine. Five stars. Thank you, Lee. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a book launch in the shownotes at Natalie forward slash two to four. This is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become an early reader and get a sneak peek of the book before it’s published. Email me at Natalie, at Natalie Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 7:23
All right, tell us about your next two books. The one that’s coming up next for releases Jupiter’s blood.

Steven Laine 7:29
Yeah, so no publication date yet. I’m looking for a new publisher right now. This is a book about synthetic wine. It’s got a series of new characters and and so each book so far has got new characters in it. But the Jupiter’s blood book will have a couple of characters from Dragon vine. And it’s all about synthetic wine. And just as you can imagine a world without wine. Imagine a world full of fake wine, but not just fake wine, but actually synthetic wine in the sense that it’s made in a lab. But it’s really properly made. If you look at a wine and break it down into its components, its water, its sugar, flavanols, its acids, these are all things that we can measure. And we can know and we can reproduce. So technically, there will be a day when we can take a bottle of wine, break it down, and then rebuild it, and it will taste exactly the same. Now purists will of course, throw up their arms and disbelief, but it’s just science and wine is as much science as it is art, of course. So the story revolves around that. And again, it’s a big one. If so I won’t give any more away. There is a big question that, yeah, well, it’s funny, because that book really tackles the climate change arguments. And both sides of that it looks at synthetic wines. And again, the story is revolving within that. And it’s all about people and relationships, too. So it’s a lot of fun. It’s a trio of main characters this time, that’s great. So it’s a lot of fun having those dynamic. The book after that I’m just outlining out working on now it’s called the song. And this one, I can’t give too much away about it right now. But it’s more like root cause it really travels around the whole world. The main character has COVID, and she’s a sommelier, of course, and she has to work on a case we’re going to investigation while concealing the fact that she’s had COVID. And she has long COVID. And she’s lost her sense of taste and smell. And as a simile, of course, you can just imagine, what would that do to somebody’s career if they lost their sense of taste and smell? And how would they work towards gaining that back? And how would they make their way through the industry trying to conceal that and so it’s a lot of fun kind of developing that story. And I character,

Natalie MacLean 9:26
really great premise again, wow, okay, I got my reading this my TBR lists, all sorted, like 2023. Now, during the pandemic, you mentioned you worked at two wineries. Tell us a bit more about what motivated you to do that and why you chose the two wineries that you did.

Steven Laine 9:42
Sure. Well, I think COVID threw everybody for a loop and some people I mean really struggled and all my friends really struggled I struggled to begin with. But like anything one has to pivot and adapt in life. So I resigned my job to do some travelling with my dad in Australia, New Zealand had a bunch of winery tours lined up and very excited to Do that. And then of course COVID struck. So we plan to start travelling April 1 2020. Well, if that didn’t work out, so I ended up back home in Canada and without a job and getting back in hotel industry would have been a challenge. So I always wanted to work in a winery following some visits to wineries in Barossa. Valley and Australia where I learned you could work at a winery for just a harvest. So I started reaching out within Canada where I can travel, still drink COVID and looked at the wineries I was familiar with. I always liked mission Hill. So I reached out to them, they had some positions available, they did a zoom interview, and they said, you’re hired great. All I had to do was convince him I could lift 50 pounds and climb stairs.

Natalie MacLean 10:37
And what drew you to mission Hill? Tell us a bit about that winery?

Steven Laine 10:41
Well, it gave me my dad and I have the opportunity to drive across Canada. So it’s fantastic. And it was Canada’s best winery in 2019. If I recall, and it’s got a great reputation abroad. I’ve worked with them in different hotels around the world. They’ve got a great selection of wines. And it’s a huge winery. So there’s opportunities to do a lot of different roles. So I was working on the bottling line. I was working in a cellar, driving a forklift working in the press room. And it was just a wonderful experience. I mean, it is hard work. Definitely. Working in a winery removes the glamour. You realise it’s not such a glamorous industry behind the scenes. Yes. You’re always wet. You’re always cold or you’re always hot. And there’s a lot of stairs. Yes,

Natalie MacLean 11:18
exactly. Ambition Hill is a beautiful winery to visit. I mean it’s gorgeous. It’s a Spanish theme, but they’ve got a clock bell tower, they’ve got arches, they’ve got artwork, I mean it’s just

Steven Laine 11:31
a lot of statues around the vineyards. It’s just a beautiful place great restaurants great view over the water over the valley. I’m

Natalie MacLean 11:36
looking down I really is gorgeous. Okay, and founder Anthony Vaughn Mendel, he is also the founder of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and I believe white claw. So there is a serious investment in this place. So I think very much so very much. So yeah, as wine lovers, we benefit because I think I think his other businesses are funding this one. And then you chose Tereus. And Niagara. Why was that?

Steven Laine 11:59
Well, I wanted to work in another winery, I could have gone back to Mission Hill, but I wanted to get a different experience. So I looked at a few wineries in an agro and I run a lake area. I’m from Ontario originally, so the shorter trip to get out there. So I interviewed for about four or five. And based on my experience with the interviews and the actual winery itself, I chose Trias because I know the area pretty well. And that was a wonderful experience. I was primarily in abou room and did some work in the press room as well. little smaller, more intimate winery, but a great experience. And I was just doing when you visit a winery and you see those people taking samples and filling barrels and moving barrels with the forklift. That was me. And I got to do that for three months. And it was just magical. It’s very humbling experience, making minimum wage again, of course, and just being a new person learning was very humbling. Because everything’s new to you. You’ve got to figure everything out, learn everything on the job. And when you’re in an industry, like I’ve been in food and beverage for so long, where you know your job inside out. It’s humbling to go into new industry, but it was a wonderful experience. And I would highly recommend if you have three months off and you can afford to do it, definitely do it. It’s worth it.

Natalie MacLean 13:04
Was there anything that surprised you at either winery about the winemaking process?

Steven Laine 13:09
The sheer intensity of labour required wine is way undervalued way under priced, for sure. It should be based on the amount of work that goes into it, it should be much more expensive, right? Right. Absolutely. It’s a lot of work to put a wine together and a huge amount of effort in coordination with the teams in the vineyards, picking to the teams shipping and transport into grapes to the winery. And it’s a very tight schedule. I mean, the grapes can’t just sit out in the open or sit out in the warehouse for ages. They’ve got to be pressed as soon as they come in. And it’s a very logistically complex operation.

Natalie MacLean 13:41
And so do you have an ideal setting where you like to enjoy a glass of wine, I’m sure you have many settings where you’d like to enjoy glass, your ideal one?

Steven Laine 13:49
Well, I think in a vineyard, I mean, we always have those memories of drinking wine and a vineyard and wine never tastes so good is when you’re drinking in the vineyard with somebody from the winery or with a member of the family. So when you drink that wine later on those memories, come back olfactory memories, just come back with a vengeance, don’t they? So drinking in situ at the winery is probably one of the best things you can do. Otherwise, a nice rooftop bar or just with a loved one or a great friend. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 14:14
terrific. Well, all this talk is making me thirsty. So let’s taste. Let me know you’ve got two wines there and we’ll note them in the show notes so that people can find them later. But tell us about the wines you have there.

Steven Laine 14:26
So two kinds of looks like random selection. One is called material by Torres it’s a non alcoholic or an ASHA Sara Blau interesting, I’m working at a hotel in London. Now I’m putting together the wine list. And there is a lot of call for vegan wines or low alcohol and non alcoholic wines, given the clientele you find in a multicultural city like London, whether it’s Middle Eastern gas or Jewish gas, so we need to have a bit of everything and Torres is such a well known respected brand. They do a great job with these non alcoholic wines. So these are popular in fact she tastes quite good really. So it’s how

Natalie MacLean 15:01
would you describe the tastes like I would love to? A little bit what I have

Steven Laine 15:05
to boil Ganesha Syrah. Unfortunate. I’m still working today. So I can actually this one, I probably could, but I don’t have a glass with me, unfortunately. But typical Ganesha Sierra, which is a bit earthy, it’s got the pepper Enos of this era as well. So this is quite a nice blend. This one without the alcohol, of

Natalie MacLean 15:20
course, is taking the alcohol out, due to the taste like generally does it make it a lighter wine in your perception, or, I mean, if you did side by side kind of comparison of that wine with a wine that was the same blend but had alcohol.

Steven Laine 15:36
Yes, it definitely does taste lighter, and it feels lighter when you finish drinking, and you still have that light feeling afterwards as well. So it’s quite nice. It’s very refreshing almost, it’s like it’s a great juice, really. But it’s something you can drink in a wineglass. So if you’re at a reception or at a party, and you’re drinking and you don’t have to feel any kind of embarrassment by not drinking alcohol, there’s such a stigma under pressure to drink alcohol in social settings. So this is a great easy answer to avoiding that just have a glass of the material. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean 16:04
absolutely. And how do they remove the alcohol? How do they get it out?

Steven Laine 16:08
It doesn’t actually say on the label, but I would just imagine it’s reverse osmosis primarily. And

Natalie MacLean 16:12
what’s that for those who may not be familiar with that process?

Steven Laine 16:15
Reverse osmosis. So So imagine just removing the alcohol?

Natalie MacLean 16:19
How does that happen? Is it a spinning cone or something that I can’t remember what that

Steven Laine 16:24
is? The details of it? I’m not sure. Great question. Okay.

Natalie MacLean 16:28
No worries. I’ll have to look into that and prepare you for that one. So we’ll put that in the show notes as well.

Steven Laine 16:34
Yeah, well, one thing I have learned, and it surprised me when you work in a winery or write books about wine or study wine. The more you learn, the more you realise there’s so much that there is and is as much as you know, or think you know, there’s always something more to know in terms of processes or grape varieties are just year to year vintage changes. So, again, it’s a very humbling experience, which is why I’m always amazed when I meet people in the industry who seem to know everything about wine, you think there’s no way now there’s so much to know.

Natalie MacLean 17:00
Exactly. And before we move on to the next wine, what would you pair that wine with? The tour is natural.

Steven Laine 17:07
I just went great with pastas. I would lamb so I wouldn’t go into so much anything too heavy like beef with pastas and lamb who quite well.

Natalie MacLean 17:14
Okay. Great. And you have another wine there.

Steven Laine 17:18
Yes. So this one is called grey fryer. Okay, it’s a sparkling English wine. And I mean, the English sparkling wine scene has really taken off this past decade or so. The soil type chalk is almost identical to what you’d find in Champagne. It’s just separated by the channel effectively. And I’m opening up a champagne bar, the hotel I work next quarter, q1 March next year, and it’s gonna be primarily a champagne bar with champagnes, of course, but we do want to have some maybe some frankia quarter or and some great English sparkling wine. So I’ve got a whole bunch of sparkling wines downstairs to taste with the team, the usual suspects like night timber and Chapel down, and then things like Greyfriars. So we’re looking at the price. We’re looking at the taste and looking at the label to see what we want to list on these champagne list.

Natalie MacLean 18:02
I’m hoping we get more English sparkling wines here in Canada. I’m sure Americans too. They’re extraordinary ones that I’ve tasted. I mean, they could go head to head with champagne, yet. They’re usually a fraction of the cost or price.

Steven Laine 18:14
Yeah. And we’re seeing more and more champagne companies from pinch champagne investing in Kent and Sussex in these areas. Because again, as well, consistency is very similar. With climate change. It does benefit some areas, like the south of England, in terms of wine growing capability.

Natalie MacLean 18:30
Right, right, exactly. So it’s not all bad. No, it’s not all bad. And I’ve heard they’re even making wine in Scotland now due to climate change, which is wow.

Steven Laine 18:39
Well, you can appreciate this. California, of course has Napa and in Canada, we have Kelowna, we have Vancouver, and they’re starting to call those areas Napa north. So eventually we’ll catch up with Northern California.

Natalie MacLean 18:50
The upside if I can put it that way to climate change is that we’ll probably have better ripened, especially the big reds every year as temperatures rise. Absolutely. So what do you have? I have quails gate dry Riesling from BC. Love this one. It’s very sprightly, zesty. It makes my mouth water. It’s low and alcohol. It’s not zero, of course, but it’s like, I think eight or 9%. Okay, nice and would be wonderful with seafood, even shellfish, whatever.

Steven Laine 19:20
You’d like mission hill that is just down the road from Mission Hill. I drove by quills gate every day on the way to and from Mission Hill. Yeah, and they have a great restaurant too. They’ve had a beautiful restaurant and great tasting room. Really, really good staff and it’s just a beautiful place to

Natalie MacLean 19:33
visit is isn’t it? Great? Okay, so lightning round a Steven just some quick questions and answers. Okay, great. So is there something that you believe about wine with which some people would strongly disagree?

Steven Laine 19:49
wine pairing certainly has its place in the world and in some ways definitely go better with some foods but at the same time I’ve you note so many times know so many people that if I see a great wine and a great dish even if they might not necessarily have anything to do with each other, I’ll still order them right and you can eat and drink as you wish. You don’t always have to pair everything perfectly. Now it’s difficult if you’re with on a date perhaps or if you’re with your boss too, because of course, there’ll be watching your selection. But if you’re just with friends, then it’s fine to have a Pinot Noir with a steak or fine to have a Riesling with chicken or is absolutely fine to mix and match as you wish. So that’s something I like to do. And I do get some funny looks from people sometimes, but I want to eat and drink what I want to eat and drink and not worry about what anybody else thinks the

Natalie MacLean 20:31
best advice I ever heard was prepare the wine to the diner, not the dinner. Yeah, your personal taste and if it doesn’t work out, have a button in between. There. Yeah, exactly. Yes. Cleanse the palate. Exactly. Maybe tell us about one of your favourite childhood foods and what you might pair with it today as an adult.

Steven Laine 20:49
Okay, I don’t really know why but one of my favourite childhood Foods was lasagna. I mean, it’s just rich, thick, creamy Ragu like dish, and that goes well with almost any red wine really. So easy pairing for anything in the Italian wine and food scene is just phenomenal in terms of the sheer variety of what you can eat and drink together. So the dish I would choose lasagna,

Natalie MacLean 21:08
awesome. Any weird wine and food pairings that you’ve ever tried? And did it work? Or did it not work?

Steven Laine 21:15
Pizza with anything? Okay? Yes. So, weird wine pairings. Not necessarily know anything. You may think that comes to mind. Really?

Natalie MacLean 21:23
Okay. Try pairing ketchup chips with wine some time. And you’ll find there’s

Steven Laine 21:28
Oh, there we go. combination is different. Yeah. Yeah, maybe Pepsi milk in the wine. Maybe that’s a trend these days, right. Hopefully won’t extend to the wine. Well,

Natalie MacLean 21:41
I hope it doesn’t go there. That’s worse than synthetic wine, I think. I don’t know. Yeah. Have you ever gotten into trouble for drinking a particular bottle of wine?

Steven Laine 21:50
Again, thankfully, no, nothing comes to mind in terms of stories that way. So it’s not like my parents had an amazing cellar that I was able to. No, no, no. So they’re pretty traditionalist and have a lot of wine in the house. But in terms of drinking a particular wine, no. Particular No.

Natalie MacLean 22:06
Have you ever dropped a bottle on the job? Like broken?

Steven Laine 22:09
I think we all have done so I think I still have a fracture on one of my toes from doing so. I had to do a lot of stock taking in my son today and my wine career. Okay, of course. So, and those stop tasty foods happen overnight from midnight until six in the morning, and you’re counting 1000s of balls of wine. And of course after a while you get a little tired. So yeah, there was a memorable moment where I dropped the ball on my toe.

Natalie MacLean 22:30
There should be worker’s comp for that. I think

Steven Laine 22:34
that’s a battle scars.

Natalie MacLean 22:36
So beyond your books, of course, what is one of your favourite white books?

Steven Laine 22:41
I’ve done a lot of research on wine books. I want to see what’s out there. So I’ve read a lot have been very fortunate. Peter Stafford Beau has written three novels on wine and they’re just phenomenal.

Natalie MacLean 22:51
Does he have a regional focus because I’m not sure I’ve read any of his he’s English. So

Steven Laine 22:55
and he’s created a fake organisation called the minstrels of wine to parody the masters of Weiss and the books are just absolutely hilarious. So the first book is called corkscrew if I recall, okay, yeah, so there’s a one main character that takes place in all three books. I love reading the historical fiction side of wine too. So books like wine and war, on how wine was influenced by the war wars in France is great books on champagne. And just so many books, I mean, the billionaires Vienna vinegars and other books that comes to mind is great. So yes, you do your research. There’s tonnes of great books on wine and the history of wine. And the one I would definitely recommend it might be a little more dry, like a good wine is, but the button is an event by Christie Campbell, the true story about flux era and how it came to be and how it was resolved.

Natalie MacLean 23:40
Okay, great. What’s the most useful wine gadget you’ve come across?

Steven Laine 23:45
The Corbin loves the core of it. Yes. Okay. Yeah, expensive. Gotta go. You gotta be careful with it, but it’s just a great device for preserving wine and enjoying wine, whether yourself or in a restaurant or bar setting where your clients can have wine that normally wouldn’t have by the glass. So we do a premium auto che on wine list downstairs here, and it’s just fantastic.

Natalie MacLean 24:07
And you’ve got another contraption there. You showed me before we started recording. What is that every

Steven Laine 24:12
summer a wine lover should have a champagne sabre.

Natalie MacLean 24:15
Yes. Oh, and for those who are just listening, we’ll put a picture of this in the show notes but this is a serious looking beyond a dagger sighs it’s not

Steven Laine 24:24
sharp and it’s not terribly point. I just got a good blunt end for opening champagnes did a performance yesterday for some of our sales clients. And it’s just a beautiful way to open champagne. There is a trick to it though the bottle must be a champagne bottle because it’s thick. It must be cold as possible. So it’s brittle and the champagne doesn’t fly out. And you just got to be very safe when you do it. Yes, I’ve never had an accident. But if you go on Tik Tok or YouTube or Instagram, you’ll see all sorts of disasters. So just if you tried, just be very careful, do a bit of research and yeah, make sure you do it properly. Actually,

Natalie MacLean 24:55
don’t try this at all. But there is a technique of course you have to find the C Have the glass going up the side in, you’re going exactly the night before looking for the structural weakness in the glass. So you really do have to know what you’re doing. So,

Steven Laine 25:08
yes, so don’t just take a butter knife and think you can do it. After a couple of drinks.

Natalie MacLean 25:13
If you could share a bottle of wine with any person outside the wine world living or dead, who would that be? Um, which wine might you open?

Steven Laine 25:21
Well, you mentioned Dan Brown, I would love to chat with him about writing or any writer about writing really. So just a great bottle of champagne and just chatting about reading all night with a very popular, very established author would be phenomenal. So I mean, Stephen King would be a treat. Yeah, I meet a lot of celebrities. And I meet a lot of royalty politicians in my career as a hotel year, but it’s the writers who I meet who really excite me.

Natalie MacLean 25:43
Well, to ask Dan or Stephen was one question that would come to mind.

Steven Laine 25:48
And the eternal question of any writer, where do you get your ideas from? The Idea Factory? Exactly. So yeah, when you send a postcard and ideas come back, sadly, well, this is where I find travelling has been such a boon to my writing. Because when you travel and meet so many people and are exposed to so many different cultures and places, you just generate so many ideas. And once you have those ideas in your mind, eventually they gel into a story ideas or story anecdotes, or even characters. I mean, I don’t write about individuals I know as characters, but I’ll take this cord from one character, a person I know and this cord from another person, and then that becomes a character in a book eventually,

Natalie MacLean 26:26
that’s great. If you could put up a billboard in downtown Toronto, what would it say?

Steven Laine 26:31
Drink wine, save water. I love it.

Natalie MacLean 26:36
Not to be morbid again, or go dark here. But which one would you like served at your funeral, which is a long way from now.

Steven Laine 26:42
Definitely a really, really expensive champagne. I would want everybody to enjoy my life and celebrate my life and enjoy their own life as well. I mean, champagne is one of those drinks where it’s got a stigma as well, you drink it only on special occasions. But when you open a great bottle of champagne, you create an occasion, I think we should be doing more of that, especially after COVID I personally don’t believe there’s going to be a recession in the coming years, I think we’re gonna have another roaring 20s. Everybody just wants to get back out and enjoy life. And what better way to do that and cracking open a great bottle of wine with great friends. Oh,

Natalie MacLean 27:12
I love your optimism.

Steven Laine 27:13
Terrific. Perennial optimist.

Natalie MacLean 27:17
That’s great. We have to be if you’re a novelist, you have to be an awesome. What’s maybe one more wine tip for our viewers or listeners that a piece of wind advice that you’d like to share with people?

Steven Laine 27:29
Well, I mean, going back to how intimidating wine can be, I think you just need to approach wine like you do. And I always like to use the anecdote of a similarity of music. So when you listen to music, you don’t have to be an expert at music. You don’t have to know what the instruments are, or the individual song writers and individuals in a band. You just listen to what you enjoy. And I think wine should be very much the same. Drink what you enjoy drinking, you don’t have to know everything about it, and land on what you like and stick to it. You don’t have to try absolutely everything mean Yeah, wine is very much like music. And I say this, this little spiel that one of my characters has a root cause where he says the same thing. And I do truly believe in that. So whether you like country or house or hardcore, industrial techno funky, happy house, I mean, just drink what you enjoy. Listen to what you enjoy. And yeah, don’t worry about the rest.

Natalie MacLean 28:15
Oh, fantastic. Steven, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention, as we wrap up? No, I

Steven Laine 28:21
mean, we’ve covered the next book. So I’m really excited about those. I do plan. Eventually, I’ve got the series lined out, I want to write seven wine novels all together. The last one will be a character ensemble. So all the characters of all the books will eventually end up in the last book for one big final adventure. So that’s all building up in my mind, and the storylines coming together for that. I love once that series is done, though, then I’ll turn to hotel writing. So I’ve worked in hotels for 25 years, just as long as I’ve been enjoying wine. So I want to write a series of stories and novels that no down district,

Natalie MacLean 28:53
maybe something like white lotus thrillers. Maybe Yeah, I love the drama around a hotel like but you’ve envisioned your whole boxset here with a wine series and then the hotel series it got a good vision

Steven Laine 29:04
on it. I’m working on it. It’s good to have a vision so I’m working towards that. So the challenge of course, as with anything is just finding the time to do so. So but I’ve just moved back to London and just thrilled to be here. I’m back in wine territory. When I first arrived we had the decanter, fine wine and counter, my hotel where we had over 100 exhibitors 1000 People coming to taste wines. Last night I was at a wine tasting beauty counter again and we tasted a series of 10 Chateauneuf Du paps from 2009 to 2019. So it’s just a phenomenal experience in London. It’s just such a great place to be situated to learn about why any being exposed to everything Venice

Natalie MacLean 29:38
salutely and Which hotel are you with right now?

Steven Laine 29:41
I’m with a landmark London. Okay,

Natalie MacLean 29:43

Steven Laine 29:44
We’ll have to gorgeous hotel and great wine programme here and it’s just a wonderful place to be

Natalie MacLean 29:49
have to visit when you open that champagne bar. That sounds really you want

Steven Laine 29:53
it’s opening end of March will be open. It’s going to be phenomenal. So yeah, we’re really looking forward to it

Natalie MacLean 29:58
and it’s great. Okay, so Steven well Where can we find you online?

Steven Laine 30:01
Well, my website Steven as available, of course, I’m on Amazon. I’m on Goodreads, Instagram. I’m not as active on Twitter as I shouldn’t be. So it’s my one failing, but it’s okay. The usual websites, essentially. And my website does need some updating. It’s just been such a busy couple of years with working wineries travelling around the world. I was working in the Caribbean for a year before I came out here. So now that I’m settled, though, hopefully I can pick things back up a bit in terms of the website and yeah, getting these next books out.

Natalie MacLean 30:27
Awesome. Well, congratulations on all your success. Steven, I really, really appreciate chatting with you today. So I’ll raise my glass. Bottle cheers.

Steven Laine 30:37
Yes, well enjoy a glass tonight after work. Yeah, absolutely.

Natalie MacLean 30:39
Okay, take care. Bye for now.

Steven Laine 30:43
Thank you. Now they have a great night.

Natalie MacLean 30:50
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Steven. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I enjoyed more nightmare scenarios from Stephen this week. I can’t imagine a world where there’s only synthetic Wine. Wine is both an art and a science as he mentioned, but it’s also so natural and an extension of the Earth. To his insights into how removing alcohol impacts the tasting experience were interesting. And three, I have to agree with him that given the sheer labour intensity of producing wine, much of it is underpriced. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact the full transcript of my conversation with Steven links to his website and book and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to wine and food pairing and where you can preorder your copies of wine which on fire today, please. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie forward slash two to four. Email me if you have a sip question or would like to be an early reader of my new memoir at Natalie at Natalie If you missed episode 19 go back and take a listen. I chat about what it took to become the world’s best sommelier with Arvid Rosengren, I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 32:15
The key if you want to become a good blind taste or for spirits, it’s exposure, I think you got to smell a lot. Usually the blind tasting of bears are sort of say they put out eight glasses. My goal is to be able to nail five or six on smell alone, so that I don’t have to start tasting until the very end. Because once you start tasting, you start messing with your palate and everything becomes difficult. You have to nail more than half of it on the nose alone and then move to your spirits are usually so sort of defined by their category in the sense that it’s pretty easy once you learn a set of archetypes to start getting there.

Natalie MacLean 32:51
And do you mean that like a tequila is always easily identifiable versus a Cabernet?

Unknown Speaker 32:57
Exactly. Even if there are different the differences also marked worse, a difference in wine can be very subtle and sometimes you get throw off the taste like now back and that kind of thing. You don’t get that with spirits. If it’s a scotch. It’s very different from a bourbon and it’s always going to be very different.

Natalie MacLean 33:17
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the whines, tips and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Sister Sandy Dawkins and Michelle Lester who co host the podcast winds to find thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week. Perhaps a sparkling wine that you savour.

Natalie MacLean 33:51
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 Natalie forward slash subscribe. Maybe here next week. Cheers