May 18, 2022
While beer is in the name of this podcast, we explore all kinds of beverage alcohol with our guests. In recent episodes, we’ve talked about alcohol-infused coffee, agriculture, filmmaking, and more. If you follow alcohol industry news—or just stroll through your local grocery or liquor store—you know hard seltzer and canned cocktails increasingly take up space on shelves and in conversations. All of which is to say, the entirety of alcohol matters more every day as people explore new options, flavors, and expand their own understanding and expectation of how they enjoy and connect to whatever is in their bottle, can, or glass.
These themes are what led me to Paula de Pano, an advanced sommelier, wine educator, and entrepreneur behind Rocks + Acid Wine Shop, a new bar and store in North Carolina. Paula is a longtime industry vet with an education in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America—that’s the “CIA” you’ll hear mentioned in this interview—and she is opening this new venture with a focus on ways to court all kinds of drinkers. Wine can kind of feel stodgy at times given its history and pop culture status as a drink of choice for older, more affluent people, but Paula is making distinct choices about how to stock wines and interact with customers that seem necessary to reach a wider audience. She’s taking a unique stance on who she buys wine from and why, and even the physical layout of Rocks + Acid is meant to provide an atmosphere where education feels welcomed, not forced.
The past 20 years has offered narratives of beer’s decline, spirits’ rise, and wine’s … consistency. It hasn’t really lost volume or sales, but it has faded a bit in terms of attention, especially for younger drinkers. So, while we talk about and see the evolution of alcohol into all sorts of flavored concoctions that line store shelves, Paula is looking to make wine more familiar, welcoming, and exciting for all.