Meeting Laura aka The Southsea Wine Siren at the Southsea Folk awards was a breath of fresh air! Finding out Laura works in the wine industry and learning about her knowledge and passion for the wine and spirits trade smashed my idea of what a wine expert should look like out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to stigmatise anyone that works in the industry, but in my past experience the wine experts I have come across tended to be more conservative. Not Laura! she is smart, sassy, bubbling with fresh ideas and, having moved to Southsea at the start of the year, will no doubt make her mark in the local area!
Now she’s a regular writer for Southsea Folk you can enjoy posts about lively upcoming events Laura is organising across Southsea and current booze news and trends, not only in the wine industry but other alcohol sectors as well.
So I caught up with Laura and asked the questions you’ve been wanting to know the answers to…You can also listen to Laura on the new podcast from today!
When did you first get into wine?
Wine and I only became a ‘thing’ after a series of coincidences, rather than a conscious decision…as with all the best things in life! I was a hedonistic, anarchistic metal head growing up, got my first job aged 12, left college twice, married a musician in Vegas and had my eldest son in my late teens. My background was not privileged, my education was incomplete and I had no contacts to give me a leg up. My first significant break came at 21 when I managed to talk my way into a position at the, then, World’s leading wine tours operator with little experience or discipline; just a wild energy and motivation to see the world. All it takes is one person to give you a chance to alter the course of your whole life and I always consider this when hiring for my teams.
What was the first-ever wine you fell in love with?
Like most 90’s kids I grew up on sugar-filled alcopops, lambrini and white lightning; nicked from parents garages or bought by the one kid in the year who could grow a moustache aged 13. We would neck them at the skate ramp for a buzz, but that definitely wasn’t love! I couldn’t name the first wine I fell in love with but if I could only choose one grape variety to drink for the rest of my life it would probably be Riesling. There are so many styles and representations I reckon the variety could serve me well in terms of enough diversity to keep me interested! Nothing compares to tasting a wine on the land where it was grown with the person who made it and the first time I experienced this connection I was hooked. Wine is a humbling, inspiring collaboration between nature and man- a unique snapshot of nature in time- and the awesome magic of this feeds my passion.
You are so young and yet so experienced when it comes to alcohol, What advice would you give to a whippersnapper wanting to get involved in the industry?
Hustle and graft! Hard work, motivation and ambition are everything. I’ve been in the wine industry for 15 years and thank the stars it’s a different beast from when I first entered aged 18. Being such a classical, traditional industry its image has been slow to move with the times. As with all things, evolution is necessary for survival and it makes no sense to alienate consumers with perceived exclusivity or an intimidating image, modern wine drinkers don’t look like ex-public schoolboys! When I entered the trade at 18 it was an uphill battle against ageism, sexism, and elitism. My youth and enthusiasm were often taken advantage of and I realised early on I would consistently have to over-deliver in order to prove myself and be taken seriously. Half a lifetime later my experience and proven results speak for themselves and thankfully those days are behind me. But every challenge is an opportunity in disguise and those years shaped me; my work ethic is second to none, I learned how to thrive in the face of adversity and I know my value. The best advice for life, in general, is to stay authentic to yourself and maintain your integrity.
Give us the low down on current wine trends
The ‘no and low’ trend is booming- the rise in no or low alcohol wines, beers and spirits. Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and thoughtful about what they put into their bodies which is also influencing the popularity of natural, organic and biodynamic wines. These are ideals rather than styles and, although marketeers now utilise the buzz words to drive sales, they actually reflect a more anarchistic ideal- driving against capitalisation and re-educating on traditional, land caring practises and low intervention techniques. They represent authenticity. Wine in a can is also having a moment and I’m stoked! Outdated preconceptions of low quality, historically synonymous with canned or boxed wines, need to be addressed but I’m all about this packaging trend in terms of convenience and minimising environmental impact.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a wine collection?
When you find a bottle you like, buy 3! One for now, one for sharing and one for cellaring. Also, ask the winemaker their intended year of consumption for the style or vintage- it’s their baby and they know it better than anyone! You can usually find this info with a quick google- it’s well worth the effort.
What are you most looking forward to over the next year when it comes to wine?
I specialise in wine tourism and emerging territories and am working with both ancient and modern wine-producing regions whose wines have not yet launched within the UK market. It’s beyond humbling to spearhead a project that can have a tangible positive impact on small producers, and potentially the growth of an entire economy, when it comes to export and tourism. It’s awesome to watch a consumer fall in love with a history and tradition, that hasn’t necessarily appeared on their radar before, through the wine they are tasting. The joy I get from this, when I have personally met the family and walked the land that produced the wine, is everything. Keep an eye on the @southsea_wine_siren Instagram for upcoming events and tastings…there are some seriously exciting grape slaying adventures in the pipeline and I can’t wait to raise a glass with the good people of Southsea!
Find out more about Laura on her website here and look out for blog posts on Southsea Folk
Book tickets to the upcoming event at Hunter-Gatherer on the 7th November which is an evening all about natural wines here
Find about Social Media Here
Feature Photo Credit to Carrie Lavers
By Louise O’Brien