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Unreserved Wine Talk

237 EpisodesProduced by Natalie MacLeanWebsite

The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast features candid conversations with the most fascinating people in the wine world. Your host, award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean, dives into how it feels to compete in the nerve-wracking World's Best Sommelier Competition, the shadowy underground of wine forgery… read more


107: Wine Tasting and Pairing Tips from Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner

Is being a sommelier as glamourous as it seems? Why is it sometimes difficult to differentiate between certain New and Old World wines? How does terroir play a key role in a blind tasting? What's it like being in a sommelier competition?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I'm chatting with Bruce Wallner, Master Sommelier at Sommelier Factory.

You can find the wines we discussed at


  • What un-glamourous truth might you be surprised to learn about being a sommelier?
  • What intangible joy can you get from being a sommelier?
  • How should you view the role of a sommelier?
  • Which areas would you see assessed in the Best Sommelier in Canada competition?
  • How do you train for a sommelier competition?
  • Why would you do a blind tasting?
  • Is there a reasonable explanation why you might confuse certain regions in a blind tasting?
  • Why should you pay close attention to terroir?
  • What parallels can you find between the Quebec Best Sommelier competition and The Karate Kid?
  • What underlying principle should you keep in mind when you're pairing food and wine?
  • What does grenache add to your wine tasting experience?
  • What tasting profile will you encounter with 2009 Clos De Caveau Fruit Sauvage?
  • How can you match 2009 Clos De Caveau Fruit Sauvage with food?
  • How did Bruce go from bartending to becoming a sommelier?


Key Takeaways
  • Bruce defines a sommelier as being the one step between the person who makes the wine and the person who drinks it.
  • Bruce takes a professional approach to training for the competition that includes mental conditioning as well as abstaining from wine the day before so that his palate is at peak perception for tasting during the event. I’m going to see if I can detect if my own palate perception is more acute when I’ve not had wine for a day. That does happen once in a while!
  • The blind tasting component of the sommelier competition is more about describing the wine and its elements rather than nailing the exact name and vintage of the wine. The latter is a meaningless party trick like trying to balance a spoon on your nose.




To learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode, visit the

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