Tag Archives: sommelier

DEMYSTIFYING YOUR WINE ENJOYMENT

The wine world is filled with possibilities. There are dozens of nations, hundreds of regions, thousands of appellations, tens of thousands of vignerons and wine makers, and probably hundreds of thousands of wine outlets if you count restaurants. You can add to that all of the wine knowledge, science, literature, publications, websites, bloggers, and well, it’s a lot. Can you imagine walking into a restaurant, asking for a wine from a specific label which you happen to like, and them actually having it?

How is one to make choices about what to drink and when?

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Dorianne at Gallerie Lafayette’s Chateau d’Yquem Display – Paris

And there are price points to consider, wine rating points (should I order a 91 or an 88?), sometimes snooty sommeliers and wine shop employees, various vintages of differing quality, and labels, labels, labels. And those labels are on bottles with corks, bottles with screwcaps, boxes, cans, casks, and more. And by the way, how should you store that wine?

Wine Angst
Too many options can be frustrating.

Oh, and what wines to serve with which foods? Which wines to sip alone? What kind of wine opener should I use? What other wine accessories should I buy? What temperature at which to serve the wine? In what kind of glass (or slipper)? Bubbly, sweet, dry, demi-sec? Port or late harvest? And ice wine!

wine-redness
Many “experts” are just guessing.

All of this can be seen as a huge obstacle to wine enjoyment, or it can be seen as a vast array of opportunities to enjoy wine. Like much of life, it all depends on your attitude.

Entry into the world of wine is really quite easy. Wine is practically ubiquitous – it’s pretty much everywhere. I was just in eastern Ukraine and had local wine, some of which was delicious (LINK).

One way to view the many options in the wine world and all of the different types of knowledge and skill that goes into the whole process of bringing wine to your table, is to see an opportunity for almost endless exploration. You can have a different wine every day and never repeat yourself (assuming varied wine retail options in your area and online).

Another way to approach the wine world is to find a few wines that you like and stop there. I have a friend who rarely drinks anything beyond Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay; another who will only drink oaky chardonnays. Some may only drink Port wines; others Napa Cabernets.

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You can study broadly or do a deep dive into a narrow range of wine knowledge and experience. Most will be somewhere in between the extremes, but there is a niche for everyone. The key is not to pay too much attention to what the “experts” or the marketing forces tell you as they try to steer you toward their own preferences. Find your own way – if it isn’t interesting or fun for you, you’re not doing it right.

Me, I have some favorite wines, some favorite producers, some favorite growing areas, and some favorite countries. I also like to experiment with wines I have not tried yet, but I tend to favor a known quantity with a good meal. For example, we were in Kraków, Poland recently (LINK), dining at Padre, a local Polish restaurant. I was having lamb and noted that there was a very nice French Malbec from Cahors on the list. Knowing how a rich, inky Cahors Malbec would go with lamb made my decision easy – so I passed on some Polish wines. I picked a favorite over the chance to explore – that time. At other times, I will make a different decision. But that is me. You may well do something different.

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Visiting Wineries can be both Fun and Educational.

My point is that the bulk of the effort in learning about wine should go into learning what YOU like about it. Then go from there. You may become an expert in Cabernet Sauvignons from the east side of Paso Robles; or you may be the go-to person for advice on Hungarian reds. Or, you may be that person who always drinks Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

So, if you are new to wine, consider building yourself a starter case (LINK) to see what you like. Let your local wine retailer know your preferences, including if you like to try new things or stick close to what you already know. If you travel, check out the local wine scene, either in town – wine bars, urban wineries and restaurants; or head out into the local wine country to taste and explore. In an airport? Stop at Vino Volo and try a wine that you’ve never had before. Sign up for an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) and opt for something new to you.

Starter Case Slide
A Starter Case is a great way to find out what wines you like.

Maybe you are a long-time wine consumer who is ready to spread your wings a bit. You might begin with your local wine shop – tell them what you like and ask them how you can explore some new wines that have a similar profile. Go to a Greek restaurant with good Greek wines on the wine list, and try some if that is new to you. See if there are some small producers of wines in your local area and give them a try. There are lots of possibilities. Try not to be intimidated by the experts or by too many choices. Take your time and stick to what you like – and maybe explore around the edges.

The world of wine is literally at your feet. Enjoy!

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Text Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

 

WINE LIST FAUX PAUX

Last night, my wife and I were treated to dinner at the Salt Creek Grill (LINK) near Princeton, NJ. We had a very nice meal and wonderful conversation, part of which was about an issue with the wine list.

The restaurant is known for having one of the better local wine lists, and they do. Lots of great choices from California, France, Italy, Argentina and other locales. There was also a seasonal supplemental list that included a listing for a 2008 Bruno Giacosa Falletto, Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. Here is the (LINK), which I looked up after the bottle came. The wine was listed for $46.00. The 2008 Bruno Giacosa Falletto, Nebbiolo lists at $250.00+.

Now, I am no expert in Barolos, but I have never seen one for under $80+ on a wine list. The waitress came and I ordered a bottle, figuring, what the hell?

Here is the bottle that was delivered:

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Not the wine or the winery listed on the wine list. Instead, a 2008 Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo (LINK), which retails at about $50.00. Still, we got a very good price on the wine.

I told the waitress that the wine being served was not the wine listed on the wine list. She went and told a manager, who came over to the table after a few minutes. He told me that I was not getting “a Falletto” and I responded that I knew that. I told him that I thought he would want to know that the wine on the list was not what they were serving. He thanked me and asked if I would like a different wine. I said that this one would do.

So pay attention to the wine served – I did not pick it up right away before it was opened. As it turned out, all was well and we did get a very good price on the wine served.

OUT OF THE WAY TAPAS BAR WITH A CERTIFIED SUMILLER (SOMMELIER)!

We are in Barcelona for a week to do two things: to attend a Spirituality and Creativity in Management Conference (SCM2015) at ESADE Business School and, well, to be in Barcelona. We are staying a bit out of town to be near the campus (which is very close to the FC Barcelona Stadium) but otherwise, a fairly nondescript area.

We had been going toward the Barri Gotic (LINK) to eat, but the other day, we decided to check out something close to our AirBnb apartment. The hosts recommended El Cóm (LINK), a very small and very ordinary looking tapas bar two blocks away. So we went with another couple, friends from France who are attending the conference.

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Friends from France – Richard and Kamala – with Dorianne.
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El Cóm

We get there and look at the menu and are told that the place is closing in half an hour. The menu looks good, so we order and we speak to the “waiter” about wine. He lights up. Now, he is speaking Spanish and my wife is somewhat conversant and one of our French friends is less so, and me, I’ve got Mexican restaurant Spanish, so nothing there.

Dorianne asks about an Albarinõ, which is listed on the menu as not available. The “waiter” tells us that the vintage has run out, and then leaves. He returns with six bottles of vino blanco, then leaves and comes back with one more. At this point, we inquire a bit more deeply (noticing the many wine bottles around the restaurant in prominent places). It turns out that our “waiter” is Josep Valiente, Sumiller (Sommelier), a certified wine expert. Now I am paying attention.

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Me and Josep and the Wines.
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Just the Wines.

He describes each bottle (most of which we do not understand). I spot a Godello (LINK) varietal on one of the bottles, and, having just read about that varietal, I ask for that bottle. Josep opens it and we are transported to white wine heaven. It is a 2012 Bodegas A Coroa Lias Godello, from Valdeorras, Spain (LINK).

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A beautifully crafted wine that is balanced, buttery, well structured, yet very very smooth. Hints of pear and spice with a nice floral nose and a smooth finish.

Josep came over with his smartphone and showed us photos of a vineyard he is growing in the area. He said that he is growing several varietals. I showed him photos of our wine co-op (LINK) in California.

Oh, and the food was amazing. Oh, and we stayed for an hour and a half. Oh, and we are going back on Sunday.

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It is a wonderul wine.

TIPS FROM A SOMMELIER ON BUYING AND ORDERING WINE

From Esquire Magazine – Link

Aldo Sohm, the aptly named wine director of Le Bernardin, was the 2008 winner of the “Best Sommelier in the World” award given by the World Sommelier Association. He is the man. We talked to Aldo to ask for some basic tips for a guy that wants to buy a bottle of wine at the store and doesn’t know anything beyond “it should cost more than $15.” (Which, by the way, is not bad advice as far as it goes.)”