All photos by Patty Michels
I know less about wine than I do about music so I asked Bin 36’s wine director Brian Duncan to give me a crash course. Turns out you can love wine without hating humanity, but I’m pretty sure you still have to smack your lips a lot. Not that Brian did that. Rather, he kindly educated me about everything from cork vs screw top to how to choose quality wine on a budget.
Our Town So, do you have to be pretentious to be a wine guy?
Brian Duncan The answer is no! You do not have to be pretentious to be a wine guy. No one that loves wine desires to make others feel insecure or uncomfortable about wine.
OT Starting out as Bin 36’s wine director, what were some initial goals?
BD [Owner] Dan Sachs was interested in doing another restaurant concept that behaved differently than typical wine bars and restaurants. We both discussed the less than friendly atmosphere around wine consumption, marketing and education that seemed to be inherently attached to wine and saw an opportunity to solve many of the misconceptions and even the fear factor and uneasiness attached to the wine experience. We created sort of a punch list itemizing all of the things we disliked about the way wine was being presented such as:
Lack of information
No information other than what you would be charged
No options for sampling
Wine flights that featured wines that had no relationship one to the other.
OT Sounds like a major goal is to make wine accessible. How you do go about that?
BD I offer quality and affordable choices. Providing lots of choices offers guests an opportunity for discovery. Discovery of personal preferences, unfamiliar grape types, blends and a world of various wine styles. and experience. Wine buyers and sommeliers that seem stuck on pricey wines, and are obsessed with wine scores are lazy and uninterested in showcasing the wealth and bounty that exists in the world of wine. I conduct classes, seminars and tastings where attendees can bring all of their questions, myths, misconceptions and most importantly their curiosity. These sessions are lively and heaven forbid, fun!
OT Give me a crash course in wine--just the basics--what do I need to know to get by in sophisticated company?
BD There’s no need to “get by” when it comes to wine company. If you mean they are wine snobs, then chat up someone else that is interested in your questions and curiosity about wine.
[But] here’s what you need to know:
Wine grapes (vitis vinifera) once picked when ripe convert sugar to alcohol during fermentation.
There are possibly 10,000 wine grape varieties.
Some major white grapes are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc
Some major Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Malbec.
OT What’s your favorite wine region?
BD This one’s difficult. My tastes are constantly evolving. It depends on where I am, what time of year it is, and whom I am with at the time. However, if stranded on a desert island, unequivocally Blanc de Blancs Champagne for a few reasons. First of all, every morning I wake up and realize that I am stranded, having Champagne would immediately lift my spirits. More importantly, Champagne goes with a broad array of food, and let’s face it, I would be surrounded by seafood and shellfish.