Q&A with Wine Influencer Julien Miquel of SocialVignerons.com
Julien Miquel, founder at Social Vignerons, was recently awarded the #7 wine influencer – with over 151k followers on Twitter and 5k+ on Facebook you do not want to get on his bad side :)! Julien (a former winemaker of 7 years) works tirelessly to bring the reader his expertise in wine, beer, and spirits. His passion is second to none, as well as his knowledge from working across 5 different countries. Let’s catch up with Julien and see what he has been up to.
Please tell us about growing up in France and when you developed your passion for wine
As you know, wine in France is everywhere and part of everyone’s life while growing up there: family celebrations, surrounding landscapes, complement to many traditional foods. So there’s always a fair bit of wine talks to any meal. You get educated to wine as a teenager generally, and I was no exception.
But I really started looking at wine as a job at University as I was studying Biology, plant physiology and microbiology. Wine ticked all boxes for a career combining my passion for science with working outdoor, contact with nature, be both precise and creative. So I moved from Toulouse where not much wine is made, to study at the Bordeaux Faculte d’Oenologie.
At what age did you get into actually making wine?
Made my first wines just before I turned 20 back in 1999. They were experimental wines, in very small batches which is great to understand the winemaking process. I was helping the local vignerons (wine growers) of Fronton (a wine region in South West France) understand the influence of vine training system and the type of yeasts they used on their wines.
After this, I made wine in France in Bordeaux: Chateau Margaux and Chateau de Rochemorin (Pessac-Leognan).
Besides France where else in the world did winemaking take you?
In California with Chateau St Jean in Sonoma County: an eye-opening experience within this top Californian producer. Cheers to all the 2002 St Jean vintage crew, a fabulous and memorable harvest. As I wanted to understand fine winemaking around the world, I went and made wine in Tuscany, Spain (Ribera del Duero and Toro), Australia (on Kangaroo Island and Margaret River) and New Zealand where I’m based now.
How awesome is New Zealand and what are the differences vs France (both people and grapes)?
New Zealand is simply stunning. Everywhere you look (except maybe the suburbs of Auckland where I live !!) there is a spectacular scenery. Coming from a country where History plays such an important part in people’s life and mind like France, it is quite incredible to think that the first few humans arrived here some 700 years ago only. Europeans hardly got here before the 18th century.
There’s quite a few differences obviously between the two countries. To find an analogy between wine and people there, let’s say that New Zealand wines are rather exuberant while the people is more reserved and don’t let their feelings come out easily. In France, one could say it’s the other way around: fine wines are restrained, while people are easily cheerful and open-hearted (especially around wine).
Tell us about your work with Wine Searcher.
Wine-Searcher has assembled in over 15 years the biggest database of wines in the world. Virtually all wines produced in the world are there. With a team of international wine experts I’ve been managing for 5 years (from many nationalities, Germans, Italian, South Americans, British, US and so on), we’ve developed the wine knowledge content for the website. We’ve assembled huge amount of information about each wine, and a wealth of written content including wine regions (more than 3700 listed) and grape varieties (about 1000 wine grapes and blends). We’ve worked with most of the main wine publications around the world like The Wine Enthusiast or Decanter. Now mobile applications are becoming increasingly important and are a big area of development and focus for us. So I’ve seen a lot of the online wine world over the years.
Social Vignerons is a personal website I develop on my spare time. It’s about sharing passion and knowledge around wine with the world’s wine community. Wine drinkers should know better what’s in their glass, and the people involved in making their beverages: their origin, their philosophy, their passion. So I aim at creating link and meaning between makers and consumers.
I review wines, beers and spirits to share my experiences. The site also includes educational and fun infographics, wine & food matches, Interviews, or even ‘Wineporn’ posts (on the foodporn model, but for wine). Constantly looking at ways to serve the community better. So it’s a work in progress.
I would like to work closely with producers to help them explain their wines, online and on social media. Feel free to get in touch.
Why is it so important for wine enthusiasts to properly store their wine?
Any wine enthusiast is a wine investor, whether they collect expensive bottles or not. Simply because they spend money on it. They invest money into the pleasure wine adds to their life. Storage allows to maximize ROI.
Bad storage conditions deteriorate the wines. Heat, light, temperature variations destroy the qualities (flavor, texture, color) that have been put into the wine with a great deal of effort by the vines, the growers and the winemakers. So bad storage is less tasting pleasure, and is less respectful of what Earth and people have put into our hands.
Good storage on the other hand increases the aging potential, so you can keep the wine for longer and still find pleasure. It also increases the wine’s complexity. Finally, it honors the land and the people that made the wine, by preserving its quality through time. Like books or photography, wine is a witness of History.
What are 3 of your top picks (any wine) – with at least one white please?
Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe:
In Bordeaux, I’ve always been a big fan of Chateau Cos d’Estournel. A dense and rich style for Bordeaux as Saint-Estephe wines often are. But it also has a lot of finesse in the flavors and the texture like the bests Medoc wines. A bit more affordable than First Growths yet with amazing value and pleasure. 2005 should be great over the next 10 years. For a less prestigious (and less expensive) vintage, 2001 is perfect to drink now.
Vega Sicilia Pintia, Toro:
I worked in Toro, Spain for a couple of years. It’s a region further downriver from the Ribera del Duero, but still making Tempranillo wines, in a richer style. An upcoming region and one to watch. I was winemaker of one of the top wines of the appellation called Campo Eliseo (with Michel Rolland). A great wine that I’d recommend. But I was also much impressed in Toro with the wine Vega Sicilia makes there called ‘Pintia’. It’s a rather retrained style for that region, complex and subtle. A great introduction to Toro wines. If you like them and want to go for more concentration, you can later move on to Numanthia made by Moet-Hennessy there (100 RP points for 2004 for their Termanthia).
Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux:
Probably the most surprisingly white wine I have come across in my career, and I helped making it in 2003. Chateau Margaux makes their white wine out of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in 100% new oak barrels. Pure Sauvignon Blanc is rather uncommon for Bordeaux, and it is generally not aged in new barrels much, because SB tends to be overpowered by oak flavors, or even worth: oxidized! But there the fruit is so concentrated and balanced, and the barrels used at Chateau Margaux are of such unbelievable quality, that the Pavillon Blanc comes out perfectly balanced. It’s the perfect combination between freshness of fruit flavors, with the richness and spiciness of barrel maturation. It can age easily for tens years and more, only to develop more and more complexity, spices, nutty flavors.