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Paper Palates

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Wine is a wonderful thing. And taste is a highly subjective thing. These two tenets are what make selling wine fun: there are no finites and virtually every wine made has a potential fan somewhere (and likely a detractor or two as well). Because of this, we find it interesting (and frustrating) when we encounter a customer that affirms a certain wine is lovely, correct and/or a terrific value…..then they look up the scores and defer: ‘it only got 87 points’. Really? You liked it a minute ago? Of course, we are as guilty as anyone in using said scores to promote a wine if the score is in the ‘green zone’, ie 90 points plus, so we suppose the knife cuts both ways. Which is why we are trying to limit our use of scores as the only way to sell wine. It can be really silly (see cartoon below).

Wine Geek Speaks - Paper Palates

When Wine Geek first got into wine, the joy wasn’t about putting notches in our vinous bedposts by trying every 95 point-plus wine we could lay our hands on. It was more about the fascination with the differences between all manner of wines: the same Bordeaux chateau from two different vintages (can they really be from the same vineyard?), or say a Volnay and a Gevrey-Chambertin from the same vintage and the same house (can these both be Pinot Noir from five miles apart?). Or in finding a wine that was $15 retail that could hold its own against a wine that sold for $75. But in some cases it has now become a trophy hunt; a lot of buyers want wines that scored big and/or are in very limited supply (and we must not that just because someone made ‘only’ 225 cases of something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good—it’s just scarce). Indeed we have some restaurateurs that will only offer wines that score 90 points or above, thereby (in our opinion) missing out on some excellent wines with personality and a sense of place. Gee, using the numbers would imply we don’t even need to sample wine anymore—“it got 93 points, how many cases would you like?” (think of all the money we’ll save).

Not that there is anything wrong with attempting to offer only high-quality wines to one’s clients. The issue is that in many cases, these high scoring wines achieve these scores because they are big or intense; when a reviewer is tasting 10 or 20 or 50 Syrahs in a sitting, the wines that make the most impact, ie the most intense wines, are usually the ones that stand out, so they ‘win’ and some perfectly lovely wines get left behind. It’s akin to having an Audrey Hepburn in a room full of Scarlett Johanssons: in most instances, it’s the Ms. Johanssons that people will remember. Wine Geek thinks it wise to read the reviews—read between the lines—and you can find some sleepers that are frequently great values and likely will please your guests. Of course some reviews go a little overboard; please read this, one of the most exhausting reviews we’ve ever read:

Initially shows a gunpowder-like reductive pungency, which segues into aromatic impressions of lemon rind, quince, chalk dust, apple pip, radish, and musky narcissus. Fresh apple, quince, white peach, and lemon notes on a subtly oily and texturally almost custard-like – yet, simultaneously and incongruously refreshing and electrically-bright – palate perpetuate an impression of utmost pungency, with persistent, invigorating suggestions of these fruits skin and rind as well as radish and musk. The vibrantly interactive, citric, no-malo, no-holds-barred finish here is liable to lift you right out of your seat (and you may want to applaud while you’re standing). Yet there are subtleties and intricacies to this wine’s flavor interaction that will compel and reward return visits, and its underlying scallop, and nut oil richness are never eclipsed by the glare of high acid. Try following an open bottle for a day or two – if you can muster the requisite selfcontrol. You’ll have trouble locating a more sensational value than this in the world of wine, not to mention that it will merit a decade or more of devotion. (I’ve already had repeated experience after falling in love with this beauty last November at first sniff and sip; so my note here represents an amalgamation.

Wow. Pretty impressive. Though I’m not sure if this would make me want to buy it.

The bottom line is this: trust yourselves. Trust your palate. Trust your customers. And finally, trust your GLWAS sales rep. We are stakeholders in your success— we want you to sell lots of wine and make lots of money, so we will never steer you wrong. You might even want to stand up and applaud!

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