Our guest this evening is the award-winning host of one of the popular wine podcasts, Wine for Normal People. She’s also a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators, and co-founder of Underground Wine Events, which brings together wine lovers with terrific, small wineries, and a public speaker on wine around the US.
She’s the author of the forthcoming book, Wine For Normal People, to be published by Chronicle Books this November 2019. She also holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for one of the largest wineries on their marketing and training programs.
She talks and thinks about wine in a practical, often tongue-and-cheek way and her info-packed classes and tastings are always informative and fun, never overwhelming and dry.
And she joins me now, live from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club, Elizabeth Schneider!
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You can find out here and previous episodes of the Sunday Sipper Club (SSC) .
After graduating from Wesleyan University (CT) and starting my career in Boston, I quickly realized that my heart was more in my hobby than in my high-tech job. Trips to the wine shop often yielded awesomely poor (but hilarious) results, so my sister and I finally took a course at the Boston Center for Adult Education to learn how to taste and appreciate wine. And that kicked it all off.
After moving to St. John in the Caribbean to wait tables and just unwind for 8 months (yes, I quit my high-tech corporate job, packed two bags, and hopped on a plane), I got my MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I met M.C. Ice, my podcast partner and husband) and since then my career has been solely about wine.
Elizabeth Schneider is the award-winning host of one of the most popular wine podcasts in the world, Wine for Normal People (available wherever you get your podcasts).
She is also a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators, co-founder of Underground Wine Events, which connects wine lovers with small, fantastic, under the radar wineries, and a public speaker on wine around the US.
Elizabeth is author of the forthcoming book, Wine For Normal People (Chronicle, November 2019). She has an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has lived in Northern California and worked for one of the largest wineries in the world doing marketing and training programs. She has toured wineries from California, to Italy, to France, to South Africa, and many places in between and appears as a wine expert in publications and other media channels.
Despite the credentials, Elizabeth considers her most important accomplishment the fact that she has managed to remain a normal person, despite her exposure to lots of wine snoots! She’s no nonsense, speaks in plain English but doesn’t dumb down wine. She talks and thinks about wine in a practical, often tongue-and-cheek way and her information-packed classes, tastings, and seminars are always informative and fun, never overwhelming and dry.
Connect with Elizabeth:
Let’s start first with how you define “normal people” when it comes to wine? Can you give us a definition that goes beyond not snobby, but intelligently interested in wine?
What prompted you to write a book for these normal people? Where were you when the idea first came to mind?
Do you think that most of the existing primers on wine are snobby or for the non-normals? Why is that?
Top Fan +1Deborah Podurgiel45:11 I agree. Pinot Noir was not my favourite wine, but after one year (I gave myself one year) of experiencing and trying to understand …and trying out many, many PNs, I came to understand it and I do have my favourite PNs, as I do Cab Francs, etc.
What was the most surprising insight you discovered while writing this book?
What’s the oddest or most amusing thing that happened to you while writing this book?
What are your three best wine tips from the book that we don’t hear often?
Can we pre-order the book now online?
Let’s turn now to one of your podcast episodes about wine business etiquette. How do you pick a wine when you’re dining with clients in a restaurant, especially if they say, we’ll let you make that decision?
How do you handle a boss who’s treating the server poorly?
Elizabeth MacSween29:30 I will always respect that wine is a subjective yet wonderfully interesting field of study, but at the end of the day it only matters what you like not what someone tells you you should like! This is wonderful!
How do you choose wine as a gift for a boss or a client? Does that change in foreign cultures, say like Japan or France?
When should you absolutely not drink wine in a business setting apart from the obvious 9-5 on the job?
Let’s now focus on sommeliers, and especially certifications like the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. You had a discussion on a recent podcast about these, that they are less like professional designations as an MBA is, and more like private clubs that are intended to exclude people. Can you elaborate on that please?
Do these programs help people to do their jobs better? Why not?
Top Fan +1Deborah Podurgiel24:16 Well, I think the first thing is, it’s truly about the customer and not about the somm. I think it’s important to acknowledge an accomplishment, but then move on and pass on that knowledge along — providing the person wants to know.
Why do you think the pass rate is so low? Is this just a scheme to get more money? How much does it cost to complete the Master Sommelier program if you pass all the levels the first time?
Why doesn’t the wine industry protest or advocate change?