Joanie Metivier: ”The most important aspect of a wine bar is their by-the-glass program”

Andreas Grube
Published 30-December-2020
Interview / Montreal

Through magazines, her blog and her Instagram – with over 80,000 followers – Montreal based wine writer Joanie Metivier explores the world of wine, both in Canada and globally.
”Wine bars are popping up everywhere, not just in Montreal but also in small cities and villages all over Canada,” she says.

Montreal based wine writer Joanie Metivier was last year selected The Most Influential Online Wine Expert in Canada by Corporate Vision Magzine.

Joanie Metivier – blogger, Instagrammer, influencer and Head Writer for wine magazine Vins & Vignobles – is indeed a true wine explorer. Constantly travelling, tasting, writing. But her roots are in Montreal, Quebec, a city that’s grown fast in a short amount of time.

”If we go back five years, I don’t think we even had a wine bar in Montreal. Some restaurants were recognized for their good wine lists, but that was it,” she says.

”However, Montreal has been so dynamic on the wine scene in the last few years that we have a growing movement that is spectacular. Wine bars are popping up everywhere, and not just in Montreal, but also in small cities and villages. For a number of people, wine is the focus of their nights out.”

Joanie started her career studying all kinds of subjects: tourism, translation, geography, and then ”became aware of a greater interest: wine”. She began studying and earned, in a month’s interval, both a certificate of the Court of Master Sommelier and her certification of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust level 3. Subsequently, she was the first Quebecer to complete the Whisky Ambassador training. Last year she was also selected The Most Influential Online Wine Expert in Canada by Corporate Vision Magazine.

”We can say that I plunged headfirst into the fabulous wine world!” Joanie says.

Montreal likes to follow trends. I dare you to find a wine list without Orange wines and there are even wine bars completely dedicated to natural wines

And she’s never regretted her move towards the wine industry:

”I’ve always had incredible admiration for passionate, specialized people. You know, the kind of people who love their job so much, that they have practised a whole life and can talk about it with passion, emotion and a certain fanaticism. It is a quality that is not necessarily limited only to the world of wine, however, we must admit that the subject lends itself perfectly. There’s just something about it that makes people happy and this is a beautiful thing,”.

What are the biggest wine bar trends in Canada right now?
”Montreal likes to follow trends. I dare you to find a wine list without Orange wines and there are even wine bars completely dedicated to natural wines. We don’t know what the next big thing will be, but our big city’s wine scene will be sure to oblige. In a way, the smaller and more anonymous the producer, the better. I believe this trend is sourced from a strong and common curiosity from the consumers. They want to learn, and they want to try new things. It’s really a dream come true for sommeliers, that peak of interest is fabulous.”

Last year, you were recently selected The Most Influential Online Wine Expert in Canada –what’s the key to building that kind of platform?
”Building a platform is a lot of work, it takes an awful lot of time. I’m lucky enough to have a great team on which I can rely. I couldn’t have done it alone. You need to be everywhere at the same time, as active as you can be, and create enough content to bury yourself in. If you ever think all you have to do is start a blog and everything will fall into place, think again, or be ready for years of unpaid, sleepless nights. However, in the end, it’s all worth it. I would’ve spent those nights studying wine anyway since everything just started from an irrational passion.”

Joanie Metivier.

Do you think that wine bars/wine restaurants could be better at using social media as a tool for gaining recognition and promoting themselves? How? Any good examples?
”Of course, social media is a very useful tool for visibility. However, in bars and restaurant businesses, profitability is not always a given. I don’t know a lot of wine bars who could spare a fulltime salary towards building a social media presence. It’s not something you can do on your free time.”

You travel a lot, so what city/cities in the world are your favourites for wine bar-hopping? And why?
”In Vienna, they have what they call Heurigen. It’s basically very rustic wine bars directly at the wineries. You get to taste the local wines with traditional foods, and the ambience is heavily gregarious and friendly. It makes you feel welcome. I like to drink wines directly at the source, so that’s more my style.”

Any specific wine bars that you always love to return to?
”I’ve been in love with the Pullman Bar in Montreal since its opening. I like the bite-sized snack food, and they always have a few flights of different wines to taste. It’s extremely satisfying.”

What do you look for when visiting a wine bar for the first time? What is it that makes you like or dislike a venue?
”I think the most important aspect of a wine bar is their by-the-glass program. A good and diverse selection with smaller glass options should be their priority. I like to taste as much as possible, so if I can get flights of glasses, I’ll be happy. One thing that could make me dislike a venue is attitude. If I don’t like one of your selections, don’t try to give me an excuse. It’s fine to have a vast array of styles, but it also means not everyone will like everything.”

What’re your best tips when getting a massive wine list in your lap? How do you attack it?
”When the wine list is overwhelming, I start by looking at the menu, the style of the restaurant, and what I want to get. Just by looking for a good pairing, you can easily be more precise in your selection. That being said, I’m also very fond of looking at wine lists, so I’d probably spend way too much time going through it just for fun. I’ve annoyed some waiters or sommelier with this before.”

Three big no-no’s when drinking wine at a wine bar/restaurant?
”Overindulging is the biggest no-no. A wine bar/restaurant is not the place to get overly drunk and cause disturbances. Know your limits, being tipsy is fun, but falling on the floor is not. Being too picky is never a good option too. I understand you like certain things, but a wine bar/restaurant should be a whole experience. If you’re not willing to try the best of what they can offer, you’re not getting the full experience.”

”Also, don’t forget the sparklers. A good wine bar/restaurant will always have a very well-though sparkling wine selection, and not just Champagne. It’s easy to spot if they’ve put a lot of efforts in their selections. There’ll be out-of-the-box options, little underestimated producers, various styles and origins. You may find some rare gems.”

Joanie Metivier’s favourite wine bars in Montreal/Quebec:

• Pullman: ”This is the place to be if you want wines by the glass. There’s always a great selection, and you can order 2 oz glasses to taste EVERYTHING!”

• Le vin Papillon: ”You need to get there early if you want a place as this is a no-reservation restaurant. However, what you get is fresh and seasonal plates with incredible private import wines, sometimes exclusively sold there.”

• Rouge Gorge: ”Rouge Gorge strength, in my opinion, is their meticulously chosen and detailed wine selection. With a focus on France but a side view on literally everywhere, it’s a place where you can find little treasures.”

• Signorvino: ”A newcomer on the wine bar scene, but refreshingly dedicated. Italian in every step, Signorvino has a focus on private import Italian wines. Get a plate of charcuterie or risotto, and you’ll be well off for the evening.”

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