From his early days spruiking the good stuff in suburban Melbourne restaurants, to his role as Director of The Wine Guide, former sommelier come winentrepreneur, Dan Sims, has found the “world of wine” a walking, talking, drinking contradiction.
“Why is this thing that gives you so much pleasure made out to be so boring,” he said.
“At the end of the day, people connect to a story, they don’t connect to stainless steel tanks and barrels, and they don’t want to sit through a master class.
“If you like wine the best way to learn about it is to drink it.”
Selling wine on “style and story” over “facts and figures” is what Dan is all about and from this simple philosophy he’s built a wine events empire that allows him and his favourite producers, to do just that.
After launching Pinot Palooza in 2012 – which refreshingly brings the atmosphere of a music festival to the tasting table – Dan set up his company Bottle Shop Concepts in 2013 to build on the events’ success.
From four events in 2013, to 16 over six cities and two countries in 2015 Pinot Palooza has gone from better to best in the past three years and Dan has plans to take the concept even further in 2016.
“Pinot Palooza will double in size and scale next year, we’ll also be bringing back Game of Rhones and Wine Day Out, which is more of a ‘TEDX style’ event.” At the end of the day, it was Pinot Noir that started it all, so Pinosity sat down with Dan to find out why…
When did you lose your Pinot virginity?
I can’t remember the exact wine but I think Pinot is one of those things that you discover a little bit further along in your wine education.
You arrive at it when you’re ready but then when you get there you think, “Oh my God, where has this been all my life?”
I just found it seductive and was interested in how it could be so different from one Pinot to another.
How did your love affair with Pinot progress?
It’s the grape variety that excites me the most and disappoints me the most.
When Pinot is great it’s mind-blowing, life changing – but when it’s bad, it’s just expensive.
Having said that, it doesn’t matter, because even if you have a sh*t Pinot, you’re still going to go back and buy another one because you want that Pinot rush!
If Pinot was a person, who would it be, and why?
Oh no! I don’t want Pinot to just be one person, no way – that would be so boring.
The best thing about Pinot is that it has multiple personalities, it’s the elusive person in the corner, the attractive one, but not a bombshell, the quiet one you have to go and introduce yourself to.
It’s the one that’s initially standoffish but when you get to know them they open up and you just can’t believe they’ve never been in your life.
If you could compare a glass of Pinot to one of your favourite bands, which would it be, and why?
At Bottle Shop Concepts we love linking music and Pinot.
I really love Tame Impala right now because it’s slightly psychedelic, it’s crazy, it’s trippy, but it’s also anchored in structure, just like a good Pinot.
What’s the most memorable food and wine experience you’ve ever had?
There are so many. From drinking cheap Chianti in a vineyard overlooking the hills of Tuscany, to one of my favourites…
I was at Vin Italy a number of years ago drinking at Cafe Italia in Desenzano – as the car we hired had broken down – I saw an 93 DRC Romanee St Vivant on the list but had no time to drink it, so I came back the next morning on route to Barolo and drank it for breakfast (late) with the most perfect omelette with parma ham.
More recently I ate at Automata in Sydney. Hands down the best meal with matched wines I’ve had all year.
What’s the most rare/expensive Pinot you’ve ever tasted?
I hate saying this and it is a cliché but a 78 La Tache is one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tried. It’s a wanky one, I know, but it was f*cking awesome!
I’ve been very lucky in my career to try some amazing wines, but the right wine for the right occasion is just as important as the right wine with the right dish.
I like to think of wine moments – there’s an occasion sometimes with Pinot where you could be doing a whole line up and get to one and just stop, you don’t know why, but it’s just the kind of wine you want to get to know.
Who do you admire most in the world of wine?
The two people who come to mind are Andrea Frost and Mike Bennie. They’re both very good friends of mine and I love them for the same and different reasons. I like how they’re almost polar opposites but kindred spirits.
I am so over wine points, because everyone seems to be 95 and above. What I like about Frosty’s writing is that she tells a story and makes you think, she talks about wine in the context of your life, for me that’s inspiring.
I like people who celebrate wine in all its diversity – that’s what Andrea and Mike do.
What wines and/or regions are you the most excited about right now?
I could say Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania are doing great things, which they are, but what excites me the most at the moment is the celebration of the diversity of style, and I’m talking all styles, all regions – all Pinot in all of its diversity.
If you could choose any food or wine in the world to have as your last meal, what would it be?
Burgundy followed by Barolo and Confit Duck from Gertrude Street Enoteca, with dauphinoise potatoes and a green salad – after that I think I’d be like, “Thanks very much. See you later. I’m out.”
If you were opening the best bottle of Pinot in your cellar, which three historical figures would you invite to share it with you?
I reckon Churchill would be pretty fun – he’d be quite interesting.
I should say something wildly interesting like a writer or artist but I think Churchill would be quite funny and he loves Champagne too, so we’d have a laugh.