interview with Dan Sims

Dan Sims is a passionate advocate for making wine accessible to, and enjoyable for everyone. A wine educator, promoter and commentator, he’s on a mission to take the snobbery out of wine, and spend a few minutes in his company and you’ll not only have a few belly laughs, but be struck by his authenticity and genuine love for wine – especially Pinot.

His achievements in the industry range from winning the inaugural The Age Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year Award, to creating his own wines, to running large scale industry events, and we’re so lucky to have had his support and guidance in curating Edwin’s food and wine lists.

We sat down to have a chat with Dan to get his take on all things food and wine.

The first sentence of your online profile reads: “Dan Sims is a wino,” and you established Bottle Shop Concepts (now REVEL Global) which is affectionately known as BS Concepts. Is it safe to assume that your approach to wine and wine education is a little less stuffy from the norm?

YES. This was the first name of my business and we adhered to the concept, quite literally. We live to create remarkable experiences that people love and learn from. It’s not about dumbing wine down, our philosophy is more about making wine accessible and empowering people.

My favourite way of explaining it is that I don’t need a degree in art to go to a gallery and appreciate art. I don’t need to be a barista to enjoy coffee. Why on earth do I need to be a master of wine to enjoy wine? Wine is part of my life and should integrate into everyday life.

What do you think it is about wine that some people find a little overwhelming, and how do you see the role of the sommelier in simplifying the world of wine?

I think people find ‘wine people’ overwhelming – not wine. Wine in and of itself is not intimidating, it’s a delicious beverage. It’s how people are made to FEEL by other people that make it intimidating. It’s a delicious beverage that has been around thousands of years.

The sommelier’s role is to help people navigate their way through. That’s what good sommeliers do – they listen to what people are saying and help guide them through. They should listen to the style of wine the person likes, and find them a wine within that style. They should never push their own agenda. Their job is to find a wine that the person would like and enjoy and match it to their budget and meal within 60 seconds.

In your work with Edwin Wine Bar, you were tasked with selecting the best of Victoria’s specialty wines. Many of our readers might not be aware that Victoria has such a diverse

range of quality wines available – can you tell us a little bit about what we’re missing out on when we stick to say, a New Zealand Sav Blanc? There are 21 regions for a start. Victoria is – hand on heart – one of the most exciting and diverse wine growing areas in Australia.

It’s the home of the small, boutique wine producer. You can pretty much get whatever style of wine you want in Victoria.

There are a few wines on the list at Edwin that we’ve never seen before. How important is the role of the sommelier in encouraging customers to try new wines? It all comes back to a question of exploration. That’s really it. Go on a journey and you’ll find wines you don’t know, and that is okay – we ‘ve done the hard work for you. The list we’ve curated is a snapshot of the quality, diversity and personality of Victorian wine right now.

What is your favourite of the “less familiar” wines on Edwin’s list? The pennyweight wine is unbelievably good. It’s fantastic.

How important is it for venues to support the growers and producers of their local region? Hugely important. Melbourne is an international city, absolutely. However, we have literally within an hour of the CBD 6 – 8 wine regions which is phenomenal. We’re very lucky to live where we do so we should champion and encourage that.

When it comes to food, what is your philosophy on menu pairing, and how have you brought this to Edwin? There are always exceptions to the rules but as a general rule, it’s very simple. Lighter flavour food goes with lighter flavour wine, regardless of red or white. Match weight with weight. As a general rule, most menus are laid out lighter dishes to fuller.

The Edwin wine list follows suit, laid out from lighter flavoured wine to fuller flavour wine.

Do you have a favourite “unsung hero” variety of wine? I don’t know about unsung but I bloody love pinot noir. I always like to try a wine that’s outside what I call the “big three” white and reds. Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon for the whites and Pinot, Cabernet and Shiraz for the reds. Anything else in between, I would recommend.

If you could go on a trip anywhere in the world, exclusively for the food and wine, where would you go?

Piedmont in Italy is gastronomic heaven. That would be my favourite, however closer to home, I wholeheartedly encourage people to visit Gippsland.

What is your favourite food and wine combination? Pinot Noir and Duck

If I want to impress on a first date, can you give me some tips on how to pretend to be a wine connoisseur? Just buy pinot!

If you could only drink two varieties of wine for the rest of your days, what would you choose? Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.