For our first Culture Jam of 2021, we sat down with the Brigid O'Hora AKA Bridey’s Wine Chats AKA Bridey Bunch Triplets. The sommelier, mom to triplets and all round lovely human has become a staple fixture for wine lovers as she peels back the curtain on the keystone of snobby culture: wine.
In under a year, Brigid has fast become the wine whisperer to an online following who appreciate her no nonsense, easy to understand manner about wine. In the era of DADA being a regular guest on the sofa and dry January a fuzzy memory from yester-year, we sat down with Brigid to chat all things vino, the changing wine culture in Ireland and how a mom of triplets armed with Insta live and a bottle of wine is making the category that bit more accessible for people to navigate. Here are some of our key takeaways:
“Why should it be intimidating? It’s just another aspect to our culinary industry or domestic life”
If we are being honest, there has always been an air of snobbery around the topic of wine. It’s something you feel you should know more about like any self-respecting adult but never know where to begin. “There can be a lot of pretentiousness working in it [wine industry]. There can sometimes be an air of ‘Oh Jesus I couldn’t drink an Aldi wine’ and I’m like get a grip.” Brigid seems to occupy a unique space where she has a deep knowledge of wine but understands that possessing and practicing this knowledge are two very different things for the average Irish shopper. Her approach to helping followers navigate the tricky terrain of wine is quite clever. Her down to earth, easily accessible manner negates the intimidating pretentiousness of the category while the wines she discusses and trials are from supermarkets, making it accessible and within arm’s reach of the weekly shopper. Fine wine appreciation is no longer the reserve of those in the vicinity of a boutique winery, it’s sitting on the shelf in your local Supervalu. However access doesn’t create demand in isolation. Something else is happening here…
"Wine Culture in Ireland is changing…due to Covid?"
To the untrained eye, one would think that there isn’t a wine culture in Ireland. Our reputation to drink proceeds us internationally but wine culture not quite, right? Well that’s not entirely true. Citing the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) report from 2019, Brigid explains how Ireland’s high excise tax is forcing us to appreciate wine more and more. Because we pay some of the highest tax and excise in Europe when it comes to alcohol, we therefore have to spend at least €10 on a bottle of wine for the most part. “So because the Irish consumer spends more than €10 on a bottle of wine, we think about that purchase a little bit more. The Irish are becoming more wine educated than the English and it’s definitely becoming a much bigger culture in Ireland.” The proof is in the pudding; while most of Europe has witnessed significant falls in wine volumes in the past five years Ireland’s wine market has grown by about 5% during the same period (Ireland Wine Landscapes 2020). But that’s not the whole story. Since the very first lockdown in March 2020, revenue figures indicate that the sale of alcohol fell however wine was the only category to show an increase in consumption, with as much as a 10 per cent rise on the same quarter in 2019. So why is this happening? Brigid attributes this to increased levels of cooking at home. “It’s not just about drinking the wine. Restaurants are closed but we still want that experience at home. People are putting in more effort to what they are cooking and are genuinely thinking ‘What will complement the lemon sole that we are treating ourselves to on Friday night?’ We have more time and we can prepare more.” So if paying a high price didn’t make us wine experts, the faux restaurant meal from our own kitchen is pushing us over the edge.
“What is SHE doing? She’s doing Insta lives on Aldi wines…”
Brigid speaks honestly about being an ‘influencer’ and the negative associations attached. When she started the account she did feel there was an air of incredulous questioning, a sense of ‘what is she doing? She is doing Insta lives with Aldi wine…ridiculous.’ But this approach garnered a loyal following. Such a following that Brigid quite quickly became an ‘influencer’ even if it was accidental. “My primary goal was to give myself a little something back. I couldn’t do all the nappy changing anymore or just live in Mommy world. I had to do a little something for myself. It [Brideys Wine Chats] took legs because of my approach to making it more accessible. I didn’t set out with becoming an influencer in mind” Now in the midst of lockdown number three, Brigid’s clarity around what success looks like to her is refreshing. The personal DMs about friends connecting remotely or couples taking wine suggestions for anniversaries are more important to Brigid than engagement and reach. And what is the ultimate goal of the wine whisperer? A wine academy. Constantly circling back to her true passion, teaching about wine, Brigid hopes to one day open an academy and make the world of wine that bit more accessible, just in-person this time. And until then she will continue to offer free live wine tastings to her followers because, “Even if only fifty or sixty people show up, then that is fifty or sixty people that for two or three hours got to do and learn something new about wine on a Thursday evening.”