Glass act is ready to blow you away
Picture: Stephen Baccon

He started his working life as a bottle shop attendant but within a decade Matt Skinner was a respected sommelier working with celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Tobie Puttock, and an accomplished wine writer.

"It's now my 21st year in wine full time," Skinner said. "But I never got into it with a career in mind. I simply got into it because I needed some money."

He said he was lucky that in 1993, aged 18, his boss at the Hawthorn hotel where he worked decided to send him on a wine course - despite Skinner showing no real interest in wine. And he felt similarly fortunate that he had a good teacher for that course.

Skip forward a few years and Matt Skinner is an award-winning wine communicator heading to WA for the Truffle Kerfuffle, where he will host the Plumm Wine Glass Experience.

Plumm is the brand of style- specific wine glasses launched in 2009 by a Melbourne-based family food and wine distribution business, Valcorp Fine Foods. The range includes handmade, machine-made, stemless and polycarbonate glasses for outdoor use. Skinner was asked to contribute notes to Plumm's catalogue of its five types of wine glass - two for reds, two for whites and one for sparkling wines. The aim of the new venture was to produce a range of glasses that was specific to different wines but also suitable for everyday drinking, and Skinner was impressed.

"I was blown away by the fact there were only five glasses in the range, not 50 or 500," he said.

"For as long as I've been writing and talking about wine I've been trying to communicate that wine doesn't have to be difficult or stressful or expensive - it should only ever be simple and enjoyable."

Skinner said the synergies between what Plumm was offering and what he was trying to do as a wine educator led to his greater involvement with the brand.

Today, he's the Plumm ambassador hosting wine glass masterclasses at events such as Truffle Kerfuffle.

These are fun and informal sessions, he says, which last about 45 minutes and which often revolve around a theme.

"There's no right or wrong in the class," he said. "I'm not trying to ram down people's throats 'This is what they must do at home'. It's simply an opportunity to open people's minds to a new experience, an alternative."

During the classes Skinner uses a "comparison" glass - the standard wine glass that most people are familiar with. This enables them to compare and contrast for themselves the taste between a standard glass and a glass specifically designed for that type of wine.

So what does he say to the argument that if a wine is good enough, it will taste good out of any glass - even a plastic tumbler.

It's like watching television, he replies, and making do with black and white versus colour. Or listening to music.

"If you listen to a favourite album you can listen to it from a headphone on your phone or in surround sound," he said.

"The difference that surround sound makes is profound. And I think ultimately, if you care about what you drink you should care about what you drink from."

Though Plumm's glasses are the only wine-specific glasses developed and designed in Australia, they are actually made in Europe. A wide search was conducted to try to source the glasses from a manufacturer in Australia but it was unsuccessful, he said. The search went worldwide and ended in Slovakia which Skinner describes as "the home of great crystal stemware".

The West Australian

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