WWC23 – Mick Nippard, by Emily Sivey

Mick Nippard opening a Methuselah

In this entry to our 2023 wine writing competition, wine lover Emily Sivey writes about Mick Nippard, a wine importer and the owner of a wine bar in Japan. See our WWC23 guide for more.

Emily Sivey writes I’m Emily Sivey, wine enthusiast, travel obsessive and a new mum. I swapped fingerprints on glassware with finger painting on windows. I love wine. I love drinking wine, learning about wine and talking about wine. I love to travel. Mostly to wine countries but anywhere with a story ready to be told. I love my daughter, she is everything. She is the air I breathe and the soul I crave. I also write about wine… sometimes.

Whether you were looking to splurge on a bottle you’d never normally buy, or you were on a budget looking for a cheap night and a good time, or even if your surname was Rothschild - Mick would find a wine to make you smile. Mick didn’t care who you were, where you came from or how much money you had to spend - he wanted you to have an experience, a feeling, a memory. Mick was an experience. Mick - he was my favourite wine person.

I used to believe I knew a fair bit about wine, and yes, maybe I knew what you could read or learn about wine but I didn’t know about the experience of wine. The stories wine can tell, and the stories wine will tell. The way that wine, like a scent or like a scene, can make you feel a certain way and remind you of a moment in time captured forever in your tastebuds.

Mick was just as comfortable entertaining the owner of a million dollar wine business over 10 course dinners, as he was dancing on the bar to indie rock classics at his cosy wine bar at Midnight, the best nights with Mick were the ones you wanted desperately to remember and you would be sure never to forget. I’ll never forget Mick.

The very first time I met Mick was on my first day in Japan, he picked me and my now husband up from a cold, snowy & deserted train station in Northern Hokkaido in the middle of the night. Shivering and nervous, we dragged our suitcases across the snow, gazing around for a familiar face, or even just a sign in English. Out of his signature 4by4 jumps Mick, “G’day” he says, the least Japanese greeting you’d expect to hear in rural Japan, and pulls me into the warmest hug as if we were old friends. That was Mick, instant friends with anyone, radiating warmth everywhere he went. 

Mick ran a small, but wildly popular wine bar,had a wine importing business and pop-up wine events across Japan. Mick was from Australia. His home, his wife and his family were in Sapporo. Most of Mick's business was in Niseko. Niseko is the kind of place you really need to see to believe it, a small and beautiful town known for the whitest lightest powder skiing, the “mini fuji” of Japan, Mount Yotei, a live volcano, and… Micks Wine Bar. 

Mick knew everyone and everyone knew Mick, but Mick was all about the individual. He taught me that. He taught me how to really listen to a person talking about wines they like or don’t like, to concentrate on flavours and profiles they’ve had, the way the wine made that person feel. The way the wine brought them joy. Mick had the unique ability to take that information, choose a glass or a bottle and bring that person back to that moment, and then some. Mick was a memory maker, experience creator and wine influencer.

Mick always had a glass on every table, he gave his undivided attention to that person, couple or group and had the uncanny ability to make you feel like the only person in the bar. He knew exactly what music to play, he knew how to work a room & he knew how to sell wine. Mick was my favourite wine person.

Mick taught me how to live in the moment. Mick taught me how to notice flavours that you wouldn’t expect to find. Mick taught me that the days were long and the years were short. Mick battled cancer and won, the second time he wasn’t so lucky. Mick was tough, tough until the end, but cancer was tougher. His memory lives on, as vividly as he existed, in my heart, my mind and my glass. 

Mick is my favourite wine person.

The photograph, titled 'There is only one way to celebrate opening a Methuselah', is the author's own.