We chat to wine expert and founder of Elicite, the e-commerce and educational fine wine platform, Martyn Zemavicius
What is your earliest memory involving wine?
My earliest memory of wine is tasting my grandmother’s homemade wine when I was a teenager. It was made from a very old and very big single vine that climbed all the way up one part of her house. It was red, quite sweet and really tasty.
Where do you think your appreciation of wine comes from?
19 years ago I was working at the Harvey Nichols OXO tower restaurant with an amazing sommelier team; they had been my mentors and helped build the foundation of my appreciation for fine wine. A wine that I still remember clearly trying was the legendary 1945 Chateau Cheval Blanc. This showed me two key things; wines can really age and some wines are like the most amazing pieces of art.
Tell us more about Elicite – how does it differ from other wine-sellers?
ELICITE.com is an ecommerce and media platform that will offer consumers an intuitive user experience designed to enhance consumer’s learning and purchasing no matter where they are on their journey.
At ELICITE we understand that there are many people who enjoy drinking fine wine but are frequently faced with curiosities and questions when it comes to selecting, purchasing and generally understanding more about the world of fine wine.
Our mission is straight forward: to give consumers the knowledge so that they are empowered to purchase and enjoy fine wine with confidence. We believe that the more someone understands something, the more they appreciate it, and that is very true for fine wine.
Our concept is to give consumers the ability to watch, learn and taste—a completely new experience in the fine wine industry. Our educational video series starts with The Essentials Series, and goes up in four ascending levels of learning. Each series is accompanied by a mixed selection of wines that have been expertly curated to enhance the learning experience. Our videos are free to watch and as well as the mixed selections you can then also purchase all the wines as single bottles.
You’re producing an educational video series to accompany the launch, what do you plan to cover and why?
We plan to cover a variety of topics, starting with The Essentials Series, a 7-part video series. These videos will firstly give viewers the must know foundations of fine wine, from learning about its hidden costs to decoding wine labels. We believe these essential topics will empower consumers to be able to purchase and enjoy fine wine in their day-to-day lives; from choosing wine in restaurants or a wine shop, to purchasing for a special occasion.
As viewers continue their exploration, they will be able to deepen their knowledge through four levels, starting with The Explorer and ascending to The Connoisseur, The Expert, and, finally, The Master. Each level will feature its own video series, delving into more technical topics that really give consumers a thorough understanding—but in an easy-to-digest format.
Our educational video series will build over time, and each video series will be available on ELICITE.com and we will also release two per week on YouTube. Our aim is to engage with consumers, to share our passion and open up the wonderful world of fine wine –for all.
You’ve previously worked as head-sommelier at Harvey Nichols – can you tell us more about what this involved?
That involved trying one of most amazing wines ever produced, including a 1961 Chateau Petrus. Working ridiculously long hours, not having days off sometimes for three weeks and pretty much not having a personal life. Meeting celebrities like Paul McCarthy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bona, John Travolta. Being taken by wine suppliers on amazing wine trips and Michelin star dinners. Basically, it was work hard, play hard.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Enjoying the moment of now with people who are closest to me, having delicious meals and stunning bottles of Champagne like a 1981 Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs.
What is your all-time favourite wine, and why?
The 1928 Veuve Clicquot which was kept in Veuve Clicquot’s 2000-year-old cellar until 1972 and after at Le Gavroche’s cellar since 2015. I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy this wine with a dear friend. It was a magical wine—super complex and changing continuously in the glass. It was so unbelievably amazing that we sat for about ten minutes literally speechless and could not believe that wine could be so incredible. Also, when you drink something that old, you understand that you are drinking a part of history.
What do you look for in a vineyard?
LIFE! After years travelling around the world and seeing hundreds of vineyards, it is very sad to see how some of them look half dead due to the constant use of chemicals and heavy tractors. With healthy vineyards you can see flowers and different plants growing, the earth is fluffy, full of nature’s bugs, it smells like fresh earth, birds are singing and the vines look healthy.
Where do you think produces the best wine, and how do you see this changing in the future?
I would not be able to choose where the best wine is produced, just like I am not able to choose which of my children is my favourite. There are great wines made by top producers from different regions from all around the world. How I see fine wine changing in the future is producers respecting land and vines more and by switching to sustainable, organic or biodynamic principals. As more and more great producers are doing that from all around the world, this will result in amazing wines and happier people who are working to produce those wines.