We already know Miami is a hot zone for craft cocktails and beer. Know what else is happening? The wine scene! Follow along as I continue this blog section featuring some of South Florida’s buzziest swirlers, sniffers, and tasters.
Meet Bianca Sanon General Manager and Sommelier at Boia De
What sparked your interest in wine? Learning about natural and low intervention wine, while I was taking a wine course with a more traditional focus, made everything about what made wine interesting to me click in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I came to understand that wine was farming, that biodynamic wines specifically referred to the farming practices winemakers (or vignerons/vigneronnes) choose to do, and that the region and climate of a particular place has a huge impact on what’s going on in the glass. I found all of this so special and exciting, I know I wanted to learn more!
How did you get started working in wine? My first restaurant job was as an Operations Assistant at Dirty French in New York. I was promoted to manager after my first year, and to be honest, I was pretty insecure about my lack of wine knowledge, both professionally and personally. I complained to my boyfriend about how much I wanted to learn more about wine, and he basically said, “So do it!” (in a nicer way of course). I enrolled in the Sommelier Society of America shortly after I left Dirty French and started working at Semilla, the now closed Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurant in South Williamsburg.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Teaching other people about wine, dispelling wine myths, and just making wine drinking more approachable and fun for people.
Industry pet peeves Sometimes, it’s hard to break people away from ordering wine, based on what I like. It’s not about me! It’s about the experience and what they like. What they like and I like might not be the same at all, and I don’t want what I like to deter others from exploring what’s out there because they didn’t like what I picked. I always recommend starting with a flavor profile that they enjoy, and then we explore from there!
What certification/education do you have as a sommelier? Sommelier Society of America Graduate with Distinction and Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1
What does it take to learn to sniff and taste wine properly? I think I started properly tasting wine when I began learning how to associate memories with smells and tastes. After that, I was able to identify what those smells and tasting notes were. Like when you know what fresh cut grass smells like and can put yourself in that place, or when a wine reminds you of your favorite childhood juice or soda, it’s easier to recognize those notes in the glass. Also, it took a lot of practice, like opening two different white wines and looking for the floral notes in Viognier and the petrol notes in Riesling. And now I can’t help but pick up on them.
What is a common wine myth you’d like dispelled? The most common myth I get is that all-natural wine is funky and unapproachable. I think people collapse “natural wine” into one distinct category of “weird” wine and don’t realize how many of their favorite well-known producers practice minimal intervention winemaking and organic or biodynamic farming. That said, I would also like to dispel the myth that natural wine is “supposed to taste funky” — if a wine is flawed, you should be able to say so because it probably is. There is certainly a sector in the natural wine world that allows for flawed wine to pass as “what natural wine tastes like,” which makes it more difficult for low intervention wine to be taken seriously.
Where would you steer a person wanting to learn more about wine? Take a look at some helpful websites, wine info sites, and wine blogs, like winefolly.com, https://www.alicefeiring.com/, and https://livingwines.com.au/. When I started wanting to learn about wine, that’s exactly what my old wine director told me, and it helped. Wine Folly has always been a guide for me because it will answer a lot of basic questions about wine. It’s a great refresher for me and a great tool for beginners to understand things like the difference between Prosecco and Champagne.
What is a good starter wine? I like to think that any light reds, especially chilled reds, are great starter wines. Fuller bodied red wines can be unapproachable, and high acid white wines can be a bit much for someone not used to that feeling of drinking the equivalent of unsweetened lemonade. Chilled reds have acid, tart fruit notes, and can sometimes just taste like delicious cherry or raspberry juice, and that’s a great way to get into wine.
How do you feel about the current Miami wine scene overall? I feel hopeful more than anything else. There has been such a big increase in both wine consumption and availability in Miami in the last three years, and I feel it’s going to keep increasing. Many assumptions about wine are being cleared up in a way that makes wine more fun and enjoyable to drink and less of a stressful task of “choosing correctly” and that’s the whole point — getting together and enjoying company over a good glass of wine.
How does Miami as a whole fare in wine knowledge when compared to other cities such as New York, Chicago, or San Francisco? It’s difficult to compare Miami to any other major metropolitan city because we are so different from everyone else for so many reasons. I think there is an association between wine and class status in Miami, which I think is different from the culture in New York, where most young middle class working adults are willing to spend more money on wine than here. Also, Miami became such a huge player in the beer industry in the last 5-10 years, it’s taking wine just a little bit longer to catch up.
How do you feel about documentaries such as the Somm series driving up the interest in certifications? I’ll admit, I stress watched the first Somm documentary the night before my first somm exam, and it made me feel better knowing other people were just as intense about it as I was (on a much greater scale at first). At the moment, I don’t have an interest in gaining more certifications because of the exorbitant costs, which further alienate people from having access to the wine world, but I can understand the desire to feel recognized and accomplished for the work that is involved in deep wine study.
What do you wish every diner knew when ordering wine at a restaurant? Not all Riesling is sweet!
How do you feel about corkage fees at restaurants? I respect them, depending on how high the fee is, of course. Someone put time and effort into making a wine list at the restaurant, so if you choose to bring your own bottle, there should be some small cost to that.
What wine trend do you think needs to go away? I don’t know if we really need the point-rating system anymore. To be honest, I’ve never paid attention nor adhered to it, because it feels antiquated and irrelevant. There are so many high-quality, well-made wines that are not rated at all, and yet it keeps so many people from enjoying them. There are far better ways of judging a wine than on an arbitrary number.
What is on its way to becoming a trend? Wines on tap! I’m actually a huge fan of good, well-made wine on tap because it’s environmentally friendly, more sustainable, and cuts a lot of costs for the winemaker and distributor. It’s also less expensive for consumers, which makes it more accessible and can convert more people into wine drinkers.
How do you feel about orange wine? I feel very strongly about it! As much as some people, both within and outside of the industry, like to treat it like a fad and a recent trend, it is the ancestral way of making white wine in Old World regions like Georgia, Slovenia, and Northern Italy. It’s been done for centuries, and some of the most interesting and delicious wines are in my opinion made in that way. It piques my interest from a wine nerd perspective, but it’s also so enjoyable to drink — what’s not to love?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Running a cafe/bookstore/wine bar with my partner and friends, and hopefully doing really well!
What would customers be surprised to learn about you? I played tennis for 20+ years of my life. I played competitively in the juniors growing up in South Florida and through four years of Division I in college. It’s actually a huge part of who I am and probably why I approach my work or my passions as intensely as I do.
Anything else you’d like to add? It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of the growing wine scene in Miami as the Somm at Boia De. I look forward to getting better every day.