Monday, October 12, 2015

What are You Afraid Of?

I know that many in the wine industry have had this experience.  What happens is you're doing a wine tasting and someone comes to the table and say that I want something sweet.  There can be any number of wines on the table that folks may taste for free.  I'm not taking about one of those places where you pay a price to taste and you can only pick a select number that you want to sample.  But I am talking about the ones that you can end up having a couple of glasses of wine in tastings alone.  I probably shouldn't care when people want to stay in their comfort zones all of the time. But I do care! So excuse me while I stand on my soapbox!

#1. Wine tastings are for more than just to sell a customer wine.  A purpose of wine tastings is to educate.  We (I mean those of us in the industry) take pride in being able to explain the subtleties in the wine, talk about the great growing regions and the phenomenal season that helped to result in this little piece of "heaven" in a bottle.  We are poised and ready to talk "shop" because we've prepared and we've picked wines specifically for you.  When customers come to the table where we have lined the wines up in order of lightest to darkest with a few exceptions and ask for something sweet, it feels like cold water has been thrown on us.  We can offer the sweetest wine that we have.  If the customer doesn't like it, they walk away like we've offered them dirty socks.  Or worse, believe and tell others that we don't have any "good" wine.

#2.  What's sweet to one person isn't sweet to another person.  I will share an example from last week.  We were tasting out a Prosecco and one person said that it was sweet.  I personally wouldn't define it as sweet but I am just one person.  Wine can be somewhat subjective.  I have found a tinge of sweetness in some Merlots while others think that it is as dry as the Mojave Desert.  We taste things differently.  If you are at a wine tasting, use this opportunity to ask the expert why that is.  That's why they are there.

#3.  When you taste wine at your favorite shop, you are helping the shop/store owners to select wines to be on their shelves.  Do your part!  If you taste it and don't like it, take the opportunity to say what you don't like about it.  It's simple.  You better believe that if the masses think it isn't worth the shelf space, you won't see it again in that shop.

What are you afraid of?  Taste the small portion.  If you don't like it, spit it out or dump it.  Eat an oyster cracker to get the taste out of your mouth, drink water, and move to the next one.  Something may happen.  And that could be that you find something else that you like.  Write down the names of what you like or take a picture of the label with your phones.  When you shop or eat out, share the wine that you liked with the server and see if they have something similar.  There are so many varietals of wine; too many to limit your options to just one flavor profile.  Be adventurous, be fearless, taste wine.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Have a Glass (or Two or Five) of Italy

Enjoying wine can be more than simply enjoying what's in your glass.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  Just play along with me and pretend, if you will, that there is something else going on.  I promise that I will bring you back to the deliciousness of the vino.

About eight years ago, I traveled for 10 days in Italy with some really good friends and wine drinkers. Tuscany made me fall in love with wines from this region.  Having seen the hillsides, valleys, and the luxurious vines, I feel a kinship and sense of familiarity when I drink Italian wines.  I smell the earthiness in the luscious reds and enjoy the lushness of the greenery that I taste on the palate.  The kiss of the sun and coolness of the nights is evident in the well balanced presentation of fruit and acidity.  Every sip makes me want to go back.  

A wine maker once explained to me that wine is about the soil, the sun, and water.  I can't argue with that because grapes, like any other fruit or vegetable, need those key ingredients to grow.  We all know that the amount of water and sun impact the rate of growth and ripeness, and we know that every soil isn't as fertile as others.  Therefore, the same grape doesn't grow the same in all parts of the world.  So what are we experiencing in our glass is a direct "taste" of where the grape was grown.  The beauty of studying wines from a specific region is that you learn to understand the nuances of grapes from that particular part of the world.  What's in your glass brings travel to you.  Next week, we bring Italy to Richmond.  

The Vine Wine Club's Winter Wine School presents "A Tour of Italy: Italian Wine Class" on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.  Taste delicious wines from various wine regions such as Gavi, Brunello, and Barolo.  Learn to appreciate what makes these regions so special.  

I hope to see you in class!

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