Meet The Locals: Joe Caruso from SOMM Wine Store

Queensland might not spring to mind when you think about wine, but some excellent vineyards are putting the sunshine state on the winemaking map.

Wine specialists Joe and Natalie Caruso of SOMM Wine Store, Nobby’s Beach are proud to showcase an impressive selection from family-owned wineries in Queensland, Australia and beyond.

I chatted with Joe about the Granite Belt wine region, minimal intervention winemaking and what it’s like to run a wine business in Nobby’s Beach.

Hi Joe, thanks for chatting today. I am a big fan of SOMM Wine Store, what was your inspiration?

We opened SOMM (short for ‘Sommelier’) so we could support family-owned wineries from Queensland, Australia and the world. We wanted to share these wines and the stories and passion behind them with our local community.

For us, it’s about the experience people have when they come into the store. We ask customers what kind of wines they like, what they are having for lunch or dinner and then pair the wine for them. We also enjoy introducing our customers to new varieties. Almost every wine that we have on our shelves has been tried by us first and this helps us immensely with our recommendations.

How did you get started in the wine industry?

I was working in the hospitality industry in the 1990’s and did a wine introduction course to learn more about wine. Ever since then I have been really passionate about wine. I have worked in the wine industry for almost 20 years, in various roles including distribution, wholesale, importing, consulting and retail, so I’m pretty fortunate to have covered many aspects of the wine industry.

How long have you been living here on the Gold Coast and what do you like most about it?

I have been living on the Gold Coast for about eight years now and love the lifestyle, the local community and the diversity of amazing beaches and beautiful hinterland. I’m an avid cyclist and enjoy riding out to the hinterland for its serenity.

Natalie and I also really enjoy spending time with family and friends. Our background is Italian, so sharing food and wine is a big part of our culture. We love cooking and entertaining and the food and dining scene on the Gold Coast offers so much too. There are so many great cafes and restaurants.

So, what is the story with Queensland wines?

People don’t know much about the Queensland wine growing regions, but they make really good wines which we are happy to share and promote at SOMM Wine Store. The Granite Belt is the most recognised wine growing region. It’s actually quite a cold area, and they make really nice, elegant, cool climate wines. A few vineyards are also making good alternate varieties which really suit the region.

We last visited Stanthorpe in August 2019 at the peak of the drought. It was very confronting. Then came the bushfires and after, there was a big push to support local businesses, including wineries. We’re really happy to be part of that.

You focus on small-scale wine producers that practice sustainable farming and low intervention winemaking, can you tell me more?

A lot of family-owned wineries practice sustainable and organic wine making. That’s how wine was made years ago. That’s how wine should be made!

Low intervention, or natural winemaking is about growing high-quality organic and biodynamic fruit – that means growing grapes and making wine with as little intervention as possible in the vineyard and winery. Taking the approach of less is more lets the vineyard express itself, and truly shows what the variety, vineyard, season and terroir (site) can do.

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Are there any new wine trends to keep an eye out for?

Wine is like fashion, there are always new trends. It depends on the season. At the moment Pinot Noir is very popular. We will be leading up to spring and summer fairly soon, so expect to see sparkling, Champagne, rosè and natural wines. We always keep ahead of trends to make sure we have those wine styles available at all price points.

Overall, we like to have a good mix, with a focus on Australian wines, particularly those from Queensland, but we offer some great international wines too. When we choose wine, we focus on what the region does best so we can play to their strengths.

Is there anything new in the pipeline for SOMM?

We were doing wine tastings when we opened in June, then there was lockdown and mandatory masks so we had to stop, but we will start this again when we can. We are also planning wine education classes and courses for beginners and intermediates. We will offer different topics too, like Italian wine, or French wine. I’ve been fortunate to experience these regions and it’s exciting to share this knowledge.

Do you have a top tip for wine tasting?

Everyone’s palate is different. Yes, each variety of wine has some common characteristics but, everyone’s experience of a particular wine is unique to them.

When it comes to pouring yourself a glass of wine, what’s your preference?

I get asked every day what my favourite wine is. My answer is that I enjoy all wines. What I drink depends on what I am eating, the company I am with and what the weather is like too. It’s really about the whole experience.

Lastly, how have you found running a business here in Nobby’s Beach?

The community support has been fantastic. We are so grateful that the Nobby’s Beach and surrounding communities have welcomed us with open arms. I would like to thank you as well, Ron, for sharing our story.

We are really passionate about wine and we want to share this passion and our knowledge with our customers. We want people to enjoy their experience at the store and hope that they can learn something each time.

Thanks Joe, you are welcome. It’s been a pleasure chatting, and it’s great to see our family-owned Queensland wineries getting the recognition they deserve.

You can find SOMM Wine Store at 2245 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby’s Beach 07 5647 6057. For more information check out the website, or follow SOMM on Facebook or Instagram.

Photo credits: Brooke Darling

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Article by Ron London

My vision was very simple. To create a fundamentally different real estate company. I identified a need in the marketplace to deliver different outcomes and more fulfilling experiences to all people. As a proud Mermaid Beach/Miami local, I’m a passionate advocate for my community and I am a proud sponsor of Miami Swimming Club and Surfers Para… Read more