Each wine has its own history. Each bottle has a connection to the place of its origin through terroir, that sense memory of the soil and the weather, from whence the grapes sprung.
by: Kevin Stanton
photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger
Vintners will tell you that anybody can make a good wine from excellent grapes, but the true mark of a wine-maker is a good bottle of wine from a less than excellent vintage. you might not think about it while you are enjoying a glass on your back porch, but everything before that moment had to go just right. I sat down with Alanna Lucas of Nantucket Wine & Spirits, had a glass of wine, or two, and talked about the challenges of running a wine shop.
What got you into wine?
“I grew up in the wine business. between the wine shop and my father Chick Walsh owning 21 Federal, i was kind of born into it.”
Lucas left Nantucket to pursue a career in wine in san Francisco. she started working in a wine shop and later moved on to the distribution side of things. she never expected to move home to Nantucket.
“i started working for a distributer in san Francisco.i met with wine-makers and wrote copy for ad campaigns, but after a while i got tired of sitting at a desk. i missed talking to people about wine. i missed educating people on new wines i’ve tried. i got tired of only dealing with wine from my portfolio.”
How difficult is it to decode what people are looking for, especially those of us who know what we like, but do not have the vocabulary yet to describe it?
“The most difficult thing is, the more you know about wine, the more people get intimidated by you.
I always make a point of having wine on hand that people already know about, but the goal is always to steer someone into something new. Developing that trust takes a little bit of time, but when i get a customer who lets me take the lead, that’s the fun part.”
Part of your job is to curate the wine at your shop. in a sea of rosé, How do you choose?
“Each year i start from scratch. last year’s notes are irrelevant. i always want to re-taste vintages to make sure they are correct. i want to make sure there are some friendly price points and a good selection of French rosé. When wine reps come in asking me what i am looking for, my answer is everything. i don’t really want the same stuff i had last year because there is so much out there. i am looking for a good variety. out of the 25-30 wines i have tried so far, i have only committed to two.”
i have been to a couple of winetastings and each time i feel like everyone in the room knew more than me. People start smelling and swirling wine and all of a sudden everyone is an expert. What kind of advice do you give to people who are new to wine-tastings?
“Wine is subjective. Don’t get hung up on what kind of descriptors you think you are supposed to use. it helps to have someone with you to work through it together. The best way to learn about wine is to drink it. try as much as you can and learn each time you try something new.”
What have you been drinking lately?
“I have been drinking a lot of bubbles recently, Crémant de bourgogne and lambrusco.
We don’t have a high demand for lambrusco, but i’d like to see that change. bubbles are festive and make your palate come alive, and they pair great with food.”
Last question: speaking of food, with Daffodil Weekend coming up, what would you bring to a picnic?
“Definitely some meats and cheeses. i’d probably bring some coppa (italian cured meat from the neck of the pig) and prosciutto, a little Manchego, maybe some hard goat cheese. My husband got me a meat slicer one year. At first i thought, ‘What am i gonna do with this?’ but i have to say it’s been a nice addition to the kitchen. As for wine, i’d bring a nice sancerre, Crémant de bourgogne, and some lambrusco. Is that too much?”
Kevin Stanton is an artist and graduate of MassArt, living and working on Nantucket. A bartender in Boston, before he moved back to the island, he will be writing the Drink column for Nantucket Today.