Sitting at the bar of Balaclava’s Ilona Staller restaurant, Dan Sims offers me a beer as we chat and wait for his colleague and Wine Guide founder Ben Edwards to wrap up filming on the latest episode of their online series, Wine Guide TV.
The Wine Guide, you see, isn’t a book. It’s a playfully named consultancy with a reputation for delivering outstanding wine advice and education to top restaurants, publications and training programs in Melbourne and around the world.
However, when it comes to their upcoming program at Melbourne’s Good Food & Wine Show, Ben and Dan are taking their message to the masses. Over a series of sessions, these human wine guides are setting out to demystify wine appreciation by killing its intimidating, über-snobbish reputation.
“[You can] geek out about wine,” says Dan, “but the whole idea about what we do is to have it nice and fun and accessible. With the sessions at the Good Food and Wine Show…it’s always about empowering people with knowledge, but doing it in a way that’s not a lecture.”
When Ben finishes the shoot and joins us, the kind of experience people can expect at their sessions becomes immediately clear; the pair slip straight into blokey, good-natured banter with the easy charm of gifted hospitality veterans. (When asked how he got into wine, for example, Ben happily replies: “Drinking. I’m good at it.”)
Instead of boring people from behind a lectern, Dan and Ben have set up a kind of educational dinner party experience. “What we’ve done is got one big long table that seats 20 people,” says Ben. “We move around the room and tap people on the shoulder and talk about what they’re having [and] enjoying. It’s not a lecture; it’s a conversation; it’s a laugh. There’s always lots of bad jokes.”
“The main thing about what we’re doing is to not be too wanky about wine,” says Dan. “If we can make people understand what they like, why they like it, and communicate it,” says Dan, “that simple step is huge.”
The Wine Guide’s sessions run at the Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show this weekend, June 3-5.