I first got acquainted with Patricia on Fiverr and after a few projects together, I knew right away that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to wine. So you can imagine how excited I was when she agreed to this interview because I believe she has a lot of value to add to the wine community, especially to beginners.
On top of being a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) level 3 certified wine expert, Patricia is also a contributing writer for the renowned wine website Vivino, and she runs a YouTube channel, Understanding Wines — where she teaches and discusses a wide variety of wine topics suited for wine-newbies and connoisseurs alike.
Helping Beginners Drink The Right Way
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Patricia, I’m 24, and I live in South Africa. More specifically, I’m based in the heart of the wine country, in Somerset West, which is a stone-throw away from the greatest wineries of our country. I grew up in a small town where wine was a commodity that few would indulge in. And once I moved to the wine country, I fell in love with this concept of wine, and how it isn’t just a beverage, but a culture. I immersed myself in the industry, working wine shops, wine bars and upmarket wineries — while doing my WSET studies.
I have always had a passion for writing — writing short stories in school and always excelling in my language subjects. So, once I finished school, I really tried to combine my two passions — which is how I started writing about wine.
How did you venture into the world of wines?
Initially, my love for wine started with my dad, who lived in the Winelands since I was young, and he introduced me to different wines. But my first experience working in the industry, was when I received a fantastic opportunity to work in a boutique wine shop, which opened up the world of wines to me. We stocked over 500 different types of wines from all over the country — which taught me most of what I needed to know about wine and the fundamental differences, similarities and so on.
What is your favorite wine? And why?
That is a tricky question because it’s like asking to choose your favorite child. Initially, when I tasted 100% Grenache, it was like love at first sight. But now, I feel like there is a particular type of wine for every occasion. It depends where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m with. I will gladly have a highly complex, aged red blend with a good meal, but I can also appreciate a simple white wine on a hot summer’s day. It depends on the setting.
The topic of wine is broad. What tips do you have for beginners on where they can start and what they should do?
I know wine may be a daunting hobby to get into. Initially, you feel like there is so much information that you will never know enough. I still feel like that. But for someone who just wants to enjoy wine, but they’re not sure what wine they should go for, there is a simple explanation: Find what you like. Explore different styles of wines; explore other regions, and explore different varieties. Make mental (or physical) notes about the wine and what you found that you enjoyed, and what you found unpleasant. The best way to enjoy wine is to find what works for you and what doesn’t — and narrowing it down. It is the most enjoyable activity one can do for self-exploration.
For someone looking to get serious about wine as a career, there are so many different study opportunities available in most countries. The first step would be to try as many wines as you can and familiarise yourself with them — much like with my previous tip. But if you’re looking to study it, I would highly recommend the WSET program, which has some of the most incredible lecturers and break down the information in bite-size pieces.
There is one common debate among wine enthusiast: The shape of the glass affects the taste of wine. What is your take on this?
I’m not going to lie; I didn’t believe this at first. I didn’t believe it for years into my wine career. But one of our local wineries has a remarkable tasting where they do the exact same wines, in different glasses. I kid you not, that tasting changed my perspective forever. The aromas I was able to pick up, differed like night and day with each glass. It was incredible. So yes, it is most definitely something I believe.
I understand that you talk about wine on your YouTube Channel. Please tell us more about it.
Yeah, so I started a YouTube Channel called Understanding Wines during the peak of our country’s lockdown. I started it because I struggled to find channels that answered the type of questions I had about wine. There were numerous wine channels, but none really answered the questions I searched. And I thought it would be the perfect thing, to answer these questions about wine, since I was in the industry and I studied it!
It is still relatively new, and I’m still getting the hang of it, but hopefully, it will grow into something big!
Are there any more wine tips you will like to share with all wine-drinkers?
Yes! Wine doesn’t have to be a serious, formal, snobbish affair — so don’t fall into the trap of exiling certain types of wines because of a certain stigma. Try everything once without letting other people’s opinions influence you.
Also, you’ll never know everything, and that’s okay. That’s because there are no black and white answers to any wine questions. If you think that a particular grape variety has a specific set of flavors, and you’ll always taste those flavors, guess again. If you believe a specific method of winemaking will always result in the same results, think again. Wine is the most unpredictable thing out there, and you should be prepared to be amazed and confused frequently. The best thing about wine is that you’re never truly going to know the answer — and it’s always going to leave you seeking more behind the story.
…And finally, what’s next for you?
At the moment, I am strutting forward in my writing career. I’ve just broken the surface, and I’m looking to write for some of the greatest wine businesses. The end goal is to be a recognised wine writer, covering some of the most remarkable and most controversial topics about wine! This, combined with a successful YouTube channel, are my goals going forward!
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