Billy Munnelly is the champion of good everyday wine.
One of Canadas most creative wine writers, Billy Munnelly has delivered irreverent, lighthearted and enlightening wine advice for 35 years. Munnelly’s goal has been to remove confusion and intimidation from the wine selection process, taking it back from the snobs.
Before devoting his life to the pursuit of good, affordable wine, the Irish-born bon vivant spent years in the restaurant industry. In 1977 he opened Stratfords Rundles restaurant with current owner Jim Morris. In 1981 he opened the Rosedale Diner in Toronto. In 1983 Billy switched to drinking full time and ‘hasn’t missed a days work since’. Munnelly was one of the first to write and publish a wine consumer report. His bi-monthly wine publication, Billy’s Best Bottles Wineletter (1983 – 2005) was Canadas most widely circulated consumer wine report, with subscribers from coast to coast.
In the early ’90s, Billy launched his annual wine buying guide, ‘Billy’s Best Bottles Wines’, and was a Canadian best seller each year since its inception (‘Wines for 2012’ marked the 22nd edition, and last).
Billy has appeared on Canada AM, Christine Cushing Live, Breakfast TV, Hunter’s Gathering, The Gardener’s Journal and CBC radio. His writing has been showcased in newspapers and publications including The New York Times, Canadian Consumer Report, Wine X, Toro, Wine Fox, Wish, Metro, London Free Press, Watershed and LCBO’s Food & Drink magazines. He is a member of the Wine Writer’s Circle of Canada. In 2011 he received a Lifetime Achievement award for promoting Ontario wine.
In addition to writing and publishing, Billy serviced the wine and hospitality industry via alternative wine education and innovative marketing concepts. He and partner Kato Wake took their ‘show on the road’ and conducted ‘Wine By Mood School’ in homes, restaurants and board rooms. Together they have taught wine education and service skills to hundreds of hospitality workers, and conducted wine seminars to over 8,000 Canadians. They now happily take small tour groups to Europe – planning Wine, Food + Culture camps!
Billy and Kato are proud to call beautiful Prince Edward County their home.
How I See Wine
Wine pleasure has as much to do with what’s in your head as what’s in your glass.
Most wine publications celebrate the high and mighty wine world and smoked salmon and caviar. My focus is on the middle ground, the good everyday trooper, the Toyota. Wines to get me through the week and to take me on the occasional trip. Wines to have fun with rather than worship.
Not everyone wants wine expertise. Most of us just want to know which wine will work well for lifes various events; the BBQ, the birthday bash, the pizza night. We want to know how different styles of wine might connect to our times, moods and events. We want quick, easy solutions so we can get on with enjoying ourselves.
The ‘experts’ are wrong. It’s not about the wine.
It’s not the wine itself that matters, but your experience of it. We don’t play music for the compositions, or the players, but for the pleasure of the feeling it gives us. And so it is with wine. Everywhere we hear about the wine and its flavours but this has been a mistake. We should be hearing about the experience of it. What emotions are created by the different wines?
Wine is more than a liquid with a smell, flavour and history. Wine is part drink, part situation, part thought, part desire, and part imagination.
How does it feel?
The communion between people and wine is feeling. Wines statement isn’t flavour. The essence or character of a wine can only be felt. It’s the feeling that connects wine to our moods and events. When you shift to seeing wine as a feeling experience you’ll become more comfortable with the subject because you know and trust your feelings. Feeling is a language of the soul, not the head.
Down with excessive glitz!
In North America, we’re obsessed with stardom and prestige brands and this blinds us to the whole point of wine. The Japanese tea ceremony suffered a similar fate when it fell into the hands of wealthy merchants who had little knowledge of the true spirit of the event, and made the ceremony a show of glitz and materialism. Wine’s origin is in the simple cafe or at a wooden table in the shade. It’s about sociability first and foremost.
In case of emergency
1. grab the beaujolais
2. get a baguette
3. leave your worries on the doorstep
4. direct you picnic to the sunny side of the street
The old wine ways support wine snobbery. Wine experts love talking down to people as it makes them feel superior. My Wine by Mood system does the opposite. It helps people become their own wine expert. To be good at wine, you need to ask the question: ‘What mood am I in? What do I need?’
Tell me your mood and I’ll tell you which wine.
BE A WINE DJ
For me, wine and music play similar roles in life. They both offer an endless variety of opportunities for a lift, a laugh, or to generally delight the heart and soul.
For both wine and music, the key to enjoyment is developing a sense of what’s appropriate; a knack for choosing the wine or music that’s right for the moment. One minute we may desire something nourishing and soothing. Another time we want to kick up our heels and go wild. Good times with wine is not something you buy, it’s something you create.
There’s wine for all our moods. Matching the spirit or character of a wine to that of an event is the great overlooked challenge in wine. The person who knows which wine to play is the real wine expert.
Like music, wine is interactive. Records and wine are not useful once purchased, only when played. You have nothing until you put the wine into context with mood and company and with thought. It’s what you bring to the wine that will make it shine or not, and give it value. A $10 bottle can deliver $100 worth of pleasure, and vice versa. This is the challenge in wine, Get good at playing it. Develop the knack of pouring what’s appropriate and the wine that hits the spot. Forget expertise and work on your playing skills.
With music, we begin to hear and feel it as we take the CD from its packaging. Imagine the same thing happening as you open a bottle of wine – actually feeling the experience and appropriateness of the wine. We don’t need more or better Cabernet or Chardonnay. We need for the consumer to shift attention from wine to the feeling of the experience. Only by knowing something about how a wine feels can we make choices that result in good times. No amount of wine knowledge will do this for you.