Having worked in wine market research for a while I certainly appreciate an insightful and easy to understand data graphic and the hard work that goes into those.
That’s why I reached out to Rachel when one of her wine graphics popped-up in our Instagram feed to find out more about her wine and data passion and how she’s become “The Wine Nerd”.
Let’s jump straight into the Q&A with her…
Hi Rachel, thanks a lot for your time. Tell us a bit more about your background and passion for wine data?
By day, I work as a data scientist doing research at a big tech company here in Silicon Valley. Living here is a dream for someone who loves technology, but also amazing if you are interested in wine! When I first moved here, I started reading more about wine, attending tastings, visiting wine country, and even posting photos of bottles I’d liked on a casual instagram account I’d created — @the.wine.nerd. My brand grew quickly amongst my friends as “the wineo”, so it was incredibly rewarding to start carving out a niche of knowledge and expertise.
I get a lot of my data via what’s called “Open Data” that is freely available to use however you’d like. I also really like creating my own datasets with friends doing things like blind tasting — all in the name of research, of course! I enjoy the scrappiness of starting with a question that I really want to answer, and being creative about what kinds of data I can find or collect to help me get that answer.
How did the Wine Nerd come about? What’s your goal?
I don’t remember exactly what came first — the project idea, the wine curiosity, or the desire to just make some graphs, but there was a distinct weekend where I started thinking about how cool it would be to merge the skillset I use at my day job with my passion for wine. As I was learning, I would come across contradicting information, things that didn’t add up, or that I just wanted to understand more. I have a totally nerdy research-y brain, so I basically took all of those questions and thought about how I could do my own research to answer them! And that’s still the major driving force in the work I do with The Wine Nerd today.
My plans are constantly evolving with the brand itself based on the work that I find interesting and rewarding. My ultimate goal is to help solve some of the key pain points in the wine industry, through analyzing data, conducting insightful research, and building great products. The Wine Nerd blog and instagram itself was conceived as a platform to serve as a testing ground for some of these ideas, while building up the expertise, network, and brand for the future. If The Wine Nerd is able to serve as an educational resource, spark new conversations, and help share the stories of brands that are doing amazing things, then I’m happy!
When and where did you fall in love with wine?
I’ll admit to being intrigued by wine and loving drinking it ever since I legally was able to. An iconic moment for me was when we ordered off one of those wine discount magazines and received a case of varietals I’d never heard of. It came with tasting cards, and I remember this being my first introduction into the fun world of wine knowledge — like knowing that Syrah and Shiraz are really two names for the same varietal but from different regions and different styles.
I then spent the summer of 2018 backpacking in Europe for three months — surrounded by wine culture and access like I’d never had before. In my downtime on trains, plains and busses, I started listening to a wine podcast: Wine for Normal People. This is when I discovered how many doors and amazing conversations can open from just knowing and appreciating a little bit about wine. Many moments stand out, but none better than chatting with a wine shop owner in Florence, Italy about her family’s history in the esteemed wine region of Tuscany, a conversation that all began with me knowing that the primary white wine produced there was Vernaccia di San Gimignano. You could say I became quite obsessed with wine after that!
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
This is a really hard question that I haven’t thought about before; but if I were forced to pick, I’m tempted to say a Super Tuscan. I think the story behind Super Tuscans is incredible, and I really admire how they represent bringing innovation and a new perspective to a traditional industry.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I wanted to be a graphic designer or a professional photographer when I started university! I’ve always loved creating, and before I fell in love with the world of technology, math, and coding, I was pretty artistically oriented. I still enjoy using some of this creativity in the meantime, and that’s a big reason why I am so drawn to creating content for Instagram.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your bucket list?
I have a long bucket list! But a few fun wine related things I want to do:
Visit Lyon during Beaujolais Nouveau for the festivities
Drink champagne from an air balloon overlooking wine country
Bottle a wine that I made (this is already in the works!)
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Elizabeth from Wine For Normal People was a big influence in my interest in the wine world, and I still listen to her podcast to this day. Hoping we’ll cross paths and get to nerd out about wine soon!