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Meet Rachel Woods of The Wine Nerd

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Woods.

Rachel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ll admit to being intrigued by wine and loving drinking it ever since I legally was able to. An iconic moment for me was when we ordered off one of those wine discount magazines and received a case of varietals I’d never heard of. It came with tasting cards, and I remember this being my first introduction into the fun world of wine knowledge — like knowing that Syrah and Shiraz are really two names for the same varietal but from different regions and different styles.

I then spent the summer of 2018 backpacking in Europe for three months — surrounded by wine culture and access like I’d never had before. In my downtime on trains, plains and busses, I started listening to a wine podcast: Wine for Normal People. This is when I discovered how many doors and amazing conversations can open from just knowing and appreciating a little bit about wine. Many moments stand out, but none better than chatting with a wine shop owner in Florence, Italy about her family’s history in the esteemed wine region of Tuscany, a conversation that all began with me knowing that the primary white wine produced there was Vernaccia di San Gimignano. You could say I became quite obsessed with wine after that!

I come from a background of working as a data scientist doing research at a big Tech company, so maybe one could have guessed that I’d end up doing research on one of the things I’m most passionate about: wine! I don’t remember exactly what came first — the project idea, the wine research curiosity, or the desire to just make some graphs, but there was a distinct weekend where I started thinking about how cool it would be to merge the skillset I use at my day job with my passion for wine. As I was learning, I would come across contradicting information, things that didn’t add up, or that I just wanted to understand more. I have a totally nerdy research-y brain, so I basically took all of those questions and thought about how I could do my own research to answer them! And that’s still the major driving force in the work I do with The Wine Nerd today.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I feel like I’m really just getting started, but there have definitely been some struggles. The biggest hurdle I face on a daily basis is in finding the data to do the research that I think will be most impactful and insightful for my audience. This probably isn’t shocking to most, but the wine industry is quite traditional and thus hasn’t adopted many of the “open source” or “open data” mindsets that have made an abundance of data available to the public in many other industries.

Please tell us about The Wine Nerd.
The Wine Nerd started as a data-driven research and educational initiative in wine. We share a lot of our research on Instagram and our blog, with the goal of helping consumers learn more about what they’re drinking. We also do research with wineries to understand key insights about their businesses. What sets us apart is that we not only have the technical rigor and expertise in predictive analytics and machine learning, but we also understand how to identify real world value to make our insights and research actionable for both consumers and businesses.

The long term mission is to solve key pain points in the wine industry, through analyzing data, conducting insightful research, and building great products. We strongly believe that there is a major opportunity to build a smarter way to help consumers understand and choose wines, connect them to great wineries, and help those wineries foster long term relationships with the consumer. We are quite proud of some of the new technologies we are developing to do this, so expect to see the footprint of The Wine Nerd only grow larger.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Well, this isn’t really from childhood, but I do remember that when I first started drinking wine and my dad was trying to teach me the basics. I remember that I absolutely couldn’t stand “that chalky feeling in red wine” so I proceeded to drink only white wine for a full year before revisiting red wine. Now years later, I am totally a red wine drinker and adore wines with good chalky (aka tannic) characteristics. Funny how things change!

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