Interviews • January 9, 2018

Interview With: Kristen Ellis, Wine Education and Events Coordinator at Binny’s Beverage Depot

During this year’s Great Match Chicago, Kristen Ellis, Wine Education and Events Coordinator Binny’s Beverage Depot, led a seminar on Sherry. Wines From Spain spoke with Kristen Ellis and featured her in our most recent newsletter, exploring Spanish wine trends  and her personal philosophy on wine and wine education.

  1. What is the market like for Spanish wine (including Sherry) in Illinois? What grapes do well and where do you see room for growth?  I feel Cava is a greatly expanding category. There are a lot of interesting changes happening in the D.O., most recently with Cava Paraje Calificado, an elevation for single vineyard expressions. Additionally, I’m happy to see Sherry enjoying such growth. People are doing away with their old views of Sherry as their grandparent’s drink in Illinois and are seeing it for its versatility with food as well as the fact that it’s just plain delicious!
  2. What are some emerging trends you predict across the Sherry category in 2018? It’s extremely difficult for Sherry producers to be experimental within the DO. They have a lot of hoops to jump through to get things passed with the Consejo. I think the ‘en rama’ style will become more popular, especially since people are becoming increasingly attracted to the unfiltered wines in all categories. Also, a focus on terroir driven sherries, showcasing the diversity of the various pagos.
  3. We’ve seen a boom in American consumption of sparkling wine in the last few years. Are you seeing that trend affecting the Cava category? Positively. Cava is a great value-driven category.
  4. Tell us about how you started working in wine? My career in wine began while I was living abroad in Italy. I was working as a tour guide in Rome, primarily at the Vatican Museums, and began to spend a lot of time with Sommeliers and discovering Italian wine and food culture. Needless to say, from that point on I was hooked. I began to take classes and got my WSET certifications in Tuscany. Before long I was giving wine and food tours and immersing myself in wine! That lead me to a career as the head of education for Binny’s Beverage Depot and certifying for the WSET with the American Wine School.
  5. What is your personal philosophy on wine and wine education? Wine is meant to be shared and meant to elevate one’s life experience. My sole purpose in wine education is to give people the knowledge and confidence to do just that.
  6. What does Binny’s Beverage Depot try to provide its customers in terms of both their shopping experience and wine education? We love to give our customers a wealth of choices, so they can have the freedom to travel the world via wine without leaving Illinois. Education is a big focus for us, both internally and externally. We offer many events, tastings, and seminars throughout the year. We want an educated client base and we want to be a major source of knowledge for our customers. Additionally, we work with the American Wine School to offer certification courses for the WSET.
  7. What are some topline wine education and event goals you are hoping to provide for Binny’s customers in 2018? I’m happy to say we’ve got great momentum in this area already. I hope to continue our trajectory. That means offering a range of classes that cover many categories to include everyone in our educational experiences. One fantastic way we reach a broader number of customers is through our podcast, “Barrel to Bottle.” It is a labor of love for us and there is something for everybody. We release a new episode every Monday.