Interview With A Sommelier – Brianne Cohen

19th July 2023

Interview With A Sommelier Brianne Cohen

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a woman who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, her name is Brianne Cohen. Now let’s find out a bit about her life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“I am a Los Angeles based event producer, certified sommelier, wine educator and writer. During the pandemic, I educated and entertained over 7,000 people through my “Virtual Vino” online wine classes, regularly highlighting diverse (i.e. Black, BIPOC, female, and LGBT) owned wineries. Today I offer both in-person and virtual tasting experiences for my corporate clients with a fun and approachable style suitable for all levels of wine lovers. I regularly judge at international wine competitions and hold the WSET Diploma certificate. I also have a Master of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“I never actually sought out to become a sommelier. I knew I loved wine and I knew I wanted to learn more. When I completed the curriculum for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) with my Diploma certificate, I then started calling myself a “certified sommelier”. Consumers like that word, understand that word and trust someone who is a sommelier. But honestly, for wine, the inspiration for me was the combination of how it intersects with food and culture and people and how any table that has wine on it is inherently a better table to be at.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising Thing You’ve Learnt?

“I mean, I could go back to basics. When I first started studying wine and learned how only certain grapes grew in certain regions, I was blown away. I literally thought it was just grapes in a glass. I did not understand at all the nuance of what was happening in the glass. The other surprising thing I learned is how differently people look at wine based on the culture they grow up in. Europe is much more of a wine drinking culture, and it is viewed as more of a commodity over there. A glass of wine on the table is like a glass of water on the table. It is less marketed as a luxury product. Over here in the United States, wine is more luxurious and aspirational. We are not inherently a wine drinking culture, as this country has a puritanical origin story. And now, what is always so surprising and fun is how people approach wine differently. While I love being in a room of geeky wine nerds and talkin’ shop, my true love is talking to regular, good ‘ol fashioned wine drinkers about wine. Not wine educators, not wine writers, and not industry people. The wine industry is full of people that know A LOT about wine….almost too much. Keeping the wine conversation elevated and academic at all times is exhausting. Sometimes I just want to break bread and enjoy good juice in the glass.”

How Often Do You Find Yourself Recommending English Sparkling Wine?

“I have been lucky enough to visit the English wine regions of Kent and Sussex and I’ve tried the incredible quality of sparkling wine that’s coming out of that region. Unfortunately, I don’t find myself recommending English sparkling wine very often, as it is extremely hard to find here in the United States. It definitely comes up as a fun, interesting and different option if people want to go outside of the box. But the reality is, not many people will get an opportunity here (at least in Los Angeles) to taste English sparkling wines unless they come to my house!”

In Your Professional Opinion, Out Of Champagne And Prosecco, Which Do You Think Does A Better Job With Complementing A Meal?

“Like every single question related to wine, there is not one answer here. There are more gray areas than black and white. It all depends on what you’re eating and what the occasion is. Prosecco to me is casual, cheerful, and slightly sweet. To me, that would complement a brunch or even just a casual weeknight meal with friends. Personally, I have more of a taste for Champagne. I love bracing high acidity and I want my wines dry AF. That combination, plus some incredible food, which by the way does not have to be fancy to complete the meal.”

What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Sommeliers?

“Don’t get stuck on how people are currently showing up in the wine world. Think about how YOU want to show up in the wine world. How do you want to talk to people about wine? Do that! This industry, I think, places a bit too much value in the historical context of wine and how we have (more formally) communicated about wine. I think there is so much more of an opportunity for fresh and new ways to share wines with people. Think about the experience of drinking wine, think about what food is on the table, think about who is sitting around the table, think about what music is playing, and think about what season it is. To me, these are all important things to consider as you’re talking to your customers about wine and making wine recommendations. It is no longer just about straight food and wine pairings, acidity matching acidity, etc.”

If You Sat Down For A Quiet Dinner, What Dish And Sparkling Wine Would You Choose To Enjoy Together?

“I’m all about pairing sparkling wines with non-pretentious food. BUT one of my favorite foods is crab legs. The kind you crack yourself and dip into drawn butter and lemon. I’m thinking of a big stack of Alaskan King crab legs with a bottle of English Fizz. Maybe the Cavendish NV Brut from Sussex. I may or may not be wearing a bib. And I may or may not be listening to a Motown playlist. Vibes for days!”

Thank you, Brianne, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Angie Silvy. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.