Let's Bottle Up the Feels: A Chat with Wine Connoisseur Jeremy Williams

September 6, 2017

We are just a week shy from The Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival and you know what that means? It’s about time to get our wine on!

Not that you need any help increasing your decibel level on excitement, but we recently sat down with Jeremy Williams of Alabama Crown Distributing Company and picked his brain about all things vino.

Here is a toast from an expert in anticipation of the big event!

Tell us a bit about your background in the industry, Jeremy.

I started in the wine industry at the age of 18. I began merchandising for a rather large company here locally. The job kind of landed in my lap. It was great for someone going to school at night for college. I was given my first route at age 20, after only a year and a half on the job. Six months before I was even 21! I worked my way from there to the top of the sales force, leading Mobile and the state of Alabama in sales at times. After 15 years in retail, I switched to the on-premise and fine wine side of the business. I went into management with my current employer, Alabama Crown. Best decision I have made in almost 20 years in this business. I have learned more and grown further because of it. I am level one certified in the court of master sommeliers, as well as holding a ton of knowledge on the brands we sell. I’m learning more everyday with no plans to stop any time soon!

Well, another year of The Wharf Uncorked is upon us. We are ecstatic to have you back pouring at the event. For all the wine festival novices out there, can you highlight anything they need to know to navigate their first experience to the fullest?

The best thing about festivals is you get to branch out and try things you have not before. Start with whites and champagnes. Finish with the reds. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to spit and dump what you taste. You will get to try way more wines this way without killing your senses. After you have tried all the wines you wish too, you can go back and get a sample to enjoy.

What are some “good” wine options for beginners?

Start simple, with what you like. Chard, cab, pinot noir, and pinot grigio. These are common starting points for beginners. Once you learn what you like, begin to look to other regions of the world for the same varietals and branch out from there.

When purchasing wine, what recommendations do you have to keep shoppers from being overwhelmed?

There are tons of values out there once you figure out what your palate is. Finding a good wine shop that understands your palate is key. Price will always matter. Let’s say play a factor. A $10 bottle which is produced in 10 million cases per year will always taste much differently than a $40 bottle wine that only produces 1,000 cases a year. These styles of wine are often handmade and very carefully produced and cared for. The quality and difference will always be clear and evident between the two, but there are also great deals in the $10-$15 price point. Online price is skewed because the price doesn’t include shipping cost which makes the prices appear cheaper, but it is not. In Alabama, local retailers and bottle shops are your best bet for wine. Find one you are comfortable with, that you trust, and that understands your palate. It will be money well spent.

Okay, this may be a tricky one, but can you give us a “Wine-for-Dummies” breakdown of your top tips for testing?

Everyone’s senses are different, so opinions will vary. That’s what makes wine great.

Appearance - First, is the wine white or red? If white, is it bright and youthful? Or dull and murky?

If red, is it dark and jammy, bright, back, thin? These are important because they give you an idea on what the wine will taste like.

Smell - The most common trait! What fruits do you smell? Are they baked, fresh, ripe, jammed, stewed? Flowers? Minerals? Organic – petrol, leaves, leather, tobacco, compost, dirt? Has it seen oak? This is the part of wine that tells a lot about them. It can go as deep or shallow as you want and tell you what to expect in the taste.

Taste - The same as above with the fruits. How is the acidity and tannin? Are there minerals, oak?

Hopefully everyone will print out that cheat sheet and bring it with them to Uncorked! On that topic, can you speak to some of the specific wines you will be pouring or that will be featured at the festival?

We have six different winery reps coming this year. Delicato Family Vineyard, Banfi, Stella Rosa Winery, Palm Bay Importers, Lolea Sangria, and Amber Falls Winery from Tennessee. A host of great wines of all profiles and styles. It’s really hard to pick a few favorites. What I love the most about wine is that it symbolizes the dinner table to me. A point in every home that represents family, supper time, and hearing how your day went. This is something we lack a bit these days, so when I get the chance to put a bottle of wine on your table, I want it to really over-deliver. Wine, like food to me, matters only based on who you share it with. The guest or company is what really makes it all great.

They do say wine brings people together! With that being said, what are your favorite drinking selections?

Wet ones!

All jokes aside, I don’t really have any. It changes based on the time of the year, what we are doing, how I feel sometimes, funny enough. This is also what makes wine great. There are so many wineries, varietals, and styles you will never run short of options. You can always try something new or different!

Make sure to stop by and grab a glass from Jeremy at The Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival next week!

For more information about all the fun, click here.

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