When it comes to wines, Austin Beeman sure knows his stuff. In this interview, we sit down with this veteran in the wine industry to find out more about how to start tasting wine (if you are a beginner), proper wine storage essentials and more.
Tell Us About Yourself.
I’m Austin Beeman and I’m a 19-year veteran of the wine industry who brings professional-grade sales and marketing to support independent and family wineries. I’m currently Vice President of Marketing for Cutting Edge Selections, one of the leading fine wine distributors in the Midwest.
While Director of Marketing for Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz California, I managed one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in the wine industry. My wine video podcast, Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman, has been praised in USA Today and is consistently listed as a Top 10 Wine Podcast in iTunes.
I have an MBA in Wine & Spirits Management from Kedge Business School in Bordeaux. This allows me to offer the kind of business focus that small and family wineries often lack.
How Did You Venture Into The World of Wines?
While studying abroad in France around the turn of the millennium, I fell in love with wine and its ability to transmit the essence of a place. Upon returning back to the states, I started working part time in a little wine shop in Toledo, Ohio. It turns out that I was very good at communicating the passion that I felt to customers. I was also able to find ways to make the complex concepts of wine understandable and relatable.
I’ve taken every moment possible to visit the places where wine is made and talk to the people that make it. It is those stories and those connections — both human and geographic — which makes wine such an interesting part of culture.
What is Your Favorite Wine? And Why?
Picking a single favorite wine is an impossibility, but Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac is a possibility. An elite First-Growth Bordeaux, Pontet-Canet was the first to break with tradition and embrace biodynamic agriculture. This extreme level of organic winemaking was an incredible risk in Bordeaux, but the wines of Pontet-Canet are now considered some of France’s best. While they are by no means inexpensive, they some of the best value-for-money when you are thinking about the world’s elite wines.
On a broader note, I’m in love with the wines of Southwest France: Madiran, Cahors, Jurancon, Gaillac, Irouleguy, etc. These are rugged wines made within the confluence of the rocky Atlantic Ocean and the jagged snow-capped Pyrenees. The wines are rustic, produced from grapes most Americans have never tasted, and pair superbly with hearty peasant-food of the region.
What is Your Advice For Someone Who Wants To Start Learning The Basics of Wine Tasting?
To learn the fastest about wine and wine tasting, I’d strongly recommend that you form a wine tasting group. You are going to learn best by tasting a lot of wines and being present in the moment when you taste. In a group setting, you can taste more wines at once — spread the cost over a larger number of people. Taste methodically in the group. Try the same grape from different countries. Try the same grape at different price points. Try the same wine from different vintages. You’ll learn a great deal over time using this method.
I don’t recommend that you jump too quickly into blind tasting as I don’t believe that it is very helpful unless you’ve decided to pursue a certification. A great quote that I learned early in my wine journey goes like this, “Blind tasting is to wine drinking what Strip Poker is to love.”
It might be a fun game, but it misses the point of the activity altogether.
Do You Agree That Proper Wine Storage is Essential To Keep Wines in Their Best Condition? And Why is That So?
For wines that you are going to drink in the next twelve months, the most important thing is to avoid the temperature extremes. Don’t let your bottle freeze and don’t let it break 80°F (26°C). This is true for 90% of the world’s wines that are designed for short-term consumption.
For longer-aging wines, proper temperature and humidity is very important. Many people invest a great deal of time and money into their wine collection, but then balk at spending money on a proper cellar. This seems foolish to me as a well aged bottle of great wine is a joy and improper storage can turn it into sadness.
Is it Important To Store Your Wines at a Certain Angle?
This comes back to those wines that you are aging long-term. I definitely prefer laying them at a 90-degree angle with the label facing upwards. The angle is to keep the cork wet so it isn’t too brittle when pulled. The label facing is so I can admire my wine while it is aging without having to pick it up and turn it.
What’s Next For You?
COVID-19 hit the wine business hard. As so many restaurants had to close, wineries, distributors, and importers lost a significant percentage of their income. Nobody really knows to what extent the restaurant business will recover or what consumer confidence in dining out will be.
I’m going to continue to support small and family wineries in whatever capacity is best. Those are the people making the most interesting wines and making wines that best communicate the ‘sense of place’ that I love so much.
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