Over the last few months, sometimes just making it through the day has felt like a feat! But being on lockdown has afforded many of us the opportunity to find joy in the little things, including the particular comfort in a nice glass of wine. National Wine Day is May 25, and just because you can’t toast with your friends in person doesn’t mean the day should go unobserved.
Whether you’ve been (unknowingly) pregaming for weeks or usually wait for a special occasion to indulge, we had to consult a professional to help you make the most of it. Enter supermodel and philanthropist Grace Mahary, who is also a certified sommelier. This means Grace is not just a wine enthusiast. She’s an expert who trained for four years to pass the sommelier exam. Who better to advise us on how to celebrate this spirited holiday?
There were times throughout the journey where Grace, who is Eritrean-Canadian, was the only person of color in the room. That motivated her to keep going.
“Summer is upon us and I love trying funkier, skin-contact wines at this time of the year. Petillant naturel (naturally sparkling) and skin-contact Italian or Austrian grape blends are what I lean into during the warmer months,” Grace explains. “Also, you can’t go wrong with crisp Txakolina from Spain or Vinho Verde from Portugal to sip on a patio on a hot day.”
If that was too much for you, it’s OK. One more lovely thing about Grace is that she speaks about wine with patience, not pretense. She wants to make the world more accessible because she gets how exclusionary it can look from the outside, and she has no time for those barriers. “It shouldn’t take me having to go do all this and having a blue check by my name for people to take me seriously!” Grace says.
But don’t get it twisted; becoming a sommelier is serious business. Grace was so determined to master it that she even took a brief break from her day job to study at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the International Culinary Center in NYC. She can tell a wine’s story with one sip — and of course, the IMG model makes it all look oh so glam!
Summer is upon us and I love trying funkier, skin-contact wines at this time of the year.
At 16, Grace won Elle Canada‘s model search, but the avid sports fan majored in kinesiology and played basketball at the University of Toronto. After getting injured, she gave modeling another push and secured her breakthrough when she moved to Paris. The high-fashion darling has walked runways from Balenciaga and Balmain to Chanel and Celine. And in addition to having Trey Songz smitten in the 2009 music video for “I Invented Sex/Say Aah,” she’s showcased her heavenly physique as a Victoria’s Secret Angel. It was those experiences being exposed to so many facets of society that started her wine journey, 10 years ago.
“After years of traveling the world and getting to visit all of these incredible places, I’d go to these fancy restaurants and be intimidated by the wine menu. I was tired of it!” the 30-year-old explains.
She took her education in her own hands and “nerded out,” getting deep into the science of vino. And while her experience was not as intense as portrayed in the recent Netflix film Uncorked, Grace says she appreciates how the movie showed people of color in spaces we’re typically not seen as being a part of.
There were times throughout the journey where Grace, who is Eritrean-Canadian, was the only person of color in the room. That motivated her to keep going, seizing an opportunity to bridge the gap between different cultures. As she’s shared her knowledge with others, especially her vibrant Instagram community, it’s created a cultural exchange that’s allowed her to engage with people in a different, more personal way than as a fashion model.
“The beauty of the culinary world is that it unites people over food and beverage. Since food and beverage are basic human needs, the bonds formed feel genuine and inspiring,” Grace says. “I love learning about peoples’ wine experiences and from the community in general.”
Having demystified wine for herself, she enjoys doing so for other people. Therefore her first and most important tip for National Wine Day is to simply have fun with it and try something new! Here are a few more ideas, from Grace’s expert opinion:
Go with the season.
“Maybe you don’t want to drink a big heavy Napa Cab right now — or maybe you do, I don’t know!” Grace says with a laugh. No judgment here, but her recommendation is to lean into something refreshing and seasonal.
Natural wines can be funky, but give them a chance!
And don’t get overwhelmed by terms like sustainable, which refers to the efforts in winemaking to reduce as much environmental impact as possible, or biodynamic, which is raised on a farm “that is treated with what I call zen, peace, and love,” explains Grace.
If you are looking to venture into wines that are organic, sustainable or biodynamic.
Grace has two recommendations: the 2018 Meinklang Tag, a light wine from the Grüner Veltlinergrape variety with zesty, fruit aromas and a lean finish; and the 2018 Umathum Rosa, a blend of red Austrian grapes sitting somewhere between rosé and red wine, with notes of ripe peach, strawberry, and basil.
Get creative with the wines you have access to.
Some wines can’t withstand extreme heat, for example, so take that into account if you live in a hot and arid climate.
“Just drink what you like, don’t let people judge you for it!” Grace says.