Help me help you.

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I am your wine guy. I know a lot about wine. It’s what I do every day. I want to help you. I don’t want you to be intimidated by me, by wines you can’t pronounce, nor to be embarassed to admit you like something that you’ve been told is crap. I may not like the same things you like, and if you ask me my honest opinion I may tell you that I think something you like isn’t very good. That doesn’t mean I’m telling you not to drink it. Everybody has different taste, and there are thousands upon thousands of wines out there just to suit each of our individual tastes.

I don’t have to like what you like in order to help you find a wine that you’ll like, but I do need to understand what you like. Think of asking for help in a clothing store. If you simply asked a salesperson for a shirt, they might have a hard time finding you exactly what you needed. But if you can give them an idea of the color, style, and price range of the shirt you want, they’re much more likely to be able to help. The more wines I’ve got on hand, the more likely it is that I can find you something you’ll like, but I need you to help me understand your taste.

Descriptions are very helpful in general, but specific examples are even more helpful. You and I may have different ideas of what descriptors like ‘fruity’ or ‘light’ mean, but if you can name a few wines that you specifically do or don’t enjoy, chances are I’ll be familiar with a few of them, and that will help me find something you’ll like. Try to be specific with your adjectives when describing wines as well. “Bold” “Dry” and “Smooth” are words that are used very commonly to describe wines, but they are actually relatively un-helpful in understanding what you’re looking for. “Dry” is actually a very straightforward word, describing whether a wine has any remaining residual sugar. The problem is, most wines are technically dry. Primary fermentation has converted all the available sugar into alcohol, and that’s all “Dry” really means. The most common characteristic that’s mistaken for dryness is tannin, which is a chemical compound found in the skins and seeds of the grapes, which can cause a puckering or drying sensation on the sides of the tongue and inside of the mouth. This is why there is a common misconception that, for example, Cabernet is drier than Pinot Noir. Cabernet wine typically spends more time in contact with the seeds and skins during fermentation, thus extracting more tannin. While a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir may have the exact same level of residual sugar, you may be inclined to describe the Cab as more dry because of this tannic structure.

Fortunately, I spend my time communicating with people whose wine vocabulary may be in any stage of development, from the most rudimentary ability to remember and describe wine, to people who’ve had wines that I’ve scarcely even heard of. Most of the time this means that, however you are able to describe wines, I can usually find the right questions to help me understand what you want. Still, the greater your ability to describe the wine you’re looking for, the greater the chance that I will find you something that you’ll really love.

Here’s another thing, and this may be a little hard for you to hear, but it’s the truth. There is no wine in the world, no matter where you had it, no matter how much or how little that you paid for it, there is absolutely no wine that is so special that there can be no acceptable replacement for it. The exception to this rule is, of course, if a particular vintage, vineyard, or winery has a sentimental significance to you, but barring that, there is a suitable substitute for everything. It is painfully common for me to have somebody come into my store asking for a particular wine which I don’t have, and consequently leaving empty-handed even when I have suggested multiple possible substitutes. The thought of a person who wanted to have wine not having wine saddens me immensely.

This brings me to the next very important thing that you can do to help me help you enjoy your wine experience: trust me. Like I said, I want you to have a good experience, and as long as I can understand fairly well what it is that you’re looking for, I can find you something you’ll like. I’m not trying to trick you, I’m not trying to screw you, I’m not even trying to push you outside of your comfort zone unless you ask me explicitly to expand your horizons.

So please, help me help you. Talk to me, trust me, put your hand in mine and I will be your tour guide through the world that I love called wine.

I am your wine guy. I’m here to help.

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