In a relatively new spin-off from our extremely popular Young Blood Sommeliers series, we are proud to present The Old Bastard Sommeliers, who will be running in alternating months to our ongoing YBS interviews, well, that is if these Young Bloods can get off their arses to get their interviews back to me on time… *cough* Brittany and Krysta *cough*

This sure-to-be-entertaining series will focus upon in-depth extended interviews with some of the more infamous veteran characters in the scene, examining where they got their first start, who inspired them, how (through their skills, eccentricities, and perversions) they developed into the legendary figures they are today, and what tips and tricks they would pass on to the young bucks who are occasionally making them feel like relics of a bygone age.

This month sees the turn of a certain Mister Mark Davidson, a gentleman with quite a history in the industry… and quite a few stories to tell…


Good Food Revolution: So Mark, what is it that you are doing these days?

Mark Davidson: I am the Head of Education, North America for Wine Australia. I am based in the US now but work on all the education based initiatives for both Canada and the US. Most of my work is focused on trade engagement with a few consumer facing elements

GFR: And how have you seen Canada’s view on Australian wines change over the decades?

MD: Canada has always been a really solid market for Australian wine. The ebbs and flows mostly circulate around the styles of wines available through the major outlets. We definitely saw an interest in top quality Australian wines in the late 80’s through to the late 90’s and that interest was reflected in what was on the shelves. From the early 2000’s through to not that long ago we saw a dip in interest and a subsequent focus on easy drinking, affordable styles. The success of Yellowtail spawned a few too many copycat brands and for awhile it was hard to see past those wines. Variety still existed but was harder to see. The interest in regionally expressive wines and off the beaten path styles has changed perceptions radically over the last 3 – 5 years and the category is better represented and very exciting again.

GFR: When did you first decide that you would like a career in wine?… and was it with a view to becoming a Sommelier?

MD: I went through hotel school in Australia in the late 1970’s and actually started in the back of the house. I ended up taking a basic wine course one day and the light bulb went off. I thought “this is it. This is the subject that captures my full attention….how do I craft a career out of this?” Initially it was not about being a Sommelier per se as that type of role really didn’t exist. I went through the very first Sommelier program with Jacques Marie at George Brown College (1985 it think?) and everything blossomed from there

GFR: Tell us about your history in the industry? Where did you get your first start?

MD: First job was at a pancake restaurant in Sydney. I was 14 years old and worked all day on Saturdays doing roll-ups. Then, during the school holidays I worked full-time as a dishwasher. Half way through the holidays they fired a line cook on the spot during a busy shift and the kitchen manager dragged me into the kitchen to help him out. I did that through school and then went to hotel school for more formal training. That was at Ryde Catering College in Sydney. Brilliant program. Bloody hard. All the instructors were Swiss, German and Austrian. I fucking hated it for the first few months. You were not given an inch and if you forgot ANYTHING for any class you were kicked out of the class for that day. The discipline it instilled was brilliant though. Really helpful throughout my career.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: And from that formative experience where did you go from there?

MD: Then I went and travelled. Europe, Egypt, Asia. Met a Canadian and ultimately moved to Toronto in 1985. Worked there for 4 years then moved to Vancouver where I lived for the next 25 years. Ran restaurants, opened a wine school, studied continuously……..

GFR: And what were your most memorable gigs over all that time?

MD: Le Select Bistro in Toronto was one of my all-time best jobs. I started right after their first expansion (1987) and I had carte blanche to build the list. We were doing really cool shit there. 1976 Vina Ardanza by the glass, alongside cool bottlings of Cotes du Frontonnais, the best selection of French country wines you could imagine with smatterings of classics like Mouton Rothschild, Coulée de Serrant etc.

Also, my Sommelier job at the William Tell in Vancouver. That was great because on the heels of working with, selling and learning about all those country wines at Select, I was then getting to sell  La Tache, Latour and Lafite with alarming regularity.

GFR: What’s the story behind your formal wine education? And with considerable hindsight do you feel that this was the best route to where you are today?

MD: After doing the Sommelier Diploma with Jacques Marie I moved to Vancouver then pursued all the WSET levels, finishing the Diploma in 2001. I then developed curriculum and taught classes for the ISG for many years and finally attempted the Master of Wine qualification. Managed to pass the tasting on my first attempt but writing academic essays on wine was a struggle for this hospitality guy! I firmly believe that a foundation in some sort of structured wine education is really important. It tightens up thoughts and if it is the right program, gives you tasting discipline. That is the important piece. How far you then take study is a question mark. I really believe in travel as a tool for crystalizing thoughts and knowledge. Just being an academic about wine I find tiresome. You need to live it and feel it. Not just read and write about it.

GFR: Have you ever been in a wine biz situation and begun to really feel your (relative) age? And if so, why?

MD: Generally no but just this month my 24 year old daughter started working in a sales position for an agency in Vancouver. The owner of the agency is Jessica Luongo. Her grandfather used to sell me wine when my daughter was born. So…..yeah……I felt my age at that moment.

GFR: Along the way, who inspired you the most? Did you have any mentors? And what did they do that set them apart from everyone else?

MD: There have been a few but number one, without a doubt is Richard Harvey who owns Metrovino in Calgary. He has been a good friend and confidant for over 30 years. We have travelled together a lot. His knowledge is astonishing in its depth and breadth but he never uses it as a weapon. Humble, open, honest and the most welcoming wine professional I know. Ask anyone who has worked for him. I love that man and continue to be inspired by him.

I worked at the William Tell Restaurant in Vancouver with one of the great restaurateurs of the time, Erwin Doebeli. I learned so much about proper service and follow through. A brilliant mentor from that perspective. Bloody difficult at times but said so many things that resonated deeply and made me a better service professional.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: Can you remember your worst customer experience ever? I have a few doozies…

MD: Oh man. Yeah there’s a few but I always measured those really difficult situations on how they were handled and if I did the right thing. Shit goes sideways in restaurants. It is the nature of the beast. How you resolve it is a measure of your skills and maturity. I learned so much about that from Erwin Doebeli.

Rather than a negative customer story, here is a funny one about a faux pas by the owner of a restaurant I was working in handled, with aplomb by the customer.

A regular came in for dinner wearing a very expensive fur coat, which I took from her and put downstairs in the office to be on the safe side. When she was leaving I retrieved it and as I was draping it across her shoulders I mentioned that it was really soft and asked what it was. Before she could answer, the owner said “Oh, Mark…that’s shaved Beaver……” The customer swung around immediately, looked straight at me and, with a wink said, “Actually, its sheared Beaver but I am sure that Mark would be happy to explain the difference.”

GFR: Arf!

Did you ever get into the wine sales side of things, how did that come about, and how did you find it?

MD: No. I have not been on the sales side of things….well….other than selling wine in restaurants.

GFR: So what makes for a good agent/supplier/merchant in your mind?

MD: Someone who does their homework. Someone who brings you things that they think will inspire you or be a good fit at your place….because they have spent the time understanding what you do. People who just want a listing without thought about fit and future…….that was always a little frustrating for me.

GFR: How do you feel that the industry has changed since you first started all those years ago?

MD: Everything inhales and exhales. Some things are great some annoying but in the end we get to work with wine and that is a beautiful thing. There has never been a better time to be a wine drinker than right now. So much good wine from so many corners of the world, some of which were virtually irrelevant 20 years ago. If I was a buyer right now I would feel spoiled for choice. The evolution of quality and stylistic interpretation is fantastic. It is a very exciting time to drink wine.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: And how has Toronto changed as a wine city?

MD: Just so many more cool places in cool neighbourhoods. And there is much better support for local wines. That was sorely missing for years.

GFR: What were the top spots for wine back in the day?

MD: Le Select Bistro! Ahead of the curve for sure. Orso was sharp in the day, the place for good Italian wine and food. As was Pronto when it opened too.

GFR: And where do you feel does a good job wine-wise these days? And what makes them stand out from the crowd?

MD: In Toronto? Paris Paris. Cool and definitely hipster – I raise the average age by 15 years every time I walk in there –  but I always find fun stuff to drink. Alo. Exceptional service and a thoughtful wine list. Ditto for Grey Gardens and their new place, Bar Vendetta. Really thoughtful, unpretentious service. Great wine programs at both.

GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines? And how have you viewed their evolution since your early days in the industry?

MD: We are in a fantastic place right now. I am more recently familiar with the wines of British Columbia and Ontario so hard for me to speak of other areas. In the past I would be careful to select a few specific wines to tell people to experiment with. Those were necessarily cautious times 😊.

Now? Knock yourself out. just go try stuff.

GFR: What do you think that we do well here in Ontario today?

MD: Cabernet Franc, Riesling

GFR: And what do you feel we should really give up on?

MD: I understand the economic importance of Icewine but the heavy reliance on it is problematic and a lot of it is just sweet. Period. Anyone can hang out over-cropped fruit, wait for it to freeze and then use the concentrated juice to make a sweet wine. Sweetness doesn’t equal greatness. Complexity does.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: How do you feel about restaurants support of our local wine industry? How has that changed since your early days?

MD: So much better now! When I was at Le Select we were doing things with several of the better wineries of the time. I then moved to BC and witnessed the evolution of list there that embraced the local wines. I distinctly remember returning to Ontario and being shocked and appalled by the lack of support. And I am talking late 1990’s and on into the early 2000’s. It is in a much better place now.

GFR: Just as there is from everywhere in the world, there is quite a lot of dreadful wine coming from Canada (BC, Ontario et al.)  also. How do you feel about the issue of people simply promoting something because of it being local, and not because of its quality?

MD: Shit wine is shit wine and blindly promoting it because it is local is not helpful. Local wines need to compete on the global stage. The wine market in Canada is global.

GFR: And what’s your take on this natural wine thing? And why do you feel it is even a “thing”?

MD: I struggled with the concept initially. I cut my teeth on the classics and they were the standards by which I set expectations. I had to take a step back and manage those expectations trying to embrace natural wines. By that I mean knowing a region and a variety or style can be a blessing and a curse. When you try a variety from a specific region you know well and it is dramatically different you tend to judge it harshly. That is what I did with natural wine initially. The turning point for me was to drop what I new about a variety and/or region, forget about colour, clarity and all the things I had learned and simply work on the deliciousness factor. I now really appreciate, buy and drink all manner of “natural” wines. I love that my perceptions of colour clarity flavour and texture have been thrown for a loop. It is a good thing.

That being said, what I will not tolerate are the bullshit excuses for plain old shitty wine. Excessive brett, mousiness, etc. These things mask beauty and origin in wine in the same way heavy handed winemaking does. I wish that the term would go away and we just use low intervention or something? Perhaps the thing that bothers me most, and maybe we will never get away from it in wine – pretentiousness and snobbery. I have battled it my entire career in one form or another and now the modern outbreak is rearing its head in the natural wine scene. From a British journo early in my career “You are just a colonial, you’ll never truly appreciate Burgundy” to a natural winemaker saying recently “These people won’t understand my wines”. It’s the same thing.

Trying to fob off mediocre vinegar and using the excuse that my perverted,  industrialized palate just doesn’t understand …….is bollocks. That shite will go away.

GFR: How aware of wine were you whilst growing up? Were you around wine from an early age?

MD: My dad was in the wine business in Australia. Wine was always on the table.

GFR: Can you remember your first taste of wine?

MD: Yes! Blackberry wine. Drank a whole bottle of it with the express purpose of getting drunk. Vomited out of my eyeballs……

Proper wine? Lindemans Porphyry Pearl and Black Tower. Had them at a teen birthday party and loved them. Thought I was pretty sauve too…….

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?

MD: From an early age. in the right setting. It should be part of the daily meal. Wine is food. Not a vehicle to get you drunk. Early exposure to learn to respect it. Unlike my youthful experiment with Blackberry wine.

GFR: The Sommelier world is notoriously full of pretentious arseholes, and after seeing that film Somm a few years back I still worry about the emergence of a new Wine Bro culture… also, I recently picked up on a LOT of that from the mixology crowd, full-on Jordan Markson fans and all that stuff.  I’d love to hear your thoughts? There have always been pretentious arseholes, right?

MD: Yep. See my earlier comment out pretentiousness in wine generally. We have definitely been through an interesting era of Somm fascination. On one hand I am grateful. I spent a good portion of my career extolling the virtues of this profession, telling people that it is indeed a valid career path. Now the word is part of common vernacular. That is cool. But the clubby thing is annoying. I am seeing change though. We are emerging slowly from the douche nozzle Somm era and it is the younger women in the industry initiating the change I think. There is always going to be some dickhead that uses their knowledge as a weapon but by and large there are lots of great industry professionals that love wine for what it is…..not for what it may or may not represent.

GFR: Speaking of which, we are having some really important conversations right now about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, and what can be done to eradicate it from the culture. Things are changing and certainly for the better.

I’d be interested to hear your take on the topic, and perhaps what you witnessed during your years in the restaurant world… big question I know, but I feel it’s a topic that deserves discussion.

MD: Yeah. I will not do this justice. A big topic. The wine business is a sausage fest and the culture is toxic. Add alcohol and we do have more trouble. This culture has to change. It is changing but not fast enough. I am glad that some cases have come to light because this is drawing attention but we are not there yet. There will be a clanger soon….a Harvey Weinstein of the wine business [someone who is globally “big] will get “outed” I am sure of it.

I have daughters, one of which just got into the business. I hope like hell she doesn’t have to put up with the things I hear my female colleagues (including my wife) have to endure but she likely will and  I hope that we have given her the fortitude to know how to handle herself in these circumstances. But she shouldn’t have to.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: One of the greatest perks of our industry is the opportunity to travel. Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit? I know this is going to be a hell of a long list…

MD: Long list.


Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Beaujolais, Northern and Southern Rhone, Languedoc, Loire Valley, Jura, Bugey, Alsace, Champagne.


Tuscany, Val d’Aosta, Piedmont, Sicily


Maule, Aconcagua, San Antonio, Casablanca, Colchagua

North America:

Okanagan valley, Niagara Peninsula, Walla Walla, Yakima, Willamette, Sierra Foothills, Sonoma (all of it), Napa Valley (all of it), Central Coast (most AVA’s)


Barossa, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, Geelong, Macedon Ranges, Sunbury, Heathcote, Nagambie Lakes, Strathbogie Ranges, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania, Hunter Valley, Canberra District, Orange

I’m sure there are more……

GFR: What have been the most memorable wine trips that you have been on over the decades?

And why? What made them so special?

MD: My first trip to Burgundy. It was my first love. It was everything and more that first time. I still love the region.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: Have you ever made your own wine?

MD: Bottled some selections of Pouilly-Fuisse and Chiroubles for a project with Richard Harvey – The Harvey Davidson project 😊.

Dabbled here and there. Did the 2011 vintage in Pouilly-Fuisse and Fleurie but not really made my own wine as such

GFR: And where would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?

MD: I would like to have a site where Syrah could do well. Granite soils. Cooler. One where you could extract those beautiful florals and medium bodied characteristics. Grenache grown on sandy soil. Perfume and elegance. And I am fascinated with aromatic red varieties. Frapatto. Yeah Frapatto. I want to make a Frapatto. So 3 sites. Pipe dream and all….

GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?

MD: Combination of both. I like seeing the light bulb go off when showing bottles to people. They go hand in hand.

GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?

MD: I haven’t felt like I have worked for 25 years. I love this business.

GFR: Who is, in your mind, a real role model for Old Bastard Sommeliers?

MD: Richard Harvey. Richard Betts MS (just recently become friend with him and he is brilliant, gentle and thoughtful). Madeline Triffon MS. She is the standard by which wine professionals should measure themselves. A consummate professional. Likely would not want to be categorized as Old Bastard, but…

GFR: And for Wine Agents/Importers?

MD: Too removed from the Canadian scene to comment. In the US, Vine Street Imports, Broadbent Selections and Kermit Lynch

GFR: Do you have any nightmares about working with wines? I do… regularly… and it usually involves being unable to find bottles in a cellar… and the clock is ticking away… I have them all the time, and I haven’t been in the role for almost nine years!!!

MD: Not specifically. My issue is cheese. I love cheese but if I eat it late at night I have violent dreams, invariable including clowns. I am trying to punch them and it is not hurting them. I fucking hate clowns.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: Wine folks famously have their Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday? And how does that day off differ from one that you would have had, say, 30 years ago?

MD: The perfect Sunday would be tea in bed in the morning with my wife, fly fishing for a few hours, figuring out what we are cooking for dinner then drinking a bottle of wine while we decide what wine we are going to have for dinner. Dinner would be family. The entire extended, complicated thing that is my family.

GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink in Toronto… perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our city?

MD:  See earlier comments. Makes me realize I need to change those

GFR: Do you cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?

MD: Yes. I love roasting chicken. I also like making curry. My curry game is strong right now

GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?

MD:  not recently but I made my (not then) wife Spaghetti Carbonara trying to impress her but royally fucked it. Scrambled egg and bacon pasta. Made it dozens of time before but it was disgusting that time.

GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier community in Toronto? And how was it when you started in the business?

MD: Yes. I am connected to many through my Wine Australia work. Jake Skakun and Christopher Sealy are a couple of my favs but there are lots. John Szabo is a good friend but he is a lapsed Sommelier. Like me 😊

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: How often do you hang about with other Sommeliers?

MD: quite a bit actually

GFR: I’ve heard so many of my peers say that they don’t do the big shows anymore, the big wine tastings. What are your thoughts on that?

MD: I do think they are a necessary evil but I scratch my head at the effectiveness of big trade shows. They are more about making and renewing connections than tasting wine

GFR: What would you be doing if you were not doing what you are doing today?

MD:  Fly fishing guide

GFR: I know that you love music… What are your thoughts on music in restaurants? And who does it well?

MD: I think music is important for the ambience but it shouldn’t be intrusive. I have to think about who does it well……Hmmmm

GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?

MD: No Question……Babette’s Feast. So good

GFR: Do you have many non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?

MD: They think it is cool but are probably a bit puzzled by it at the same time. Is that really a job?……..

GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?

MD: Time and place. At its best it is a very cool thing. You can do it. You can identify the origins of an agricultural product on taste alone! The ability of wine to express place is fascinating to me. At its worst it is a bad parlour trick, used to show off or denigrate someone. Whenever I hear “I can’t believe you thought that was a ???” it makes my blood boil; people who say that don’t understand blind tasting.

GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…

MD: Without. I am a better taster when I have been practicing. It’s like training for a marathon. You can’t just go out and run one. You have to practice.

GFR: Some of the best tasters I know are heavy smokers… What are your thoughts there?

MD: I don’t agree. The very best tasters I know are not smokers and have impeccable memories. I know some very good tasters who smoke….but they are not the best I know.

GFR: Rather than get you to supply me with some delectable pairings, may I ask you to suggest a pairing that really DOESN’T work… perhaps a mistake that you have made over your years in the job… something that budding Sommeliers should know is a truly terrible pairing? A warning more than anything else!

MD: Tinned sardines and light dry white like Muscadet. That’s is awful. Seriously though I have always been somewhat anarchistic about wine and food pairing. Things that don’t work for me but people love….like dry red wine and chocolate. I would have to say though that this idea that red wine and cheese generally works is rubbish. A LOT of wine doesn’t work with a lot of cheese. Whites are typically easier but even then, tread carefully.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: What’s your current favourite wine region?

MD: Two regions. Yarra Valley and Etna

GFR: In your mind, what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why? And what fads have you seen come and go over the decades?

MD: Lighter, juicy red wines. Smashable reds. When you drink wine every day it is what you crave more frequently.

Over-oaked Chardonnay has come and gone…mercifully.

GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour? And why do you feel that is?

MD: Malbec is waning I think. In the same way people got bored of generic Shiraz from Australia, the boredom is creeping in for Malbec.

GFR: When it comes to wine is there anything that you feel is, or always has been, overrated?

MD: Amarone. Quite possibly the most overrated “famous” wine in the world. Good examples exist but most is actually cumbersome and not really fun to drink.

GFR: Yes, I hear you.

Do you often drink beers, ciders or spirits? What do you currently enjoy?

MD: I am back on the classic lagers. So over the over-hopped shite. Sam Smiths Organic Lager from the UK is a current favourite. I am not a big spirit drinker but I do love old Rye Whiskey. Black Maple Hills Farm from Kentucky. I do drink a lot of Amaro. I love Braulio. But I will drink any amaro though…

GFR: What is/was your least favourite part of your job as a Sommelier? Inventory always crushed me… In fact I just had a nightmare about not having done my inventory the other week!

MD: Inventory for sure. That I don’t miss

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew?

MD: I have a really old Laguiole. Absolutely love it.

GFR: Due to us being around alcohol, many people in our industry often have quite the increased tolerance for wine/booze, or they develop issues. I’ve seen a few of my peers fall by the wayside.

What is your limit and how do you keep yourself in check?

MD: I measure it by my effectiveness the next day. That has historically kept me in check. Also, as you get older you just can’t do the heavy drinking nights. I now longer have what could be called a hangover if I drink too much. It is more like a disease that emanates from my bone marrow. I am rooted for two days if I over indulge. Exercise is what keeps me in check. Playing sports.

GFR: There’s a lot of open discourse right now around the topic of both drug and alcohol abuse within the restaurant/wine world.

Would you care to share a few of your thoughts about that side of the business?

To be quite frank with you, the thing I miss the LEAST about working in that environment are the late nights of drinking and recreational pharmaceuticals. I don’t think my body could take it any longer anyway!

MD: I see it more clearly these days. People who just can’t say no and don’t have an off switch. We use the excuse that it is part of the business. Bullshit. It is a business like any other and you have to be professional. It you can’t manage the temptations that do exist, you won’t make it, you won’t last in this business.

GFR: Speaking of which, have you ever been “cut off”? If so, where and when was the most recent time? I think it happened to me back in Scotland once… hazy memories…

MD: No. I have always been pretty careful. By that I mean from a professional standpoint nobody has seen me wasted. This is my business and I have always felt that you are not only representing yourself out in the public eye but also your place of work. Not cool to be legless in those circumstance. That being said, I have been stupid drunk with close friends but not for a very long time. Can’t do the time so I don’t do the crime 😊

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, with a cameo from upcoming interviewee, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier.

GFR: Speaking of which, do you have a good hangover cure? None of the cures given to me by previous interviewees have really done the job for me… but seeing as you are an old pro…

MD: I crave curry. Curry sorts me out. People like greasy food. I like curry. Berocca tablets from Australia. THE absolute best hangover helper out there.

GFR: How many wines do you taste in a week these days?

MD:  15 – 20 on average. More depending on the trade calendar

GFR: When tasting with agents do you choose to spit or swallow?

MD: Spit. You have to spit

GFR: What’s your “house” wine at home?

MD: changes a lot. I drink a lot of light reads. Newer style Grenache from Australia, Pinot Noir, Northern Italian red

GFR: Do you keep a cellar at home? How sizable and deep is it?

MD: A small one. 200 bottles

GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?

MD:  1971 Chambolle Musigny from Domaine Leroy

GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy day at work?

MD: Blanc de Blanc Champagne

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto, and shows off his famous pensive look.

GFR: What advice would you give to these young bucks? What sage wisdom can an old hand like yourself pass on to the younger generation of Sommeliers?

  1. Be humble
  2. Be curious
  3. Be open minded
  4. Travel like a madman or madwoman
  5. You are in the service business, be concerned about your customers needs and less about “your journey in wine”
  6. Spend the early part of your career asking questions rather than positing opinions

GFR: If you could go back and have a word with the young Mark Davidson as he started in the business, what specifically would you tell him?

MD: Appreciate all the good people you have worked for and that have worked for you. They will help shape who you become.

GFR: Okay, the quickfire round!

Coffee or tea?

MD: Tea first thing in the morning. A kinder gentler way to start the day. But I cannot live without a good coffee

GFR: Lemon, horseradish, mignonette, or hot sauce?

MD: Horseradish!!

GFR: Vindaloo or Korma?

MD: Vindaloo

GFR: Milk or dark?

MD: Milk

GFR: Ketchup, mayonnaise, or salt & vinegar?

MD: Salt and Vinegar

GFR: Blue, R, MR, M, MW, W, Charcoal?


Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

Old Bastard Sommelier Mark Davidson visits Toronto.

GFR: And now the cheesy question Mark… If you were a grape varietal which would you be? and why?

MD:  Nebbiolo. Because I would never get sick of myself

GFR: Thank you for taking the time Mark. Much appreciated.

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he always enjoys some quality time with Mark.