Wine for Normal People



A podcast for people who like wine but not the attitude that goes with it. We talk about wine in a fun, straightforward, normal way to get you excited about it and help you drink better, more interesting stuff. Back catalog available at


  • Ep 391: Édouard Miailhe - Dynamic leader of the Margaux AOC & 5th Generation Owner of Château Siran

    13/09/2021 Duración: 54min

    Château Siran is an historic and innovative estate on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, in the commune of Margaux. Once owned by the painter Toulouse-Lautrec’s great-grandmother, in the mid-1800s Siran was purchased by ancestor of Édouard Miailhe’s family and today he is the 6th generation to run Siran.   Miailhe, like many of the most interesting people in the wine industry, had an entire career doing something other than wine (in his case finance and real estate in the Philippines) until his mother and father retired about 15 years ago and he decided to move back to France to run the Château. He likes to stay busy (and take on challenges) because in addition to being the leader of Château Siran in 2018, he took the difficult job of running the winegrowers association of Margaux, a post that was held by his predecessor for decades! Photo: Team at Château Siran, Marjolaine Defrance, oenologist on the left, Édourard Miailhe center, Jean-Luc Chevalier, vineyard manager, right. In this show Édouard does double duty

  • Ep 390: The Grape Miniseries -- Petit Verdot

    06/09/2021 Duración: 41min

    Petit Verdot is often the secret weapon in a blend -- providing unique aromas and flavors plus acidity and tannin. In this show, we discuss this essential grape and the vital role it plays in wines around the world. What is Petit Verdot? The name means “little green one”, since it's hard to ripen, the berries remain green when other grapes are ready to harvest The grape is used in Bordeaux blends but sometimes made as a varietal wine Petit Verdot ripens later than other varieties and is used for tannin, color and flavor, gives structure to mid palate Photo: Virginia Wine Origins: Around in Bordeaux before Cabernet Sauvignon Could have been brought to Bordeaux by Romans Probably from Southwest France around the Pyrénées but gained recognition in the Médoc and Graves (on the Left Bank of Bordeaux) Plantings shrunk after phylloxera and the big 1956 frost in Bordeaux Petit Verdot was uprooted to be replaced in Bordeaux with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Now – more being planted, can withstand heat and drought

  • Ep 389: Chateau Doyac and the Diversity of Terroir in the Haut-Medoc of Bordeaux

    31/08/2021 Duración: 38min

    Photo: Château Doyac In our continued exploration of the Médoc (which will culminate in two free, live, online classes that I hope you'll join or watch on YouTube afterwards), on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, I spoke with Astrid de Pourtalès, co-owner of Château Doyac. This property is a Cru Bourgeois Supérieur located in the northernmost part of the Haut-Médoc appellation that is unlike what you think of when you consider this region. This show presents a high level overview of a different part of the Médoc (versus Château Meyney, where Anne Le Naour gives a very detailed view of St-Estèphe) and a nice view of what a family owned château is like in the region.   Astrid de Pourtalès owns the château with her husband Max and her daughter Clémance. She discusses her experiences in being fairly new to Bordeaux after a career in the New York theater scene (they bought Château Doyac in 1998) and the bold move that Max made to transition Doyac to an ECOCERT certified organic vineyard in 2018 and then a Demeter certif

  • Ep 388: The Greats - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

    24/08/2021 Duración: 44min

    Photo: Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano The Nobile Wine of Montepulciano is a wine based on a clone of Sangiovese and from a small hillside town in Tuscany called Montepulciano. It is, indeed, one of the great wines of the world. Although often overshadowed by its neighbors – Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico – and confused with a grapey, high yielding producer in Abruzzo (the Montepulciano grape), this wine has class, style, and a legacy of greatness to back it up.   After ups and downs over nearly 2000 years of winemaking, Vino Nobile is experiencing a quiet revival and it's one of my favorite wines in Italy. Moderate in body with an interplay of fruit, herb, and brooding tea and forest-y aromas and flavors, this is a wine that those in the know (you!) will immediately fall in love with. With its latest comeback, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is back and better than ever. And who doesn’t love a comeback story? Photo: Getty Images Here are the show notes: We discuss where exactly this hi

  • Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile

    17/08/2021 Duración: 01h22s

    Sofía Araya  - head winemaker of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, and Neyen Sofía Araya was born and raised in Chile and she has made wine in nearly every high quality valley of the country since she graduated from la Universidad de Chile. After years of working on conventional farms for some big names, she moved to Veramonte. She helped transition the over 500 ha/1,235 acres to 100% ECOCERT certified organic vineyards. Veramonte represents 15% of all organic vineyards in Chile.   Sofía is now the head winemaker and oversees the organic Veramonte and Ritual and the organic and biodynamic properties of Neyen and Primus.  All are under the umbrella of Sherry-based Gonzalez Byass.   Although this may seem like a mega-brand because of its excellent distribution, it actually turns out that Veramonte and its sister brands – Ritual, Primus, and Neyen – make just 200,000 cases of wine a year (2.4 million bottles) combined. That’s the size of a medium brand at a big hulking winery!   Two things that are important: 1. Sofía

  • Ep 386: Natalie MacLean -- Author, Wine Reviewer & Podcaster

    09/08/2021 Duración: 01h01min

    Natalie MacLean is an accredited sommelier who operates one of the largest wine sites on the web at Natalie's first book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass and her second book Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines were each selected as an Amazon “Best Book of the Year.” She is the wine expert on CTV's The Social, Canada's largest daytime television show, CTV News, and Global Television's Morning Show. She was named the World's Best Drinks Writer at the World Food Media Awards, and has won four James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. Natalie is an author, online wine course instructor, and wine reviewer. She is a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild, the Wine Writers Circle, and several French wine societies with complicated and impressive names. Natalie holds an MBA and is a fellow podcast host, with her excellent podcast “Unreserved Wine Talk” (on which I have also been a guest - Ep 50). Being two podcaste

  • Ep 385: Anne Le Naour of Chateau Meyney - Redefining Saint-Estèphe of Bordeaux

    03/08/2021 Duración: 01h05min

    Anne Le Naour is the technical and managing director for Château Meyney of St-Estèphe in the Médoc of Bordeaux. She also manages the other properties of CA Grands Crus. The company is owned by the top bank that supports wine in France, Crédit Agricole Group (sometimes referred to as "la banque verte" due to its historical connections with farming). Its current portfolio includes Chateaux Meyney, 5th growth Grand Puy Ducasse in Pauillac, and Santenay in Burgundy.   Le Naour is a trained oenologist with global experience and since she began at Meyney in 2016, she has transformed the Château, restructuring vineyards, improving viticulture, and moving towards organics. She has introduced better winemaking – less extraction, less obvious oak, and more care in handling vine and wine. Her deep knowledge of wine and winemaking, plus her unwavering dedication to quality has meant that the wines of Meyney are attracting more attention than ever.   These are exquisite wines, underpriced for what they are (Meyney is rig

  • Ep 384: Txakolina --The Wine of Basque Country

    28/07/2021 Duración: 38min

    The Basque Country in northeastern Spain lies on the Bay of Biscay and abuts the Pyrenees Mountains, a mere 18 mi/30 km from the French border. Until about a decade ago, this area was relatively unknown as a wine region. But with the rise of Basque cuisine, an increased interest from wine buyers in native varietals, and a desire for lower alcohol, thirst-quenching wines, Txakolina (chock-o-LEEN-ah), a white, high acid, spritzy wine started to get attention. The phenom started in places all over the United States (which boasts a Basque population of more than 50,000 people), then the UK and Japan, now small quantities of wine find their way to  many other countries around the world. Map of Basque Country: In this show, we discuss this historic region, with its own language, culture, and wine traditions. We talk about how the modern wine industry was renewed, and what you can expect from these delicious, refreshing (mainly white) wines. If you haven’t had these wines or heard of them, this shoul

  • Ep 383: Domaine Wachau of Austria - One of Europe's Best Co-Ops with Roman Horvath, MW

    19/07/2021 Duración: 57min

    In this show I speak with Roman Horvath, a Master of Wine, is the Winery Director of Domaine Wachau, which is among the leading wine producers in Austria. The Domaine  is actually a cooperative, meaning it is run by and owned by individual growers, with Roman bringing them all together under his leadership. But whereas most co-ops in Europe produce seas of mediocre to plain BAD wines, Domaine Wachau has been cited as one of the best co-ops in the world and is known for making wines of origin and pure flavor. Photo: Domaine Wachau The Domaine has a full range of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that reflect their unique terroir – from small vineyard plots on steep terraces along the Danube to regional wines. Roman coordinates the vintner families, who work to capture the terroir of the historic wine region of Wachau. These wines are splendid and show how the co-op system can work well when under the right management.   Here are the show notes: Roman tells us about his path through the MW and to becoming the mana

  • Ep 382: Don Kavanagh on Wine's Next Wave and The End of the Cult of the Somm

    12/07/2021 Duración: 52min

    Don Kavanagh who joined for "Episode 330: Journalistic Integrity in Wine with Don Kavanagh of Wine-Searcher"  comes back to talk about wine's next wave and Wine-Searcher's controversial article: "Farewell to the 'Cult of the Somm.'" Don Kavanagh, Editor of Wine-Searcher To refresh your memory from Ep 330, Don is the editor of Wine-Searcher's journalistic arm. He has spent the past 25 years either working in the wine trade or writing about it, in his native Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. He has a dedication to telling things as they are -- as a true observer of situations rather than a judge, jury, or partisan -- and publishes articles on topics that need to be tackled in the wine industry but that others won't touch because of wine politics.    In this show Don and I discuss how the wine world is starting to look in a post-pandemic world where a shift towards stay-at-home drinking and more casual dining will likely be lasting trends. We address the (sort of earth-shattering, in our little world) quote from

  • Ep 381: Wines for a Barbecue

    04/07/2021 Duración: 34min

    Barbecues are fun, but having wine at them…not so much! The food at barbecues ranges but the theme is that even though they generally occur in the dead of summer, the food is heavy and served warm so the wines we needed for pairing aren’t necessarily the same ones we’d have for sipping on the porch. In this show, we go over the main foods we eat at BBQs and break down some of their constituent components so we can find the best wines for them.  Photo: Unsplash It turns out that, as we talked through it all, there are some wines you just can’t do without at a barbecue – we tell you the details of great pairing and hopefully convince you that with just a few key wines, you can have bottles that pair as well with food off the grill and the sides, as a cold, frosty beer.   Condiments we discuss: Ketchup (and its ingredients) Mustard (and its ingredients) Mayo Photo: Pexels Sample foods we use to explain pairing and offer some ideas with explanations: Hot dogs and popular toppings like sauerkraut, slaw, ketchup

  • Ep 380: Wine Moves North to Brittany & Beyond with Barnaby Eales

    28/06/2021 Duración: 35min

    As the climate has changed, winegrowers have initiated the hunt for places where natural acidity and lightness can shine in the glass. Warmer years mean we can't always rely on our standbys -- Sancerre, Chablis, Chinon, and other wines from northern climes -- to have a balance of lighter alcohol and excellent acidity. People are seeking answers in many places -- some add artificial acidity or use technology for balance, some seek higher altitudes, and some higher latitudes. In this show we deal with the latter.    Map: Mikael Bodlore-Penlaez, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons (notice the Pays Nantais, part of Loire Wine Region, in the lower right...)   Following a prologue from me about the wines of Scandinavia, which is, in fact, a thing, journalist Barnaby Eales of show 327 (EU Ingredient Labeling) joins again to discuss his latest article from Meininger's Wine Business International "Cool Breizh", about the new trend towards winegrowing in the northwestern area of Brittany, France.   Frankly, my introdu

  • Ep 379: The Main Alternatives to Oak --All About Concrete Eggs and Amphoras

    15/06/2021 Duración: 01h02min

    Oak stabilizes color and smooths tannins, some think of it as a seasoning ingredient. But what about the other vessels that are increasingly popular for fermentation and aging? What do they do and are they really more than hype? We discuss the main alternatives to oak -- concrete and amphora, what each does and the benefits of each. Photo: Concrete eggs made by Sonoma Cast Stone  The show is a hybrid of discussion and interview, as I welcome Steve Rosenblatt of Sonoma Cast Stone, who manufactures custom concrete eggs and tanks, and Debbie Passin of who sells custom, next generation amphora. Photo: Vinethos We start at the beginning and explain the purpose of all vessels for fermentation and aging.   For winemakers looking for good texture and small transfers of oxygen to smooth the tannins in reds and provide a good medium for sur lie aging in whites, but who don't want the oak flavor, they have a few choices. They can use aged, neutral oak barrels. These neutral barrels provide the benefits peo

  • Ep 378: Prosecco -- The wine, the region, and how to get the best bottles

    07/06/2021 Duración: 42min

    Prosecco is not only Italy’s most popular sparkler, but recently it has surpassed Champagne to become the world’s best-selling sparkling wine. In this show we go over the details of the Prosecco region, the winemaking techniques, and I share the most important thing about the wine and how to get the best: the DOCGs that make way better wine than the cheap and cheerful stuff at the supermarket.   By the end of the show you’ll understand why Prosecco shouldn't be compared to Champagne (spoiler alert – it’s not made the same and that’s on purpose!) and how to get better versions of what you may already be sipping! Photo Valdobiaddene, Unsplash   Here are the show notes: Location: The Prosecco DOC is in North East Italy between the Dolomite Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. It spans four provinces of the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia (Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste and Udine) and 5 provinces of the region of Veneto (Belluno, Padua, Treviso, Venice, Vicenza). Treviso and Trieste can add the special titles of Prosec

  • Ep 377: The Wines of Beaujolais and its Ten Divine Cru

    01/06/2021 Duración: 58min

    Beaujolais is a unique, standalone wine region in central eastern France. Sandwiched between southern Burgundy (the Mâconnais) and Lyon (where it is their preferred wine), these wines and this terroir is like no other on earth. With high elevation from the western Massif Central, east and south-facing slopes, these wines get ripe over a long growing season with good diurnals. The unique pink granite and weathered granite sand, along with mineral rich soils of the northern section of Beaujolais, aren’t something you’ll easily find elsewhere in the wine world. In addition, nowhere else in the world specializes in the Gamay grape. Source: This grape’s expression in the 10 Crus of Beaujolais – whether it be like iris and violets, tart cherry, blackberry, mineral or intense spice – is always surprising and refreshing due to the high acidity of the wines. The quality for price can’t be beat and as producers embrace traditional vinification rather than carbonic maceration (used in Beaujolais nouve

  • Ep 376: The 1976 Judgment of Paris -- the Tasting That Made California Wine Famous

    24/05/2021 Duración: 52min

    First, thanks to listener and Patron Rafael C. for the podcast topic this week! It is the 45th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris: a tasting of California and French wines, organized but the late Steve Spurrier, that opened the door for wines from the US and all over the New World to be recognized for their excellence. We should raise a glass to him, his partner Patricia Gallagher, and to journalist and author George Taber, all of whom made this event so very significant.  Here's a quick recap, all of which we cover in the podcast... In 1976, an English wine shop owner, Steven Spurrier, and the director of his adjacent wine school, Patricia Gallagher, wanted to introduce members of the French culinary elite to the wines of California. The goal was to show them the new developments happening across the world in wine (and to get publicity for Cave de la Madeleine and the Academie du Vin -- genius marketing!).   Photo: Berry Bros & Rudd Wine Blog In preparation, Spurrier and Gallagher researched, tasted,

  • Ep 375: Phil Long of Longevity Wines -- Bringing Heart to CA's Livermore Valley

    17/05/2021 Duración: 45min

    Winemaker/Founder Phil Long of Longevity Wines is a true Garagiste – he began his making wine in the garage with his late wife Debra in the mid-2000s. In 2008, the couple quit their full-time jobs and the couple opened their tasting room and winery in the Livermore Valley near their home. Livermore Valley is a sub-AVA of the Central Coast with a really unique climate (I lived in Pleasanton, the next town over, so I speak from experience!) – with cool nights and some San Francisco Bay influence bumping up against the heat from the east of the Central Valley. The wines were sourced using local fruit and Longevity grew from a few hundred, to a few thousand cases.  Map from the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association Phil is revered for his balanced wines from Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. His wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Debruvee (the GSM Rhone Style blend), and Philosophy (Bordeaux style blend). In 2018, the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association voted Longevity Winery of the Year.

  • Ep 374: Bordeaux Classification Systems Explained

    11/05/2021 Duración: 51min

    After a few conversations, it became clear that M.C. Ice has been very confused about the differences between classification systems in France. Isn't Bordeaux the same as Burgundy? What’s the terminology -- it's it Premier Cru? Grand Cru? What exactly is each place ranking? And why do they do it at all? In this show we get in the weeds on the five classifications of Bordeaux (read the Wine For Normal People book or listen to Ep 59 and 60 to get up to speed on Bordeaux before attempting this!). We talk about their history, what they aimed to achieve and the criteria each use. We try to clear up what each is ranking, how they are ranked and why it all matters. MC Ice was clear by the end, we hope you are too!   Here are the classifications of Bordeaux mentioned in the show: 1855 Classification (with Sauternes and Barsac): The terminology for each level is “Cru”, there are five levels: First-Growths / Premières Crus Second-Growths / Deuxièmes Crus Third-Growths / Troisièmes Crus Fourth-Growths / Quatrièmes Cru

  • Ep 373: Tips for Wine Travel with Travel Writer and Media Producer, Krista Simmons

    03/05/2021 Duración: 52min

    Krista Simmons is a culinary travel writer and producer who runs the digital media company, Fork in the Road Media. She has been on TV shows like Top Chef Masters, Knife Fight, Hell's Kitchen, The Today Show, and more. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Departures, and the Los Angeles Times. Krista is the real deal: she has held jobs in the restaurant industry since she was 15. And following that she traveled, went to culinary school, and she's studying for WSET Level 2 Exam. She has lived more in her young life than most of us could hope to in our whole lives!   In the show Krista joins to share her wisdom and advice on wine travel, and specifically on travel in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara, California, which she recently covered for a ridiculously popular piece in Condé Nast Travel: How to Spend a Weekend in California's Santa Ynez Valley We share several tips, and go through the "personalities" of the major areas of the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County (Solvang, Los Olivos, Los Alam

  • Ep 372: The Grape Miniseries -- Gruner Veltliner

    26/04/2021 Duración: 44min

    Grüner Veltliner (GROOH-ner felt-LEEN-ah) is the main white grape of Austria. In this show we discuss its surprisingly recent rise to fame, its unusual origin, and its important place in wine.   Here are the show notes: History and Parents of Grüner We discuss this beautiful white grape whose name means  'green grape from the village of Veltlin in the Tyrol (Italy)," despite that fact that the grape likely comes from Niederösterreich, Austria M.C. Ice becomes baffled by Savagnin v Sauvignon. We settle on calling Savagnin it's other name, Traminer. The story of Grüner's other parent, St. Georgener is a marvel.In short, it was discovered as a 100+ year old lone vine growing on a cattle farm in 2000 after a local vintner followed a hunch that it was there. After six years of study, it became clear it was the parent of Grüner. In 2011, vandals chopped this old, lone vine into smithereens -- the ancient trunk and all shoots were hacked to pieces, devastating the Austrian wine industry. The thieves were never caug

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