Wine Communicator of the Year nominee: Ilkka Sirén
Ilkka Sirén is a beverage, food and travel communicator from Finland, who writes a regular wine column for Finland’s most popular food magazine Maku. Aimed at both consumers and professionals, his articles have also been published in world-renowned media outlets such as the BBC, Saveur and Eater.
Nominated for IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2018, judges particularly admired Sirén’s “simple yet passionate style of writing”.
Here he tells the IWSC about the highlights of his career, which winemaker has been his greatest influence - and about his most embarrassing moment with a bottle of Champagne.
How did you first become interested in wine?
I was living in Brazil as an exchange student when I was 17 years old. I traveled to Rio Grande do Sul and visited the Vale dos Vinhedos wine region. I had never really tasted wine before, and I visited a local winery and thought it was quite interesting. It was not love at first sight, but there was something about wine that was really fascinating. When I returned to Finland, I got all the books about wine I could find, and I was hooked.
How long have you been in the wine business?
I have been working with wine for ten years now.
Which is your favourite region and why?
This is a difficult and pretty much an impossible question to answer. I have a very adventurous palate, and I love to taste wines from all over the world. Regions like Bairrada (Portugal), Roussillon (France), Sicily (Italy) and Istria (Croatia) are some of the wine regions I love to return to over and over again.
Which winemaker do you most admire?
I would say Dirk Niepoort has been a significant influence. I did my first harvest in the Douro Valley back in 2008. I sent resumes to many wineries, but Niepoort was the only one crazy enough to take me in with zero experience. It was hard work, but I learned a lot. There was always a bunch of wines to taste, blind of course, and that gave me the confidence to talk about wine. It didn’t matter if you guessed the grape variety or region correctly, as long as you had an opinion about the wine.
What do you do to relax?
I love spending time with my kid, building Lego or playing Pokémon. I’m usually a Bulbasaur. Otherwise, I spend a good part of my year in the countryside enjoying the beautiful Finnish nature.
What’s been your greatest triumph?
In 2015, I received a great honour and was knighted by the Confraria do Vinho do Porto. My family was in Porto, one of my favorite cities, to celebrate the occasion. It was a great day.
And what’s your most embarrassing moment?
Ouch, this could potentially be a very long list. I have had plenty of embarrassing moments when it comes to opening a bottle of wine, sparkling wine in particular. People often think that because I work with wine, theatrically opening a wine bottle would somehow be super easy for me. It is not. This came apparent when I accidentally sprayed a bottle of bubbles across the wall, on the sofa and the guests at my wife’s 30th birthday party. There is still a big stain on the lampshade.
The IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year 2018 will be announced at the Vinitaly Gala Dinner on 14 April in Verona.
- “As a start-up brand you focus hard on achieving credibility and creating awareness. Winning Gold Outstanding and the Mezcal Trophy provided us with a level of credibility and exposure that we simply could not have achieved on our own. The awards helped secure key listings in Harvery Nichols and Selfridges and certainly played a significant part in opening up dialogue with potential U.S importers and ultimately securing one. I thought hard about which competition to enter and what the return on that investment would be. I can say with absolute confidence that the IWSC was worth every penny.”David ShepherdFounder & Director, Corte Vetusto
- “IWSC is a very important competition to us in terms of showing consumers our quality. It's one of the competitions that we definitely enter on a yearly basis.”Ian ChangMaster Blender, Kavalan Distillery
- “Out of all of the awards, the IWSC is probably the most prestigious and most honest awards. You choose your judges very well and they're very good, honest, decent people. They do it for the love of the industry.”Sukhinder SinghMD, The Whisky Exchange
- “The IWSC is a very prestigious competition. The prestige is a great thing to be able to communicate to our customers who have great respect for it.”David PorterOperations & Buying, Lea & Sandeman
- “The IWSC represents everything, without a doubt. There's no better competition in the world where you can judge yourself not just against your countrymen but against the rest of the world.”Andy AndersonWinemaker, Takapoto Estate
- “Fantastic company and fantastic award . . . In the wine industry, having an award like this is such an accolade.”Claire GriffithsCommercial Director, Vina Cono Sur
- “It's one of the greatest international awards you can get. It's similar to an Oscar, if you like.”Lenz MoserWinemaker, Yantai Changyu Pioneer Company
- “Because of the number of international judges that are tasting the wines and the number of wines that are being entered, it’s a great privilege for us to receive this award. The history of the competition, the standing that it has amongst the international wine world and certainly amongst one’s peers, to be able to get an award at the IWSC means a lot. There are a lot of competitions around the world – this probably represents the top award you could get as a winemaker.”Gary & Kathy JordanWinemakers, Jordan Wine Estate
- “It’s a great honour to win especially as nowadays people are focusing on the quality not just the numbers, so it does mean a huge amount getting recognition from an institution as well sought after as the IWSC.”Chris BlandyOwner, Blandy's Wines
- “This will be a recognition that will help in building the brand further, and building its prestige around the world.”Victor FuentesDirector General, El Coto de Rioja S.A
- “The IWSC is a well renowned, well looked up to standard and a symbol of premium products so it’s a great achievement to win any award.”Andrea FreeboroughCellar Master, Nederburg Wines