We like Sam Payne. A lot. Aside from being a bit of a wine legend, she’s been part of the Pinot Palooza movement pretty much since day one.
You may have seen her hanging out at the BURG BAR in previous years, and if you’ve been lucky enough, jumped on one of her SOMM ROADIE TOURS where she’s taken you on a personal tour of the wines on tasting.
As we get ready to kick off the Pinot Palooza Tour in PERTH next week (29 July), we thought we’d grab her for a quick chat on all things Pinot, how to best navigate the room and, of course, get her to do a Pinot Playlist for us, featuring her favourite tunes to Pinot to (called SEX, DRUGS & PINOT NOIR no doubt!).
Where does she Pinot? Everywhere, it seems…
Make sure you follow her wine exploits via @sl_payne
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m sitting on my yacht, drinking Champagne as my butler Frederick feeds me caviar… pfffft. Yeah, right! I’m a Sommelier/Wine Writer, not a rockstar, so i’m currently sitting at my desk at home in my fuzzy pyjamas with donuts on them, staring at an excel spreadsheet wondering why all the numbers are starting to blur into one another.
How did you get into wine? How did you get to where you are? What was the catalyst?
I was 18 and working at a wine store part-time whilst at Uni (a degree in Art History and English Lit) and just fell in love with wine. I loved how you take this little grape and it becomes this whole other thing called wine that becomes part of a collective human experience. You drink wine in times of celebration and sadness, with loved ones and enemies; you can discover so many other aspects of the universe (like travel, agriculture, relationships) through the lens of wine.
Go on, tell us. What was the first wine you ever drank? Was it Pinot? If not, can you remember your ‘first time’?
I honestly can’t remember the first wine I ever had, I’d love to say it was something really cool but most likely it was probably a cheap sparkling that I mixed into some sort of tropical punch with fruit! However, I lost my ‘Pinot virginity’ to Seresin Biodynamic Pinor Noir from Marlborough, NZ, which remains to this day an exceptional Pinot from our friends across the Tasman.
What do you think it is about Pinot Noir that gets people rocking?
I don’t presume to speak for other people but what gets me rocking about Pinot and what I always mention to customers when I’m working on the floor at a restaurant is Pinot’s diversity – one grape, many flavours. It’s also super approachable, which makes it an easy favourite at any event, function, dinner party, day ending in a ‘y’….
We’ll have well over 100 pinots on tasting at Pinot Palooza; what are your tips for navigating the room? Where would you start?
Do a lap of the room – get your bearings, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Then head to the first winery you like the look of and try their wines, strike up a conversation with the winemaker and if you like their Pinot try and find out why you like it (was it the use of whole bunch or was it a lighter or more in depth style? etc). This will inform your choices when you’re out at a restaurant or on your next bottle-shop outing. Then ask them if they know of any other producers (we’re all friends here) that are similar that you might like and head over there. Repeat.
If you don’t like their wine, scream in their face “YOU MAKE AWFUL PINOT AND YOU SHOULD QUESTION YOUR LIFE CHOICES” (Please, don’t do that).
Another option is to head to the Sommelier Bar and ask one of your friendly neighbourhood Somms where you should go visit. It’s more than likely we’ve tried every producer exhibiting at least once and can point you in the right direction.
Where do you pinot and why?
My favourite place to Pinot is at home with great friends and either some sort of slow cooked meat or a really killer pasta. Great tunes in the background and some candlelight casting a warm glow over everything.
Weirdest wine and food match that actually worked.
Champagne and cheeseburgers. All day. Everyday.
If Pinot was a song: what would it be?
Well, according to my 2017 Pinot Palooza Spotify playlist aka ‘Sex, Drugs and Pinot Noir’ (we told you!) it would have to be Northern Girls by Belleruche. A little bit sassy, just a touch of funk but with a beat that just slides down your spine and makes you feel sexy.
You’ve done a rocking playlist yet again for Pinot Palooza. What do you think makes the perfect wine drinking play list?
As Somms, our brains are almost wired to think about wine in a completely different context – we look at the whole picture when it comes to enjoying a wine. What’s the occasion? What are you eating with it? Etc. I view music in the same way, making sure a playlist has a steady progression and flow. Also my mood plays a major part – do I want slow and sensual (like a sexy little Burgundy) or something bold that makes me want to get my groove on (Rippon Pinot Noir from Wanaka, anyone?)?
What do you drink when no one is watching?
Aperol Sours. Even when people are watching.