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Jul 12, 2021

Don Kavanagh who joined for "Episode 330: Journalistic Integrity in Wine with Don Kavanagh of Wine-Searcher"  comes back to talk about wine's next wave and Wine-Searcher's controversial article: "Farewell to the 'Cult of the Somm.'"

Don Kavanagh, Editor of Wine-Searcher

To refresh your memory from Ep 330, Don is the editor of Wine-Searcher's journalistic arm. He has spent the past 25 years either working in the wine trade or writing about it, in his native Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. He has a dedication to telling things as they are -- as a true observer of situations rather than a judge, jury, or partisan -- and publishes articles on topics that need to be tackled in the wine industry but that others won't touch because of wine politics. 


In this show Don and I discuss how the wine world is starting to look in a post-pandemic world where a shift towards stay-at-home drinking and more casual dining will likely be lasting trends. We address the (sort of earth-shattering, in our little world) quote from the head of Penfolds, Peter Gago, which was the highlight of the article in Wine-Searcher:

"The pandemic has probably diminished the 'cult of the sommelier'. Recent events may have also subdued their profile/visibility in the US market. Perhaps we're moving towards a new paradigm: less aspirationally rock star - more humility?"

Photo: Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker,

Although he said what most of us in the industry were thinking, his articulation of this sentiment (with a hint of hopefulness) really gives permission to others to stop putting sommeliers on a pedestal. With his proclamation, he effectively has made it ok for restaurants and producers to stop treating these people as influencer gods (as Don and I discuss, beyond their bubbles and their restaurants they don’t actually sell wine so this makes sense!). He has sounded the death knell for sommelier culture. 


James Lawrence, the author of the piece in Wine-Searcher, contacted other heavy hitters in the industry, including respected importer Thierry Thiese in the US, who concurred that the ego and adulation of sommeliers needed to go away. Others in the restaurant world stated that the role of the sommelier needed to change to something more operational and more guest-focused.


I highly recommend reading the article to see the blunt nature of the comments made and how they represent a true shift in the wine world away from truly, ‘the cult of the somm’ as Peter Gago christened it.

Photo credit: Pixabay

As for our conversation, Don and I discuss the role of critics and sommeliers, the future of the wine industry, non-alcoholic beverage trends, and what we both hope will be a better, more wine-drinker friendly world with the wine industry requiring a total reset of the sommelier role, attitude, and ego.


Some heavy topics but Don is devoid of pretense and so very clear-eyed and articulate about the industry, what is happening, and needs to happen. Don is infinitely entertaining and this podcast is bound to delight (unless you're a snobby sommelier and then you'll really hate us).

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