Let’s be honest — if being a professional wine drinker was a normal job, it’s more than likely a few of us would quit our day jobs and apply for that immediately. And while most people’s love for wine stops at enjoying a glass at dinner, splitting a bottle with your boo or adding to a modest wine rack collection, Jessica Altieri, the CEO and founder of Wine Channel TV Digital Network, turned it into a full-time gig. It sounded too good to be true, so we caught up with Jessica to hear what it’s like to be considered a wine pro, what trends we can look out for and what it takes to be a #girlboss in the digital space.
B+C: So. Let’s just clear the air. You’re a professional wine drinker. Yes or no?
JA: I prefer to call it “wine sensory and taste researcher.” So, yes. AKA… professional wine drinker. I’m a level-two certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, a California Wine Appellation Specialist, Professional Wine Judge, author, speaker and CEO/Publisher of the Wine Channel TV Digital Network.
I have appeared on ABC, WGN, CNBC and ESPN Radio, also online with AOL, BRAVO and Michigan Avenue Magazine, spreading the message that “Wine Is Just a Conversation Waiting to Happen.” My book, Kiss My Glass: Jess Altieri’s “NO-BS” Wine Buying Guide is available online through Amazon and in select Walgreens Flagship stores throughout the US.
Through my travels to New Zealand, France, Italy, Austria, Oregon, Washington and California, I have worked with over 100 wineries and wine lifestyle brands. And as a professional wine judge, I’ve participated in prestigious competitions, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (third year), the International Women’s Wine Competition and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. And, I am a graduate of New York University with a degree in broadcast journalism.
B+C: Can you expand a little bit on Wine Channel TV Digital Network? What type of programming does it produce and what makes it unique?
JA: We create original wine lifestyle content, called “edutainment,” the perfect blend of education and entertainment, which is focused on wine lifestyle instead of just wine. As the CEO and publisher of the Wine Channel TV Digital Network, I lead the charge to change the way consumers experience wine through our ability to reach and engage millennials with social media and video campaigns. From sports to fashion to music, wine is a currency to convey conversations around the world. We’ve grown to become the world’s fastest growing digital wine lifestyle network and collaborate with leading brands, trade associations and lifestyle companies around the globe.
B+C: Your book, Kiss My Glass, is a no-BS guide to buying wine. Can you share your top three tips for purchasing a great bottle of wine?
- Don’t be afraid to ask your wine buyer for recommendations; they may have a winning new wine they just got in. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can try a sample!
- More and more wine buyers are offering tastings; take advantage and see if you really like what you’re about to buy.
- Location, location, location — if you’re headed to an Italian dinner, think Italian wine. Going to a fancy French restaurant, stick to a great French wine. Always think location if you’re in doubt of what to get, and you won’t go wrong.
B+C: What should wine lovers on a budget look for in a good bottle of grapes?
JA: When on a budget, make the time to get to know your local wine shop owners. They can steer you toward great new varietals you may not have tried and offer up some tastes to whet your palate.
B+C: You often travel to judge wine competitions. Which city do you think takes the crown for best wine?
JA: I judge thousands of wines in a competition. At the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition of American wines, we judged over 7,000 wines! The city where that takes place, Cloverdale, California, could rank right up there for one week each year.
B+C: What trends in wine are you seeing for the later half of 2016 and into the New Year?
- More amazing wine-by-the-glass options. Thank you, Coravin…
- Advanced wine apps and new technology to help you keep learning about new wine regions and track your favorites.
- Millennials, who are the biggest consumers of wine at the moment, are all about experimenting with new varietals, so tons of room for growth from producers around the globe.
B+C: Have to ask — you only get to drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it (and why!)?
JA: My tagline, which appears at a wine bar in Disney in California, is “wine is just a conversation waiting to happen.” So my answer depends on where I’m at and who I’m having a conversation with; however, that being said, I am partial to a big, bold Barolo in Italy.
B+C: Fair enough. Let’s pretend wine isn’t an option. What are you drinking? Water? Beer? Diet Coke?
JA: Green tea, iced or hot!
B+C: What’s the toughest thing about being a trailblazer in the wine industry?
JA: You need to take a daily dose of courage and adopt a “smash the wall down” attitude. It’s a male-dominated industry. I’m wine smart, tech savvy and I pilot a digital wine rocket-ship that is fueled by new apps and technology every day. There’s little room to walk and talk softly. It’s jump in…. take some shots…. get up and keep going. No time to reflect. Women should and are taking on more leadership roles and starting their own wine-related businesses, like I have, and people are paying attention. This is a great time to get into the wine industry.
B+C: What’s your best piece of advice for your fellow #GirlBosses out there?
JA: Perfect is the enemy. Don’t try to be flawless at everything you do, just make a plan and get going. Then you can always adjust things as you go. The hardest part is starting.
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(Photos via Jessica Altieri)