Aram Sinnreich

Julia Coney - Wine is Science

by MTF Labs | MTF Podcast

Julia Coney is a wine writer, wine educator, speaker, and consultant. Her wine writing includes stories on wine, winemakers, and the intersection of race, wine, and language. She was the recipient of Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Social Visionary Award Winner for her work in writing and speaking on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the wine industry.

Julia is the Founder of Black Wine Professionals, a resource for wine industry employers and gatekeepers, professionals, and the food and beverage community. Their goal is to lift up the multifaceted Black professionals in the world of wine.

Julia Coney
@juliaconey on Twitter
Black Wine Professionals

Photo: Justin T. Gellerson


Dubber      Hi, I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m Director of MTF Labs, and this is the MTF Podcast. I quite like wine. Maybe you’re the same yourself. I’m not someone who has it every evening, but when I do have it, I enjoy it, and I know enough to have some favourites and also to know what my sort of thing is when I come across it. I particularly enjoy drinking wine with people who know more about it than I do, which, to be fair, is a low bar, but it’s always interesting to learn something along the way.

So when I’ve been to wine tastings at vineyards or in the company of winemakers, which I’ve been lucky enough to do on occasion in a number of places around the world, something I’ve been struck by is that here’s someone who overlaps with the world of MTF in ways you might not expect, because while you might not think of growing and stomping on grapes for a living or serving thirsty customers in a restaurant or selling bottles in a retail outlet as having a great deal of connection with the worlds of innovation and creativity, well, au contraire. This is science meets art at its most fundamental level. The last winemaker who poured me a glass of Reserva was a microbiologist by training, a musician by calling, an entertainer by nature, and an innovator, creating new and award-winning combinations.

So I thought I would indulge one of my enthusiasms by tying it, however loosely, to the established interests of this programme. Wine is art, wine is science, wine is politics, and it can also be a platform for social justice and inclusion, and someone who knows that better than anyone is wine writer and critic, Julia Coney.

Dubber      Welcome, Julia. Thanks so much for joining us for the MTF Podcast today. Apologies for the clichéd wine music. How are you doing?

Julia           I’m good. The sun is shining out here. It’s not too cold, so I’m happy.

Dubber      And where do we find you today?

Julia           Washington, DC.

Dubber      Right, okay. So there’s been a lot going on there in the last few months. Do you care to talk a bit…

Julia           Just a little bit.

Dubber      Yeah. We hear some bits and pieces. I’m a long way away, but some of the news filters through. You’re from the world of wine. Has there been some impact on how wine is enjoyed or consumed or sold that’s come about in the last… Well, in the last couple of months, particularly?

Julia           Well, I think one of the good things that has happened is the tariffs have been lifted for the US between the US and Europe for four months while people actually sit down and talk things through on how to do a tariff, or “Is it going to take place?”, or are they going to continue to have it. I’m very excited that’s stopped. And also because there’s a lot of moving parts in wine, especially because of the way the system is set up in the United States, that a lot of people were really hurting - a lot of importers, distributors, retailers - because the price and the mark up just was so expensive, so high. So hopefully, with everything coming out, it will be okay. So that’s some good news that has come out of Washington, DC, besides the November election.

Dubber      Yeah, for sure. I know that there’s a lot of wine production that goes on in the US, but I guess probably not all of the consumption of wine is of American wines. What proportion would that be?

Julia           I will say, I think people still drink the majority of American wines in America. California is the biggest, but then after that, you have Oregon, you have Washington State, you have, in New York, the Finger Lakes. We also drink a lot of European wines as well. And it also depends on where you live because the way the system is set up, everybody can’t export their wine to certain states, so it depends… New York can get anything, I always like to say, but a lot of Europe doesn’t always make its way west. So I’m here in the DC, so we’re able to get a lot of good things.

So I just will say, people are now more curious about wine. In a way, I think the consumer is more informative. Where before, it was people just saying “You should drink this.”, I think the consumer now is like “Well, I did my own research, and I’m probably not going to drink that.”, or “I want to try something new.”. And I think with the onset of social media, we have new drinkers, which is always a good thing.

Dubber      Yeah, for sure. We should probably back up a little bit because there are probably some people listening to this going “Hang on. What have I tuned into? This is not what I was expecting.” because we focus a lot on artificial intelligence and artistic experimentation in nuclear power reactors. Suddenly, we’re talking about wine. And I want to justify it because - we were talking just before we started this interview - I see it very much as this intersection of creativity and science. There’s a real heavy science going on. Where do you come into this from?

Julia           Well, as a wine journalist, I look at wine. Wine is farming. Agriculture is science. You have to know acid, you have to know ratios, because a lot of wine happens in the vineyard but a lot happens in the lab. And I think people forget that if they’re making - what I say - wines of place, wines of character, wines that are interesting… That’s why you find a lot of engineers, chemistry majors, they become winemakers because of that intersection of science and farming and…

Also, right now, we’re using technology to talk about wine. We had to. I’ve been on more Zooms with wine in the past year than I had ever thought in my entire life. But also I think wine and artificial intelligence will happen. You have a lot of labels now that are putting AI labels so people can use their phone. Think of all the apps. We have apps to take a photo of your wine bottle. That app then uploads it. Now you have a record, and then you could rate it. You could see other people’s rating of that wine. Some of them purchase from that site. So I think technology in wine is moving faster than I think the wine world is ready for.

Dubber      Sure. Recommendation engines, particularly, I guess you’re talking about.

Julia           Well, that. Also when you go to a restaurant, there are going to be apps where you’re going to say “Okay, I’m scanning a wine list. I’m having this wine. How can I get it now?”.

Dubber      And pairings too, I suppose.

Julia           Pairings, yeah. Well, pairings are subjective because I think it goes back to everybody’s taste. What I like and you don’t like is okay. So I think pairings will look different now than… Especially with the restaurants slowly coming back. For a long time, all the somms told everybody what to drink. And then now, with social media, I go on Instagram and I talk to winemakers. I don’t tell them what to drink. And then you have to think about other… Like Clubhouse. Clubhouse has wine rooms, and everybody’s talking about drinks on Clubhouse, and whisky, beer, and all that. So technology in wine is here to stay, even though I think some wine people are a little reluctant to embrace it.

Dubber      Interesting. And of course, all of this happens with a backdrop of politics and labour and history, and there’s a big story to be told there.

Julia           So many stories. Wine, to me, tells a story. It’s economics. It’s politics. It’s also romance. It’s family. If you think about Europe, they’re really family dominant. I know stories that are “Hey. I moved here with ten thousand dollars, and I’m going to start a winery.”, and fifteen years later, they have that dream. They’ve worked hard. They worked their butts off to get there, and they have that too. So wine just tells a story of everything that goes on, in my opinion.

Dubber      Is there a distinction between the story of farming and the story of wine? Is it particularly different?

Julia           I think people don’t think of wine as farming. People think “Oh, they’re grapes that grow. Okay.”, and when they think of farming, they think of animals. But you have to have somebody watch those grapes due to climate change. Spring frost. Rains that happen. What’s going on? I look at weather now more than I ever did before I started working in wine because I didn’t want to know what’s happening. And so farming plays a place… It’s come so if you look at… There’s farming, and then there’s biodynamic farming. People who look like “It’s a moon day, so I can’t do this to the grapes.”. You have a lot of that that’s happening in biodynamic farming, and people putting crystals in the vineyard. It’s still farming, but it’s getting… It’s just very different.

Dubber      Yeah, wow. How much of superstition falls into this? Because it sounds like once you start paying attention to whether you put crystals in the ground or which direction the moon is facing, it sounds like it leaves science a little bit, do you think?

Julia           No, I don’t think it leaves. I think because it is part of science. Don’t we look at the stars? Don’t we look at the moon? Don’t we call that science? So it’s still science. It might not be a science in your wheelhouse of what we think science is, but there’s a science to it.

Dubber      Interesting. You’re billed as somebody who talks a lot, particularly as a journalist, around the intersection of wine, race, and language, and I thought that last bit was really interesting. How does language play a part in all this?

Julia           Wine is presented in the world context. It’s a heavy European-based way we do descriptors. You’re from New Zealand. Let’s describe Sauvignon blanc. What have you heard? Gooseberries, right?

Dubber      Yeah.

Julia           I have never had a gooseberry until four years ago. So if I come from another country and I don’t know what a gooseberry is, we have to change the language on how we’re talking about this wine. Grapefruit is not everywhere. Lemons are not everywhere. So we have to change the way we talk about it in the language, in the way we present this wine, to make it so someone who is from the Caribbean and they grew up with something completely different as far as flavour and pairings… How do we present wine to them? Because if I say “Oh, it has gooseberry.”, they’re going to be like “What is that?”, just like I was like “I have never had a gooseberry.” until four years ago. Everybody doesn’t have the same food, so the language has to change based on who you’re talking to and based also on how we’re, as journalists and writers and teachers, explaining wine.

Dubber      Right. And what are the stories that need to be told in journalism? Is it just reviewing wines, or is it about telling the story of individuals who are growing wine or…

Julia           Every part of the wine industry, not just the people growing wine. Vineyard managers, the viticulturers, the people who are just literally taking one grape and exploring the science of that, because we have this disconnect, almost, like it is the winemaker and then it’s the wine and then we’re reviewing those. But then, bring it back, because every bottle of wine, pretty much, you have in your hand, ten thousand hands have gone to make that one bottle. So if that many hands have touched it, the person who prunes it is not necessarily the person who selects the grapes. The person who actually presses the grape, or a machine, that’s not… It’s so many moving parts, and so it’s telling those stories and giving honour to the people that do that hard work because wine is hard work to make. Wine is not easy. I always tell people wine is not easy. That’s why I’m not a winemaker, because it’s science. I don’t like chemistry.

Dubber      Yeah. Well, I don’t like early mornings, so that’s probably why I’m not a winemaker. But it’s really interesting because there are so many dimensions to this. There is obviously the growing, but then there’s the understanding of the microbiology of it and how the alcohol is formed by the sugars. And even the communication of it. To be able to explain to somebody who visits your vineyard how it’s working, I think is… It’s a real set of skills.

Julia           And also the right time to pick, to select the grapes. That’s based on weather. That’s based on science. Is it a good time? And then what vessel we’re putting in it. Is it going to be a tank? Is it going to be concrete? Is it going to be oak? And then how much of that oak is new? How much of that has been used before? And so all those sciences go into wine, and so we have to look at those like “Okay. Well, am I going to move it from oak into steel, or steel into oak?”, and then that’s a whole other thing they have to think about. And then bottling. So much happens. Corks, right? You were in Portugal. You know Portugal makes the corks. Well, is it too much air so then the cork ruins the wine? All these things go into play.

Dubber      Actually, interesting, because I don’t often get a wine expert on Zoom. So where do you stand on the bottle caps, the non-cork plastic bottle caps? Are we in favour or…

Julia           I know they do that primarily in Australia and New Zealand, and I’ve had delicious wines from there. When you’re talking ageing potential - and when I say ageing, that’s buying a specific wine meant to be aged, because all wines aren’t meant to be aged - there’s a question on that. But I have had aged Australian wines and New Zealand wines, and they were phenomenal. And then I’ve had corked wines from a traditional bottle, and it was like “Oh, this happened.”. But wine is such a science in a bottle that that could happen whether it’s a cork or whether it’s a screwcap, so it’s something to think about. A lot of people don’t realise that. You can get a bad bottle of wine even with a screwcap. It’s a little less likely, but you can, still.

Dubber      Right. Now, I’m familiar with, obviously, Californian wines. Sonoma and Napa Valley and so on. How much of America is a wine region?

Julia           In terms of numbers… California wine is why we have wine in America. They were the pioneers to do that. But this is a fun fact: every state makes wine. Whether or not you want to drink it in the United States is a different conversation.

Dubber      Where should I avoid?

Julia           I am not a fan of muscadine grape. It’s a little sweet for me. It depends on if you like sweet or not. I personally love Oregon. I love the Finger Lakes. They’re doing some crazy, fun wine in Texas. And I mean Texas Hill Country, which I never thought I… Twenty years ago, it was like “Hmm, let’s see where this is going to go because right now, it’s not there.”, but now it is.

Dubber      Is that about the climate? Is it about the soil?

Julia           All of it.

Dubber      Is it about the culture?

Julia           No, not culture, but climate and soil because Texas Hill Country is in the middle of the state, and so you get tornadoes. Not necessarily where the gulf is where you’re getting hurricanes, but all that affects wine because if a hurricane passes… And we’ve got to think about how the wind travels. Wind travels, and things settle on grapes and settle into the vine, which means it settles into the soil. So it’s all connected.

Dubber      Interesting. Now, you’re the founder of something called Black Wine Professionals. And obviously there’s something that really needs to be unpacked there, and I guess the most important thing is the reason that it exists. What is the purpose of Black Wine Professionals?

Julia           Well, the US has a big racial history, with slavery and the Black Lives Matter movement and everything. And as a wine professional, I was often given bad looks. Horrible comments said to me about… People didn’t expect me to be the wine professional. They didn’t expect for me to be the journalist. I walked into a winery in California, and a winemaker was like “Oh, I didn’t expect you to be Black.”, and I said “I didn’t expect you to be an asshole, but here we are.”. And those kinds of comments have happened more than I actually share. And I started the Black Wine Professionals because so many times, I would be on a media trip to go to a wine region and people would go “We don’t know that many Black people to add on the trip that work in wine.”, and so I created a Listserv. So I’m like “Here you go. If you can’t find anybody… You can’t tell me that anymore because I created a list for you.”.

Dubber      And is this one of those domains that Black people have been prevented from participating in? Is the representation a problem? Is it just that it’s just not expected?

Julia           Well, not expected, representation, and I was at a… And I know the people who are listening are going to be like “Woah, this is crazy.”. I was at a Champagne Week conference of all these Champagne producers, and you had a lot of people coming from the US that came with importers or distributors, and not one person of colour. And actually, not one female. Not one woman. And I was just like “This is ridiculous. Why…”. And I was there on my own money. And I’m asking these distributors, and they were like “Well, I don’t know who else I could have brought.”. And I started listing the names of all the wine directors that were women and women of colour to him, like “You could have done…”, at really nice restaurants. But the mindset is “I don’t see these people in my purview, and so, therefore, they don’t exist.”. It’s like if you eat oatmeal every day and then all of a sudden you try a cereal, and you’re like “Oh, something different.”. So I look at it like that. If you do the same thing all the time, are around the same people all the time, then you need to explore that the world is bigger than that. So that’s why I started it.

Dubber      Sure. There’s probably all sorts of deep and complex reasons why this is the way that it is, but I wonder if there’s a causal relationship between the history of land ownership and winemaking now.

Julia           Well, the land ownership, if you look at people of colour, cannot… We don’t own the land as much, and so that’s the problem. But when it comes to the buying aspect and the selling aspect, that’s a whole… They’re two separate things. That’s why we’re trying to get, and I’m working with universities and people to… We’re getting more people into the winemaking, business of wine, viticulture. All what I call the non-sexy part of wine. The sexy part of wine is the drinking of the wine. That’s the sexy part. The non-sexy part is working in a vineyard. It’s taking a hose and cleaning the floor. That’s the non-sexy side. It’s doing the harvest. So getting people in those positions, and then also saying “Okay. They don’t have land ownership, but how do we change that?”. Because you have to remember, California, in Napa Valley, an acre of land is almost a million dollars. An acre. That’s a certain income level to be able to buy that. But it’s not as certain if you’re trying to get to become a winemaker. If you’re trying to work in the business. So it’s getting people in those positions and also looking at it like “Okay. Eventually, if you can come together, work for a place, then how can we get more land ownership?” because that’s the… Land is very expensive. God’s not making any more of it.

Dubber      Yeah. Well, there is that. In fact, if anything, there might be less of it quite soon.

We have this massive community that we’re part of that are I guess what you’d call tinkerers. Experimenters. People who build things. People who make things. Is winemaking something that you can experiment with at home?

Julia           I personally wouldn’t, but that’s me, because - I know people are going to laugh at this - I don’t like bugs. And fermenting and gnats and hoses, that’s just not my jam. But there are a lot of winemaking kits on the market where people actually can make wine in their home. I don’t know if that’s going to be a wine to sell. And I would say, if you’re making it at home, and once you go to bottle it, be mindful of how you store it because a lot of times people are like - even if you’re buying wine - “Oh, I’ll put it on top of the refrigerator. It’s in the kitchen.”. Wine should be in a really cold room in your house or a dark closet. But I will say, if people want to make it and have fun and experiment… I say that now. Who knows? In six months, I’m like “I bought a winemaking kit. Let’s see where it goes.”.

Dubber      Yeah, interesting. It’s probably not the important thing by any stretch about the Black Wine Professionals website, but one of the things I absolutely loved about it is when I went there, there was this playlist, and it’s the most celebratory collection of music. I had it on repeat all the last week. It’s been so much fun. But there is this… It’s almost like a declaration. It’s like a celebration of “Yes, we’re here.”, and I… How deliberate was that kind of selection of music to go along with this community of people?

Julia           Well, it’s funny. I don’t make the playlist. My advisor makes the playlist. I said “I want playlists that are fun, people can vibe to.”. I said “I want you to think of me dancing with a wine glass in a vineyard.”, and she went “Done.”. I said “That’s all I want.”. Because also too, wine has been so stuffy. You know this. Wine can come across a little nose in the air, it’s not for anybody, and I wanted the playlist to be fun and people to have a glass of wine and just dance around in their home, in their yard, wherever, and play that music and just jam out.

Dubber      Yeah. We’re not talking Mozart quartets or anything like that.

Julia           No, no. We like Earth, Wind & Fire. I told her “Every playlist has to have a Beyoncé song and at least one Earth, Wind & Fire and ‘90s hip-hop.”, all on a playlist and seamlessly…

Dubber      Yeah, you got me on all three of those. That’s fantastic. Now, I noticed you wrote something about a year ago about something called ‘Uncorked’ on Netflix.

Julia           Yes, Netflix.

Dubber      And it’s not something I’ve seen. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what that was and why that was important?

Julia           So it’s funny you… Saturday was the one year anniversary of the movie launching on Netflix. So it basically is loosely based on a gentleman named Dlynn Proctor who was in California when he was studying to become a Master Sommelier through the Court of Master Somms. And the movie is just a riff on his life, but it’s a relationship… It’s like a father and son relationship where someone finds… They find what they want to do, but then they’re trying to get their family on board to go with it but also to… If you love playlists, that is the best playlist. That playlist is on Spotify. It is so good.

And so I wrote this piece about ‘Uncorked’ because ‘Uncorked’ is the first movie of its kind where the majority of the cast are Black people talking about wine. The majority of wine movies have always been the stuffy old white guy. It’s been about a judgemental… “We’re judging the wine. We’re saying this.”. And here is just this guy who found his passion, who happens to be young, and it’s a fun movie to watch. Even if you don’t like wine, it’s just one of those movies… You laugh, you cry, and in the end, you’re like “Okay. I really feel good about that.”. And also it was filmed in Memphis, and it makes you want to just go and have some Memphis barbeque and some good wine too.

Dubber      Fantastic. How does somebody become somebody who knows about wine? Where do you start? What’s the journey?

Julia           I’d say drink a lot.

Dubber      Drink responsibly!

Julia           You have to taste wine. I got into wine in my late twenties, and I really then… And so I’ve had twenty years of just drinking and tasting wine. Even trying wines I wouldn’t normally try. I try everything. Do I like everything? No. But you have to… I say your tongue is a muscle, just like… You know how you go to the gym, and you keep going, and you’re like “I feel good. I’ll keep going.”? That’s the way your wine tasting is. You have to keep tasting wine.

And I always like to tell people, when you see wine for people… Like, we work, we have to spit the wine because otherwise you’ll be drunk in the middle of the day doing a tasting. Try to actually taste the wine, spit the wine, swirl the wine, then taste it again, spit it again, and see what you like, and then pair it with food that you don’t think you should. I always tell people I love Champagne and potato chips because we think of Champagne as this celebratory, “Oh, it’s the anniversary. I’ve got to have this fancy meal.”. No. I just pair it with Lay’s regular potato chips, and it works.

Dubber      Yeah, interesting.

Julia           That’s how you learn. That’s the science of part of it. That’s the geeky part, is understanding every wine is not going to go with every potato chip.

Dubber      Yeah. It’s experimentation.

Julia           It’s experimentation.

Dubber      Do you write down your results? Do you have a journal where you’re…

Julia           I have a journal, and I’m slowly getting someone to transfer those journals into words. The pairing is so different because the reason why I say… If I have a Blanc de Blanc Champagne - that’s a Chardonnay-based Champagne - I can’t have Ruffles potato chips. Now, those potato chips may be different in where everyone’s listening, but Ruffles doesn’t have the same salt content as the Lay’s. So I’m matching the salt of the chip to match the saltiness of the wine, and so that’s my pairing. Ruffles, I’ll do a Blanc de Noirs - which is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - because it’s a little softer, and it’ll balance the chip. So that’s my crazy notes.

Dubber      The ritual of wine drinking is interesting as well. You talked about swirling and the spitting and…

Julia           It’s so pretentious. Think about it. I always swirl the glass, and you smell it, and then you see people… It’s fun. That’s a part of it.

Dubber      Does the shape of the glass matter as much as it seems to?

Julia           Yes. The glass matters. Yes, they do because if you’re drinking a white wine in a red wine glass, it’s getting too much air. So literally the shape and the size does matter. And also, too, everybody likes the stemless. Well, what happens is, if you have a cold white wine, you’re warming up the wine faster, and if you have a red wine, you’re actually making it warmer and warmer. And also, too, if people are listening, your red wine also needs to have a little chill on it when you start drinking it. I know people are shocked about that. They’re usually like “It should be room temperature!”. No. It shouldn’t. It should be at least seventy to seventy-two degrees. It needs to have a chill on it. And you want the stem so you don’t warm up the wine. So that’s why glasses matter.

Dubber      So you hold the stem. You don’t hold the bowl.

Julia           You hold the stem, not the bowl.

Dubber      Right. What’s your background that led you to this? I know you said you started drinking wine at twenty. What sort of kid were you that led you to being this kind of person?

Julia           So first of all, I come from a family that doesn’t drink. My family doesn’t drink. So I used to work for law firms. I used to be a legal assistant. And one of the attorneys that I worked for had just come back from California in the late ‘90s, and I was like “Your stuff is in the way. I can’t get to my desk. All these wine bottles.”, and he was like “Didn’t you study abroad in France?”, and I was like “Yes.”. He’s like “Didn’t you drink wine?”. I’m like “Yes. Everyone drinks wine in France. It’s cheaper to drink wine than to have a soda, so, yes, I drank wine.”. But he had a barbeque at his house, and he paired these amazing California wines with ribs, brisket, chicken, and that was the first time… And he just made me understand food and wine pairings and why food and wine go together. And so I explored that in my twenties. Never thought I would be talking about wine.

Eventually moved from Houston to DC, and I started a beauty blog, and I used to be a beauty writer. So I transitioned that blog after ten years, and I decided that I wanted to be a wine journalist. I wanted my third act to be wine, and so I took some formal classes. And I took the formal classes not because I didn’t know about wine, but I just wanted a little structure on the regions, a little more history than I was doing on my own. And so that’s when I set out to just transition… And also beauty and wine go hand in hand. A lot of people don’t think that. And when I say that, I mean science of beauty. The science of fragrance and matching and oils and structure and alcohol. All that is the same as wine. It all goes back to science.

Dubber      Sure. So to go back to the childhood thing… And you’re from a non-drinking family, but you went to study in France. What happened that led to that? When you look back, do you see an obvious journey, or have you just been pinballing around completely different domains?

Julia           I’ve never been asked that question. So for me, looking back, I had a very early obsession with France because I was a James Baldwin fan. I started reading James Baldwin in middle school, and my parents were like “You don’t want…”, and I was like “Oh, I want to take French.”, and they were like “Okay. Well, you have to go to a school where we can have a French class.”. And so I started taking French in the seventh grade, and so I took it all through high school, all through college. And I knew I wanted to study abroad, and I have a degree in English literature, so where do you go? It’s Sartre and all of these writers, and you go to France, and I studied abroad. And I look at it now like, yes, all that led to this, but I didn’t know that at the time because, in my mind, I was going to school to be a lawyer. And then when I worked for lawyers, I realised “I like working for them. I don’t want to be one.”.

Dubber      Sure. I can understand that impulse.

Julia           Yeah. And then when I started blogging, I knew I needed to do that, that that was the calling and figuring all that out. So it’s like pinballing, like [pinball ricochet noises].

Dubber      But with a coherent narrative about it. You’d think of somebody who reads James Baldwin and studies in France as somebody who is very sophisticated and learned, and with a wine glass in one hand and writing and thinking, and the romantic ideal of the wine drinker.

Julia           And I saw it in France. You see it. And then when I started really travelling… And travelling opens your eyes. I’ll tell anyone this. There’s something about travel… You have to be uncomfortable because you don’t know the language. You don’t know what’s going on. The subway system’s different, the taxi drivers. Everything’s moving. And so in my late twenties, I just really travelled so much. I would go to wine regions on vacation. Some people were just like “Oh, where are you going?”. “I’m going to France. I’m going to Italy. I’m just going…”. I would go “Oh, I’m going to see the Colosseum, and I’m going to drink wine.”, and that’s how it became those two vacations, for me, were always together with that.

Dubber      Interesting. The Champagne thing you mentioned earlier is interesting to me because that has this territorialism, this idea of borders, because Champagne can only come from that one place. And so there are other sparkling wines from different places around the world, but there is a really interesting… I guess you’d call it a power dimension, a political dimension, about ownership over a particular method of… Is that something that expands outwards across other types of grapes or other types of wines?

Julia           Well, yeah. You’ve got Champagne. You have Prosecco. Prosecco can only come from a certain region. Everybody can make Chardonnay, but you can’t put… You can’t make Napa Valley Chardonnay and put it on a label. The territorial thing is the history of Champagne. And it’s so French. If it was any other place, it wouldn’t be, but it’s so French to say “No, you can’t make this.”. But it also goes back to the other regions. You have Burgundy. You have Bordeaux. Those are all… And I look at it like “They want to protect their name. They want to protect their grapes. They want to protect their association.”. Every wine region does it. My whole thing that I tell people, that doesn’t make it better than something else, because - like you said - I love sparkling wine. I drink a lot of sparkling wine. That is my go-to all the time. And I tell people, there are some sparkling wines that taste better than some Champagnes because you can have someone make Champagne, it doesn’t mean it’s good. It just means it’s Champagne.

Dubber      Right. So if somebody puts your name or your face on a bottle of wine, it’s going to be a sparkling…

Julia           Oh, yeah. Oh, it’s going to be sparkling. If my name is ever attached to anything, it’s going to be a sparkling wine.

Dubber      Yeah, fantastic. Julia, it’s been so interesting talking to you. I really appreciate it. What should people do next? Having listened to this, having heard about wine, what do you recommend that they go out and do? Assume that everybody’s had wine. They’ve tried wine. They’ve got some and that. Is there something that they should explore or something they should read or something they should watch that will take people to the next level of that journey?

Julia           I want everybody listening to go to a country that you would normally not buy wine and buy a wine from there. So Slovenia, Georgia, Hungary. Go to a place that you would normally not gravitate to as a wine place and buy that wine. Step out of your comfort zone. And guess what? I have to do that as well because I have… My comfort zone is sparkling. I’m always going to go for sparkling, and I may go for a California red. But then I force myself to say “Hey. Try this Hungarian wine. Try this ferment that you’re not used to having.”, and just an exploration to get me out of the rut of drinking the same thing.

Dubber      Interesting. Thank you so much. It’s been really, really fascinating. Really appreciate it.

Julia           Thank you. And wine is science. You have to remember that. Wine is science.

Dubber That’s wine writer, Julia Coney, and that’s the MTF Podcast. Julia is @JuliaConey on Twitter and www.juliaconey.com on the web. MTF Labs, much the same. @mtflabs on Twitter and www.mtflabs.net online. Thanks very much to Jen, Mars, Sergio, and the team, to airtone and Ziv Moran for the music today, as well as Run Dreamer for the MTF audio logo. And unless you’re - I don’t know - having breakfast right now or driving somewhere, go and grab yourself a glass of something nice if you haven’t already. Press whatever button you need in order to share, like, rate, review, follow, subscribe, or recommend, and you have yourself a great evening. We’ll talk soon. Cheers.

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