Get to Know Julie, Bright Cellars’ Wine Educator
Wine means something different for everyone. For Wine Educator Julie Albin, it’s a way to continue learning and exploring her passion, day after day. Delve further into the magic of wine, as told by Julie herself!
Choosing a Life of Wine
It all began with Merlot. Okay, technically, it was a Carménère from Chile where this variety was mistakenly thought to be Merlot until the mid-1990s. But that’s a story for another time. Anywho, unlike the watery lager my father once let me try a sip of and my bitter facial expression that followed, to my surprise, I didn’t hate this wine. The taste, the texture, the lingering flavors – they were as foreign to me as they were fascinating. As a pre-teen, I never could have imagined how much this fascination would later find its way into my life. I’ve now been working in the wine industry for about a dozen years and there is still so much left to discover.
How Did I Get Here?
While working in wine sounds romantic – don’t get me wrong, it is – the truth is carving out a successful career in this industry doesn’t typically happen by accident and can be far from sequential. It requires commitment, an open mind, and unwavering tenacity when facing the challenges and sacrifices that may come with transitioning into the world of wine.
My journey began with education. I was a marketing manager in the landscape industry when I started spending my nights and weekends studying through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Once I earned my Level 3 qualification I quit my job and went abroad to wine regions in South Africa, France and Italy. I returned to LA a few months later and sent my resume out to over 100 companies in the Bay Area and Napa. I received a hard ‘no’ from nearly all of them. But I refused to give up and I did finally get the ‘yes’ I was hoping for. So I packed whatever possessions I could fit into my car, said goodbye to LA, and started a new life in San Francisco.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how green I was. You see, the thing about wine is that with so many renowned experts and personalities it’s easy to feel inadequate. I was in constant competition with myself and felt I needed to become the best. While working two jobs I continued my education by earning my Level 4 Diploma through WSET. These years consisted of even more lonesome nights and weekends in front of my computer swirling sticky wine glasses. And it was all worth it.
I appreciate those early years of limitless energy and drive that helped me pursue this dream of mine. Throughout my career, I have worked in various sides of the industry from PR and marketing to distribution sales, hospitality to judging in wine competitions, and as a journalist for wine and lifestyle publications. But it always came back to education, which is why I continued my own studies by traveling to different wine regions in Europe, Australia, South America, Georgia, and here in the US. The more I learned the more I wanted to help others advance their own careers. So I became a WSET Certified Educator and went on to train fellow alumni to become Certified Educators themselves.
What Makes Wine So Special?
Fair question. For starters, nothing beats a glass of wine to end a busy day (change my mind). But even more than a delectable liquid providing Insta-worthy moments, wine is a freakin’ science. In fact, it’s many sciences.
If, like me, you’re enamoured by the vast complexity of the cosmos then you’ve found a good home in wine. Viticulture, like other ancient agricultural practices, is highly influenced by everything from terrestrial features to the stars above. An excellent example being biodynamic farming which focuses on a holistic and ecological approach to viticulture and winemaking. These practices incorporate the lunar cycle and the four classic elements – earth, fire, air, and water – with tasks designated to specific days based on astrological principles. As someone who practices Tarot and studies astrology, I love this. More on biodynamic wine.
And it’s no less interesting here on earth. Geology also plays a big part – not only in the chemical composition of minerals but in how it has shaped the history of our planet. Without which, Burgundian limestone and Sicilian volcanic soil might not have quite the impact we adore in these wines. Then there’s climate, a key source of stress to winemakers the world over. Whether it’s the high variability of continental climates or the less distinguishable seasons of maritime climates, winegrowing regions face a unique set of challenges year after year. Add climate change into the mix and now we’re really talking.
Tropospheric conditions aside, there is also the human element. The term terroir is often used to depict environmental factors, but this is a shortsided viewpoint. It’s also the people tending the vineyards and in the wineries with their immeasurable intuition that creates such magic in the bottle. It’s about culture and its blending of tradition and modernity. And don’t forget food – I have yet to meet one winemaker who isn’t delighted to tell me their favorite dishes to pair the local wines with. Sharing these experiences with others is what makes wine like no other.
Reaping The Benefits
There are some obvious benefits to working with wine. Beyond those, the best part is introducing people to new wines and giving them the confidence to discover their own palate. The more you experience wines the more your palate evolves, especially in the early stages of your journey. A wine that was ‘egh’ can become your favorite style once you come to understand it. Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t like Champagne. Absurd, right? It wasn’t until those years of studying when I was forced to learn about the category that it slowly grew on me. Now I absolutely love and can’t get enough of these bubbly treasures.
In the end, knowing wine is truly tasting wine. So get out there and get sipping!
Bright Cellars Wine Educator