2 minutes with Victoria Sharples
Occupation: Senior Wine Judge/Owner (& Buyer) The Wine Station/Consultant
Lives: Melbourne, Australia
Victoria Sharples, career spans over two decades, having had a myriad of roles in the international wine industry. First and foremost she works as a Senior Wine Judge to the International Wine Challenge (IWC). She owns the well respected wine distribution company, The Wine Station (www.thewinestation.com.au) exporting cool climate Victorian wines to United Kingdom, and importing Spanish and French wines into Australia. Currently she is about to embark on a new challenge as Head of Wine Operations at St John Restaurant Group. Recently Victoria visited me in San Sebastian and we discussed her career over a few glasses of albarino at Zelai Txiti. http://www.restaurantezelaitxiki.com/es/
How many candles were on your last cake?
There was no cake!
What led you to a career in wine?
I was studying for a PhD which drove me to drink, literally! So an interest in wine was initiated and I cut my teeth at the Melbourne Supper Club and cultivated my interest further in London.
Tell us about your career as an Senior Wine Judge and where has it taken you so far?
Over a decade ago I was invited to judge at the International Wine Challenge in London, and from there my career has seen me travelling internationally three times a year to Europe and the UK and throughout Australia. As a Senior Judge I have exposure to a significant range of styles and qualities of wines from hundreds of regions across the globe every year. It offers insight into emerging wine regions as well as providing an invaluable snap shot of vintage style and variations of key regions; whether it is 2014 Bordeaux, 2017 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir or vintage Champagne.
As a judge I am surrounded by some of the world’s leading judges, winemakers, journalists; all the various people that make the European wine industry what it is today. One of my interests and something that I am pursuing closely, which my role as a Judge has shown me, is the breadth of fault assessment of wines. For almost a decade I have been given tremendous insights into the level of faults through the IWC.
Why did you create, The Wine Station, your own wine distribution company, importing and exporting?
Two reasons. Firstly having spent seven years working in the most dynamic wine market in the world in the 2000s, I returned home in the hope of continuing working in the wine industry but I was continuously turned down for roles because although I had a wealth of knowledge, I didn’t have a marketing degree. And secondly, I saw that there was a massive opportunity to bring interesting, smaller producers from Spain and France to Australia. And as they say the rest is history. I continued to grow the business and follow my other passion, Victorian small producers, and The Wine Station has enabled me to support these producers something that is usually missing with larger distribution companies. I love finding new wines and spirits and bringing them into both international and Australian markets.
What do you think the wine world will be talking about next?
Probably the most pressing matters is the affect of climate change on vineyards & varietals planted. BUT If you want to talk more about trends, the popularity of extended skin contact wines, with little or no sulfur. Obviously this is the current trend in both Melbourne and London. But I believe (and hope) there will be a shift back to more traditional styles. We know that some customers will be curious or more likely encouraged by enthusiastic wine staff to try the latest funkiest style; I have seen first hand that the confronting nature of these styles wines results in a downturn in sales, with customers actually just wanting a good glass of wine that they can enjoy rather than something that is a trend & not always particularly delicious. It is easy for wine professionals to become carried away with what’s new and different for different’s sake, rather than the audience for whom they are selecting.
Given the the industry changed since you started? What do you see as the key changes? Give me two.
Price. Simple as that. When I established The Wine Station in 2007, trade customers were willing to pay $20 LUC for a wine to pour by the glass (& charge $15). Now customers are hesitant to spend more than $12 a bottle (& still charge $15 for the glass).
Also, everyone who likes wine thinks they can write a wine list - that it is easy, but actually its more than just about hype and label or using one or two suppliers and letting them direct the list, a good list is about balance and matching the cuisine & occasion & that means tasting the wines with the dishes which sadly does not happen as often as it could.
Here we are at Zelai Txiti, we’ve ordered Lubina (Sea bass), what are you matching it with from your Victorian cool climate wine company?
Great fresh fish! Keeping things local I have selected the Terras Gauda O Rosal. This is also a wine I am proud to have introduced to the Australian market nearly 10 years ago. Looking at a Victorian alternative I would be drinking Anthony Brain’s Livewire Jolt Sauvignon Blanc from Geelong. This is a fume style and has wonderful texture while maintaining lovely brightness. Like many in the trade, I tend to avoid sauvignon blanc but this is just a wonderful, easy delicious wine that brings a smile to my face! Good wines need not be expensive!!
You can follow Victoria on Instagram @thewinestation