Women Who Inspire – Margaux Burgess
A Conversation about Wine, Education, and What She Does
Women Who Inspire is a new feature for YWIW. We want to talk with the Women in our community who are working hard, doing interesting things, drinking great wine, about the World of Wine. Margaux Burgess inspires us to take another course, visit a new wine region and drink something new.
Tell us about You:
Where do you work, and what is your role? I am the founder of Lingua Vina, a drinks education and marketing consulting business.
Tell us about Lingua Vina. The main focus of Lingua Vina is to increase the education opportunities for on and off premise trade in Alberta. We do this through fostering relationships between producers, regional bodies and the Alberta Model of liquor sales and distribution. We also offer tastings for trade and/or consumers and I do some writing, judging and as much travel to the wine regions of the world as possible!
Where did you start your career? I started working in hotels, Fairmont for eight years give or take and Starwood for about five.
What attracted you to the wine business? It encompasses so many things that I love and am interested in. Hospitality was originally what got me into the industry and now I love that wine can be studied and shared through the lens of history, science, agriculture, travel and food.
What was your first wine roll? In restaurants overseeing the wine-list and assisting with staff education.
What are you working on now that really excites you? I have recently begun working with the Wines of Rioja as they have chosen Alberta as their focus for entry into Canada. We are so lucky here to not be encumbered with a provincial liquor board – i am able to educate about a region such as Rioja and have over 100+ labels in market to share the quality and diversity of a region that is one of my favourites.
Tell Us about Wine Education.
You have many certifications and Diplomas, which do you have?
- WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits
- WSET Level 1 Certificate in Sake
- Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers
- Certified Sherry Educator
- BJCP Certified Mead Judge
- French Wine Scholar
Which was your first wine course? International Sommelier Guild
What motivated you to take your WSET? – Initially it was for preparation for the Master of Wine program, of which I did one year and may or may not go back, but in hindsight I am so glad I took it for the comprehensive and practical knowledge gained through completing the program
What was the hardest part of WSET for you? Tasting Regularly with a group. It really does help your palate develop to taste with a group that can discuss and offer feedback on technique, wines, production methods, age-ability, etc.
Which was your favorite wine course? I really enjoy the Court of Master Sommelier courses. While primarily directed at those working in service roles on the floor there is much to gain from the program even if you are not in a restaurant. The knowledge level is incredibly high, especially once you reach the Advanced and Master Sommelier levels, and it covers all aspects of the drinks business so you learn wine, sake, beer, spirits – everything. The community of students and educators built around the program is really passionate and welcoming and a great help at all steps along the way.
Why Sherry? I visited the Jerez region as I didn’t fully understand all the complexities inherent in Sherry and its production, and absolutely fell in love. With the country, the region, the people, the food, the wine – all of it. It is truly a unique place with one of the most interesting, complex and diverse wines in the world.
Why Mead? I got into mead because of Alberta really – we have some of the best honey in the world in Alberta and produce a large amount of Canada’s honey. Alberta honey is known for its quality. So I was intrigued with this beverage that is as local as it gets – honey, water and yeast. That’s it. There are also a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings around mead – no it isn’t all sweet – so I always like to introduce people to it as something
Why Sake? Originally because it is just so delicious. I drink a lot of sake J but as I learned more about the history of the beverage I fell in love with the history of the industry. Also, it really is so much like wine in how to taste and enjoy sake. It is extremely food friendly and diverse. Plus the production variable directly contribute to the final product. Things like what rice is used, the hardness of the water, how it is filtered, the climate of the region – all of these things (and a lot more) play a role in what is in your glass
Where is your favorite place to study? Oooh I am not a very good studier – I need stuff happening around me so in a lounge, hotel lobby or something like that. Somewhere I can people watch at the same time. If I am at home then with some noise in the background
There are many courses currently available to wine professionals, where would you recommend someone interested start? I think it makes sense for people to take courses that are sanctioned in some way. It is great to take a one-off course for interest or to get your feel wet but if you want to work in the wine industry then you should be taking classes with a network of instructors and students as well as a community built around them. For those on-premise the Court of Master Sommeliers is the best path and for those more interested in the business of wine then the WSET classes. IF you don’t want to follow that path the Wine Scholar Guild offer many courses that are specifically about certain regions and they have a worldwide network of happy students and helpful instructors. That being said it is so important to meet the producers and people who work directly with the product. Go to tastings, ask questions, talk to the people who live it. It makes such a difference in holistically understanding the wine, wineries and the business of wine. We are lucky that we do get producers in Alberta so it is important to make the effort to talk with them and taste with them when the opportunity arises.
What is your advice for women interested in a career in the wine industry? Take advantage of every opportunity. Wine is truly a Global industry – you can not be truly educated in the business if you do not have a global and comprehensive view of how it works. You never know where an opportunity will lead you or how one meeting will send you on a path to something new.
Who is a women role model, inspiration for you? There is still a bit of a lop-sided amount of women in c-suite and production roles, so all that are leading the way in viticulture, enology and ownership are inspiring.
What wine book/publication do you refer to the most? The GuildSomm website is by far the best resource for education and ensuring you have up to date and correct information. I like Instagram for seeing what people and drinking, what regions look like and is it worth a visit and who is visiting where.
Do you have a favorite style of wine? Classic, finished product that is not manipulated. Ie no re-ferment etc in bottle. Unless it is supposed to.
Do you have a favourite grape? Chardonnay! A true vector of person and/or place. Yes there is a lot of crap Chardonnay but there is a lot of crap wine of any variety. I fall strongly into the Chardonnay as most noble white camp.
What is your desert Island wine? Yattarna Chardonnay – especially the more recent vintages that have mostly or all Tasmanian fruit. I just want to drink it all lol
Tell us about your Travels:
What is your favourite wine region to travel in? Oh this is like choosing a favourite child. The Sherry Triangle and Rutherglen in Australia.
Why? Both have delicious wines of multiple styles, are wholly unique and are key to the wine history of their respective countries. Oh and the food. This will be controversial but Rutherglen has the best (meat) pies in Oz.
What was your most memorable winery experience? – Bodegas La Gitana in Sanlucar de Barrameda with 80 year old amontillado and a March day in Rutherglen – 44 degrees and open-top cement fermenters bubbling away.
What region do you want to visit that you haven’t? Margaret River
Where are you off to next? Beaune for Les Grands Jours des Bourgogne and Prowein in Dusseldorf.
Update – Margaux’s article How to Pair Wine with Junk Food in Avenue Magazine ( March 1, 2017) has just been nominated for an Alberta Magazine Award. I think we’ll have to celebrate with tasting of her pairings. Congratulations Margaux!
We really Thank Margaux for taking the time to share her thoughts, and pictures with us!
Is there a women who inspires you? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, we want to hear from you!
~Yours in Wine, Sasha