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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Conscious cuisine: Husband-and-wife master sommeliers on how climate change affects wine

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They also discuss how the pandemic has shaken up the industry.

Listen to the episode

This week’s guests are a rare breed. Exactly how rare?

“We’re the third master sommelier couple in the world,” says Andrew McNamara, of his marriage to Emily Pickral.

Master Sommelier is the highest distinction a wine professional can have. Only 172 Americans have earned the diploma—144 men and 28 women.

Andy and Emily have been married for two years. The Tampa couple met through the wine industry, where they’ve both worked for decades. Emily runs the national field marketing team for Jackson Family Wines. Andy, a former stock broker, is president and partner of ACE Wine and Spirits, which is a distributor and importer of family-based wineries.

With Earth Day approaching, Andy and Emily met up with Dalia Colón at Cru Cellars in South Tampa to discuss how climate change is affecting their industry.

“It’s on top of mind for everyone,” Emily says, noting that recent California wildfires have impacted wine production and quality. This disruption has caused consumers to turn to unexpected places. For instance, sparkling wine from Southern England is becoming popular.

The pandemic has also shaken up the industry.

“We talk about the supply chain and all of that,” Andy says. “To me, it’s worse than what they tell us on the news.” For instance, sometimes there’s wine but no glass to bottle it. The pandemic also shook up the various types of wine sales.

“The wine industry in the height of the pandemic saw in hardcore lockdown saw an incredbible boom in retail wine purchases—and a drastic decline in on-premise or restaurant wine purchases,” Emily notes. “So that’s just obvious and makes common sense.”

As life slowly returns to normal, retail sales are declining and on-premise sales are increasing. But not everything has returned to the status quo. Customers are buying wines with higher price points, willing to spend more for higher-quality, sustainably produced wines. And Millennials, who were the first generation to grow up seeing their parents drinking wine more often than whisky or beer, are adventurous consumers.

“They’re more open to wine,” Andy says. “There’s nothing that’s particularly scary about it.”

Andy and Emily are, of course, open to wine. In our conversation, they also discuss their personal wine collection, favorite Tampa Bay restaurants for wine and advice for aspiring sommeliers.

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