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Chasing the Ultramarathon of Wine: Anna Spooner


Diving into the diverse and dynamic responsibilities of a wine communicator, from international clients to virtual tastings, DipWSET, and the French lifestyle.

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Could you please introduce yourself to the audience, and describe your wine journey so far? 

I'm Anna Spooner, DipWSET and Master of Wine Stage 2 Student. I began learning about wine about 10 years ago when I was working in food and drink Public Relations. I decided that I wanted to make it my full career so began taking it seriously, picked up some work as a wine writer (freelance) then eventually as an educator and communicator in the UK. I now live in southern France and work as a wine consultant, communicator, writer, educator and tastings host. 

What is the day-to-day job of a wine communicator? 

It really varies from day to day. I currently have two major clients (one in the UK and one in France) as well as working on my own projects including hosting wine tastings in the Rhone where I live or on Zoom for clients around the world. One day I could be preparing a tasting for a group at their holiday rental, the next day writing an article for a British Magazine. 

What is a common wine mistake you come across in your tastings and how do you bust those myths? 

I think when people host tastings/try to talk about wine they assume the audience will find it fun to shout out what they smell or taste in their glass. I am not sure that it's very productive to encourage people to shout out; most people are intimidated by that and it can be an easy way to put people off. I spent many of the early years in my career thinking I wasn't good enough. And in fact, I still do. We should be empowering people to enjoy the experience of wine tasting - not terrifying them for 'getting it wrong'. 

How did the DipWSET change your knowledge, experience, and confidence in your career? 

DipWSET was a very important part of my journey. I put myself through Levels 2 and 3 on intensive short courses and it felt a little bit like a box-ticking exercise. I knew I could study hard and pass without too much critical thinking. Level 4 finally felt like I needed to truly stretch myself. It felt very challenging at times but that challenge was also rewarding. Not only that, the intensity and the length of the study meant that I met some great people I still stay in touch with. 

What do you hope to achieve on completing the Master of Wine title? 

I think I was craving that educational fix I got in Diploma. I don't think it's the title that motivates me (although of course that would be lovely!) it's the sense that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I'm not a particularly sporty person, so I often look at people who do ultramarathons and think "why?!" but the MW is the ultramarathon of the wine world and that's really exciting to me. 

What are some of the challenges you face in hosting virtual wine events? 

Virtual events have come to define my career over the past couple of years. Last night, I hosted an event for a group of 30 in a village hall in the UK. Would it have been better to have me present, physically in the hall, probably yes. The sense of community would have been greater and I suspect people would have enjoyed a more interactive experience. However their tasting group is usually 60, and so 50% were unable attend. Recording the session has meant the whole group can enjoy the talk, even at a later date. So that's a huge plus. 

Could you narrate one of the most interesting interviews/interactions you've seen in your 5 years with The Wine Society?

I think interviewing the journalists Hugh Johnson OBE and Andrew Jefford. I consider them to be two of the greatest wine communicators that have ever lived and I am incredibly privileged to be able to sit down with them and encourage them to talk candidly on camera with me - even if I've not met either of them face-to-face. The joys of Zoom. 

Why is France the best place for you to execute your current job? 

Now that I am freelance with multiple clients, there is no better or worse place for me to do my job. The move to the Southern Rhone was a combination of lifestyle (sunshine and good food and wine) but also a desire to have my finger a little more on the pulse. I wake up every morning to the view of vines and see them changing with the seasons, see the farmers tending them and feel completely at one with my subject. Drinking and appreciating wine is one thing, understanding where it came from is quite another. 

I noticed you still run your blog and write about wine very often. What is the purpose, and what role does this play in your career?

I've started the blog to have a bit of an outlet for my thoughts and to hopefully encourage some more writing commissions. I am lucky to have been the runner up on the Jancis Robinson Writing Competition in 2022, I've been shortlisted for 2023 (winners not yet announced) and recently been published in the Financial Times. That being said, I don't promote myself very well and I don't think that Social Media in the sense of Instagram, Facebook etc. is the right medium to promote the writing I enjoy.  

What are the top 3 things on your career bucket list?

Naturally I would love to finish the Master of Wine - that's the focus at the moment. I think at some point I would like to write a book too but I'm in no rush at the moment. And then I think overall I would just like to feel confident that I am making an impact and helping people on their wine journey - wherever the starting point is.

Interviewed and written by Stuti Khetan, Beverage Trade Network

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