Competition – Mari Sanaia

Mari Sanaia writes, ‘My journey into the wine world started in Georgia. I was born in Tbilisi and come from a family of winemakers. I have now lived in Dublin for the last 18 years and work in the wine industry here. I set up a small business called Dublin Wine Trails recently with the aim of making wine enjoyable and less intimidating for people who are enthusiastic and would like to learn more about it. I absolutely love my job.’ This is her (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.

Dublin – so small that it’s pretty much impossible to walk around the city without bumping into someone you know. The city is bursting with personality and character and a certain charm and humour that is very Dublin specific. I’ve lived in this city for about 18 years now, I’ve spent more of my life living here than anywhere else in the world.

I was 19 years old when I started working in the wine industry in Dublin. Before then, my connection to the world of wine was through my great grandfather who made his own wine in Kartli, Georgia. I was born and lived in Georgia until the age of 12. From a very young age wine had a constant presence in my life.

I have very fond memories of running around the family vineyard in Georgia with my cousins and the beautifully translucent colour of grapes when they had reached a lovely stage of ripeness. I remember how much love my great grandfather spoke about his wines with. They were a great source of pride for him. I loved listening to him talk about wine even if I didn’t fully understand it at the time.

Fast forward to when I was 19 and was in my first year of college in Dublin. I was contemplating taking a year out and changing my course as I wasn’t really enjoying it. I started looking around for part time jobs to keep myself occupied. I remember sitting down one afternoon and applying for about 15 different jobs – searching for anything that looked and sounded like something I might be interested in.

The next day I got a call inviting me to an interview for a temporary job that was meant to last 3-4 weeks. When I picked up the phone, I completely missed the part where the lovely lady with a soft-spoken New Zealand accent told me where she was calling from. I didn’t want to tell her I’d applied for about 100 jobs in the last week and had no idea which one this was so I politely asked her for the address of the place.

Two days later I left the interview feeling somewhat positive about it and later that day I got a call saying I got the job. My assignment was to scan delivery dockets and save them into a folder on a shared drive as well as any other small errands that needed doing. The job was with Berry Brothers & Rudd when they had an office in Dublin.

Over the subsequent weeks, I was exposed to some amazing wines, was invited to tastings that were happening around town and suddenly something just clicked. The job at BBR turned into a point of connection between my contact with the ancient wine world in Georgia and everything I was about to learn about wine. This had been a world that was familiar to me from a very young age. I wanted to learn and take in all the information the wine world had to offer. I loved the ritual of tasting wine and appreciating the expression of place, time and people that was in my glass; I still do.

Luckily, when I completed my 4-week stint, a full-time position opened up and that was it, wine became not only my job but it occupied a lot of my free time too. I found it hard not to fall in love with the world of wine. 12 years later, I’m still absorbed by conversations about wine, I love the wine induced chats with all the wine nuts in the industry.

Over the years the one thing that always nagged me in the back of my mind was how to make wine approachable for everyday drinkers and enthusiasts who don’t want to get tangled up in wine jargon and just want to enjoy a good glass of wine. I attended many consumer tastings where I felt that people were totally willing to try new wines but were just intimidated by the snobbery that’s often (wrongly) attached to the world of wine.

These thoughts and experiences impelled my desire to make wine a more approachable and enjoyable experience for people who are enthusiastic about it. That’s how my current project came about. Last year I set up a small business called Dublin Wine Trails which focuses on encouraging people to try different wines. It entails getting groups of wine enthusiasts together for a wine trail around Dublin’s wine bars. The aim was to encourage wine lovers to get more adventurous with their wine choices and discover different wine producing areas of the world whilst exploring the lovely wine bars we are lucky to have in Dublin.

I love what I do; It’s hard work but I enjoy talking all things vino with people. Funnily enough, I had never thought about it until I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who highlighted how lucky I am to do what I love. I thought about it afterwards and I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else in any other industry. I love it here in the wine world. Even though I had a few short stints in other fields, I always came back to wine.

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