We are thrilled to welcome the newest member of our team: Jennifer Huether! Jennifer joins us as our Head Sommelier & Director of Alcohol Curation. She will be curating the selection of sips you can shop in our Bottle Shop on our website as well at our Bay & Gerrard store. You will be able to get her expert advice as she shares her alcohol knowledge in our newsletters, social channels, as well as meet her live for virtual events. Read on to hear a little more about Jennifer and her background in the business!
Fresh City: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and experience in the alcohol realm as well as your coveted Master Sommelier designation?
Jennifer Huether: I have been in the business my entire career. I fell in love with wine in my early 20's and started to take wine courses. I found the subject so fascinating I just kept taking courses. It took about 12 years from that first wine course to finish my Master Sommelier designation. Meanwhile, I worked as a manager/sommelier in restaurants working my way up to be the Head Sommelier for Maple Leaf Sports. I spent the last 7 years working on the winery side of the business for California wineries. I love the business and the diversity in it. I have been a huge supporter also of Canadian wine and feel its really important to promote local and try our own wines.
FC: Identifying the subtleties of wine and understanding how to best pair it with different foods can seem daunting - can you share a few words of wisdom to get started?
JH: Pairing wines/beverages to food can get as complicated as you like! Some great starting tips are; 'what grows together goes together', colour matching food and wine (ie. a rosé wine with a tomato soup, a basic white wine with fish/seafood/chicken and red wine with red meat). For desserts make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert. Another tip is to match rich food with wines that have fresh acidity and reverse that too!
FC: Can you tell us a little more about sustainability in the alcohol space? What does that entail? How do organic wines, beers and liqueurs come into play here?
JH: There are two main certifications- Organic and Sustainable. It's important to note that each country, and even sometimes each 'region' will have its own certifications and governing bodies. This is a complex question however to try and simplify it: organic in wine can refer to 'organically grown grapes' and then also 'organically made wine'. It's important to note that not all regions are able to grow full organic (in wet, rainy places this can be hard). Sustainable looks at the whole business model of a winery including the vineyards, winery, people who work at the winery, community, shipping etc. For organic beer you are looking at 3/4 of the ingredients being organic. Our overall philosophy at Fresh City in purchasing wine, beer and spirits is to work with 'green' suppliers who have these certifications or others.
FC: You have a particular interest in plant-based foods and how to pair those with wine. We’d love for you to tell us a bit more about this!
JH: Yes I do! About three years ago I created a seminar based on what I thought was the biggest growing trend in the food and beverage space: plant-based. At the time there were not many wineries or foodies thinking about this (boy that has changed)! My whole thought was there was nobody talking about creating that 'ah-ha' moment with plant-based food and wine and I thought that was a shame. Fast forward three years we are working on completing the world's first book on this at The Social Herbivore. With plant-based foods my overall take away is that both the fats and proteins of a dish change. Also, I find overall more spices being used. Lastly, I find that matching big, rich and tannic red wines can be a problem also.
FC: Can you talk to us about being a woman in the sommelier industry and your experience?
JH: When I started on this journey, there were three other women Sommeliers in all of Toronto, and none of them were studying. It took me years to find women to actually taste with in my tasting group, generally I was the only one. Overall in Canada I did feel welcomed and supported by my male colleagues luckily but of course it was hard to relate always to them. Fast forward to today we now have possibly more women Sommeliers in Toronto than men, and while its still hard to get women to the Master Exams or those top roles (we see drop off), overall what I am seeing is a huge change.
FC: We know how difficult it can be to pick a favourite sip, but we'd love to know: what are you current favourites?
JH: In going local and Canada, I would say Bubbles from Nova Scotia, Riesling, Chardonnay and Rosé from Ontario and rich reds like Syrah from British Columbia.
I am always also a seasonal drinker so I am stocking up now on Rosé, lighter white wines and bubbles for the spring and summer!
Top photo: Lauren Newman Photos
Join Jennifer for a FREE Virtual Tasting on April 22nd, 2021 from 5-6 PM. She has selected 3 organic, sustainable, and vegan-friendly wines from our market to taste. The 3 wines selcted can be purchased through Fresh City. Purchasing these wines is completely optional to attend!
Shop Jen's selections:
Cave Spring Vineyards Brut Dolomite
Southbrook Vineyards 2019 Triomphe Rosé