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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Help Us To Help You

My last post garnered a series of funny comments, which was its intention. But it also solicited a request for help from Malcolm H on what might be the RIGHT questions to ask when you need suggestions for a bottle of wine.
General speaking, common sense is the first and foremost consideration to keep in mind. Remember that you are asking for help, and even though the person in front of you is there to help you, you can improve the outcome of the situation significantly by doing nothing more than keeping it real.
If you don't know anything about what you'd like to buy, a good place to start is having at least few simple specifications, like the color (red, white, rose or sparkling) and /or price range (which is a very valuable piece of information in a market where a single format carries such a vast spectrum of value). Trust me, just those simple hints are of great help.
If you are looking for a specific taste, try to describe it (light, medium, heavy, sweet, dry, tannic, velvety etc etc etc). If you just say, "I like Merlot," you are not offering any valuable information, because the same grape (especially with an international varietal like Merlot) can create completely different wines, depending on the soil and the grower. Comment #3 from Lyle gave an example of a lot of quantifiers that are more confusing then helpful - specificity is the key in this situation. Lyle's next comment brings up another very good point - it is a regular occurrence to have someone come in, name a restaurant and ask if I know what wine they drank. To be perfectly honest, I don't think is possible to answer a question like that even if you know all the lists of every Manhattan restaurant (or Prague in Lyle's case). Restaurants' lists do not remain static, and sometimes number into the tens of thousands of bottles. There's just no way.
If you say that a certain wine was "delicious," obviously you liked it and that's why you are looking for it, but you're not offering anything specific about the wine (anyhow these are some tips I wrote a little while ago on what to do to remember a wine that you liked).
Asking about favorites could be a way to go but make sure that you and your wine adviser share similar taste.
Another suggestion I can give you is to build a relationship with your chosen wine expert. Try to talk with the same person every time you seek out a recommendation - after a little time your wine guy will understand your taste, based on the wines you liked or disliked. This relationship can shorten the buying process to something as quick as: "I have 4 people for dinner; I like some red and some white and I like to spend X amount of money. Please include Y as one of the bottles."
One last thought - with wine, especially if you are in a restaurant or a shop where the lists are carefully selected, you get what you pay for. This means it's probably a little self-defeating to ask for something like Domaine de la Romanee Conti for $10, because that doesn't exist.


Wingman said...

You've always been great everytime I came into your shop! I would have thought color/ price/ food would be 3 common threads to any request for a recomendation but nothing surprises me anymore!

You even succesfully navigated my purchase when I told you I was just getting somethign for my sister who didn't care what it tasted like as long as it got her drunk :)

De Vino said...

Thank you. I hope your sister got tipsy with taste :)