. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: May I ask a question???

Friday, October 05, 2007

May I ask a question???

I've wanted to write about this for a long time, and today seemed to be the right day to do it - the chronicle of silly questions asked in the world of wine and food. I'm not sure why, but for how long food and wine have been around (always), they certainly seem to merit a staggering array of bonehead remarks and requests. Sometimes, the questions aren't even about the food or wine... they're just inane. Herein, a small sampling:
Among the top ten I've ever been asked was this one, from my days behind the register at Il Bagatto, where one of my duties was to answer the phone. In my closing salutation at the end of a reservation call, I gave the address of the restaurant saying:
"we are located on 2nd street between avenues A and B, closer to B." Pretty clear directions, I'd say. So one day, I'm taking a reservation, and I give the address of the restaurant, and the voice on the other end of the line said "Where is second street?" I paused for a second, trying to find an answer that didn't sound rude. "It's between 1st and 3rd streets," I said. She thanked me and hung up... and was hopefully able to find 1st or 3rd street.
The restaurant was an infinite source of amazing questions like, "what are Funghi (she said "fungiai")?" "Mushrooms," I replied. The woman looked at the her date, puzzled, and the date looked at me, puzzled. I did my best to explain... "you know - mushrooms; they grow in the dirt... usually in the fall, when it's very damp..." Hopeless. The guy looked at the girl, the girl looked back at me, and ordered Gnocchi.

Also since I opened the store I've had to answer to a fair amount of poorly thought-out questions like:

"Do you have Tuscany?"
"Do you mean Tuscan wines?"
"No, no the wine has Tuscany was written on the label."

"Where are your reds?"
(For those unfamiliar with the layout of De-Vino, the northern wall of the store is approximately thirty feet by twelve feet, covered floor to ceiling with red wines. This question is usually glorified with a gesture in the general direction of that wall.)

"Do you have a bottle of wine, red or white, in the $ 20 range that will be different?"
This is a poorly formed question for any occasion, and rather than delving into what the wine should differ FROM, I decided that I preferred the silence and gave her a bottle of Sangiovese-Syrah from San Giminiano. I'm pretty sure that was different.

"What is the theme of your store?"
This one is a recurring question that I have learned to translate as, "What types of wines/which appelations do you stock?" It makes a fair amount of sense, I suppose, but it seems to me that the word "theme" should be reserved for literary critiques and bachelorette parties.

(Referring to an indigenous Italian grape) "How does this compare to, I don't know, a Cabernet or a Merlot?"
No comment.

"Do you have a pinot?"
"Yes. Several." (Unless you mean the colloquial French translation of a "pinot," which is a pinecone. Then no.)

And one of the most common requests of all: " Can you suggest something red? I usually like Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet... you know, something light?"
Light? News to me. - After few seconds I was able to process and translate the request and suggest an old vines Cotes du Rhone or an Italian Pinot Noir.

I think if I continue onward and upward, I might never stop. I would love, however, to hear some of your experiences of similar caliber.

Buona Risposta a Tutti


Matt said...

"What do you recommend?"
"I recommend wine. What do you recommend?"

Lyle Fass said...

"Do you have any wines from the Blanc de Blancs?

Lyle Fass said...

"I'd like a wine that is not too dry, not too sweet, that is rich but not too rich, light but not too light, with a little oak but not too much oak, and some tannin but not much tannin and no acid but I don't want it to taste too flat."

Lyle Fass said...

"I was in Prague last week and I had a glass of Port and it was really good. Do you know what it was?"

De Vino said...

I'm with you Lyle :)
I haven't heard the Blanc de Blanc one before...

Joe M. said...

"I need a wine with a dog on the label. For my brother. You know, he likes dogs."

Joe M. said...

"Our wine tasting group is having a 90pt wine tasting. What do you have with 90 pts?"

De Vino said...

The one with the dog on the label must be popular, it happened to me as well :)

matt said...

this still gets me...

"would you like this chilled?"
"oh, do you have it chilled?"
... it would be rude of me to offer if i didn't.

Terence said...

Guys, this is one of the times I bet you wished you stocked Woodbridge or Yellowtail.

Kathleen Lisson said...

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Especially when it walks into a wine shop with a $20 dollar bill. But, to play devil's advocate, there are so many people who are so scared of wine that they don't know where to begin, that I try to give a break to everyone who asks me a question in the spirit of honestly wanting to benefit from my experience.

Malcolm H said...

My question for you last night to recommend an Italian red, something bold, that was equal parts romance and sex. I LOVED your suggestion - Bibi Graetz Il Soffocone Di Vincigliata. (By the way, Falai carries this one on their list.) I wish I could have decanted it for an hour before dinner, as it opened quite nicely. Of course I told my date your story behind the label.

I tend to agree with Kathleen - some people have no idea where to start asking (myself included). If I were the guru in question, I might politely let them know I have no idea what they're asking, and then suggest what questions I might ask when walking into a wine shop. Making friends is good for business, good for drinking, and good for life. Plus, you can help spare guys like me the embarrassment of asking stupid questions more often than absolutely necessary :)

De Vino said...

I agree with you that the wine world is and can be intimidating, and I do answer or try my best to answer any questions with a smile.
This post it was a way to get it out and have a laugh over it.

I loved your comment and I have t say that your question yesterday made immediate sense to me you did told me something about the wine (you wanted it bold) and then you describe the emotion you liked the wine to create (sex and romance).
You told much more then what you maybe thought and furnished me with enough information to help me propose the right wine.
So I don't think your question was a stupid one. (I actually loved it)

Once again this post was intended to put a smile on your face and lighten up, the sometime pompous, wine world.

PS I also asked in my life some pretty dumb questions, we do, after all, learn from mistakes!! Right?

Malcolm H said...

No worries from me, I find De-Vino's service and knowledge top of the line. I have another question!

My father lives in Arkansas, where it is illegal to have wine imported via mail. After retiring there from New Orleans, it's nearly impossible for him to buy the wines I try (disappointing for me and the shopkeeper, as he has more spending power than I) to try himself.

Any suggestions on LEGALLY obtaining the wines he wants short of moving to St. Emilion or buying a PO Box on the state line?

De Vino said...

Malcom I believe I can ship to your father via UPS next time you come down the store I'll wxplain the millions rules about shipping alchol in this "free" country.

Anonymous said...

-"Is this ready to drink, or should I decant it?"
-"uhh...Its not going to get any better, so you can drink it now."
-"Are you sure?"

-Pointing to a bottle of Ariel NV Non Alcoholic White Zinfandel