Is there anything more irritating than listening to some pretentious git rattling on and on about the delicate aroma of Congolese yak fur and hints of rare Arctic chestnut in their pinot noir? The fact that there’s little science to back up any of the so-called “expertise” of wine tasting (don’t remind the French of their epic embarrassment in 1976 when a — gasp — California wine won a blind tasting) and most winemakers simply want people to drink, and enjoy, their wines is irrelevant. Nonetheless, different grapes do have different tastes, and each of us has our preferences. There’s nothing wrong with a little basic knowledge.
The best way to do that is to travel to Tuscany, or Bordeaux, or Mendoza and taste for yourself, tricky with 10 leave days each year. So sommelier Kevin Davy has created the solution. Sommelier At Home organises wine tasting parties in the comfort of your home, turning your living room into the most enjoyable classroom ever. SAH does all the work (food, service and clean-up) and brings all the wine (decanters and stemware). All you need to do is invite some friends. Davy wants the events to be engaging, entertaining, casual and above all informative. Parties are one to three hours long and all you need to do is tell SAH what you want.
Provence native Davy first caught the teaching bug in Paris, and worked as an instructor at Ecole du Vin Bio. After a stint with Chateau Margeaux brand ambassador Thibault Pontallier in Hong Kong, he launched SAH in 2014. Simply put, Davy wanted to come up with a more personalised way to teach people about wine. A mentor in Paris was already doing something similar, so the two put their heads together and came up with the concept. “It was a great time, the concept was really popular and Parisians loved it, I knew I wouldn’t stop there,” recalls Davy. “After a year in Hong Kong, seeing that the wine market was ready I decided to launch the concept with my passion.” Unlike a restaurant, where guests rarely see the sommelier, SAH parties get their undivided attention. A relaxed environment is also conducive to “learning.” “When you are in the comfort of your own home surrounded by friends or family members you are naturally relaxed so you can get the most out of the session.”
Davy’s clientele so far are, unsurprisingly, finance professionals, small business owners and senior management. Most are well travelled but want to take their basic wine knowledge up notch without committing too much time to a more conventional wine school; a certificate isn’t the end goal. Tastings can be done in French, English, Cantonese and Mandarin, through an interpreter. There’s also a rentable space — the Wine Lab in Aberdeen — if your home is too small.
But it’s the private functions that are most fun. The million-dollar question of course is what anyone can possibly learn in a couple of hours. Davy’s chatty nature helps with that. “I believe what makes my tasting sessions interesting compared to a wine school or wine books is that I love to tell stories you wouldn’t learn from academics,” he says. He likes to pepper his lessons with anecdotes from winemakers and other sommeliers he’s picked up in his travels. And then there’s the customised nature of the events. Groups that are heavy on beginners get the Wine 101 rundown, more advanced tipplers get a deep dive into one region or grape for example. Most crucially, “They’ll be really engaged and there will be a lot of discussions and idea exchanges taking place,” he says. “This way everyone learns a lot and it’s really interesting for me as well.”
For the record, Davy himself is a fan of Rhone Valley wines, in particular Clos des Grives Crozes Hermitage by Laurent Combier, which he calls simply “unique.” No word on whether it has any essence of Congolese yak fur.