Joanie Metivier has fast become one of the most influential wine writers in Canada. A sommelier specialising in wine and whisky, her blog and social channels are widely followed by imbibers interested in her research and recommendations. She tells us how curiosity is the key to success for any wine and spirits professional or enthusiast.
How did your journey into wine begin?
I studied many different fields before getting into wine. I’ll admit, I was still quite young and looking for what was going to be my path. I think I might have been trying to stay rational so wine, which seemed to be more of a hobby at the time, didn’t even cross my mind as a career. Yet, as I gathered some basic knowledge it quickly became a growing passion. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself procrastinating my regular studies at the time just to check out wine maps or look up a specific producer that I had heard about. The journey of discovering the wine world took so much space in my life that I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I had to pursue this fervour.
As holder of the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines, why did you decide to study formal wine qualifications and how have they helped you with your career?
It simply seemed right. I know in the industry everyone has a unique story to share and its one of the main reasons the community is so inspiring. There are many ways to become successful, with or without formal studies. However, I understand today that passing formal wine qualifications does really help to connect you with people in the industry. It helped me greatly in understanding and interacting with many people in the industry from sommeliers to agents and even other writers.
My WSET training gave me the basis needed not only to understand the wine world and develop my palate but also gain a good approach to share and describe it to others in a very enticing way. I like to share my knowledge and help others to learn. I’m actually working on a new book to help future wine enthusiasts complete their sommelier accreditation whichever path they chose ("How to pass your sommelier exam"). It should be released soon.
The journey of discovering the wine world took so much space in my life that I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I had to pursue this fervour.
You were the first woman in Quebec to acquire the Whisky Ambassador title. Why do you think it is important for sommeliers to expand their knowledge beyond wine?
For me, it was out of curiosity. I did enjoy the bond between complexity and refinement that comes from a nice dram and was eager to get a precise understanding. It was Whisky but it could’ve been anything else that struck my attention. I believe curiosity is one of the major tools for a sommelier, an important character trait that is of the upmost necessity. The world of wine; which truly isn’t limited to wine at all; is forever evolving and in constant progress. Curiosity, along with an open mind is the backbone of any good, fair sommelier.
Why did you decide to start your blog and how do you make sure to create content that engages such a wide following?
The blog (joaniemetivier.com) was just a wild idea. I like to write, I’ve always felt perfectly confortable expressing myself on paper. By nature, even before the blog, I would take pictures to put on my Instagram page (@joaniemetivier) and document every wine that I had the chance to taste. It was my partner’s idea to start the blog from these. It was supposed to be personal at first, but we noticed activity and engagement we didn’t expect at first. It was the push I needed to get serious about writing.
I’m a big researcher. I could spend hours looking online for specific data or any way to understand better. I started to write, in a simpler form, the results of that research. Every time I thought there was missing information or confusing ideas surrounding a subject, I would make it my next subject. I just want to write things that I would read myself. If I would, then maybe someone else will.
What is your view of the Canadian wine consumer?
Canadian wine consumers are very different than anywhere else because it’s just so easy here. In Quebec, we have the SAQ monopoly and there’s a similar one in Ontario, the LCBO. Regular consumers have access to a huge amount of wines from everywhere in the world at the tip of their fingers. They don’t necessarily need to know anything about wine as they just have so many recommendations already. However, we still notice a trend towards a genuine and candid curiosity.
Consumers are becoming aware of their ability to have access to pretty much all of the greatest wines in the world, often at competitive prices, and they want to make the most of it. Wine tasting itself, as a social behaviour or activity, is in rising popularity with a burst of inquisitiveness and open-mindedness. As a result, we see upcoming regions becoming popular; more established ones seeing diminished sales, and ridiculously important trend peaks.