Sunday, October 21, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
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.
Posted by De Vino at 1:35 PM
Friday, October 05, 2007
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?"
"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
Posted by De Vino at 1:40 PM