Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sommeliers: Do you ask or don't you?

So, when you have a problem with your computer at work, what do you do? Let me guess, you pick up the phone and call your IT folks to come fix the problem. And if you're feeling under the weather, you go to the doctor. If you're looking for flowers for your wife or girlfriend, you go to the florist and ask for their input, right?

Yet ironically, many of us (myself included) don't apply that same logic when we're out to dinner. We go to dinner, review the wine list, and make what we think is a good decision on which bottle of wine to order. Amazingly, standing 10 feet away from us is a sommelier, or wine expert, that is more than willing to help us. Sommeliers spend years learning about viticulture, climactic conditions, grape varieties, wine production and tasting. They are truly a tremendous resource that can take a good meal to a whole new level by recommending the perfect wine to accompany it. Another thing to be aware of is that these experts are the major contributing factor to what is on that restaurants wine list, and they usually have tasted each wine on the menu.

So then why don't we ask them for help? Clearly they know more than we do...especially when you consider that they've probably tasted it all. I can think of a few reasons. First, for men, it's machismo nonsense. Think of it in the same line as a man asking for driving directions...we just don't want to do it, because asking would mean admitting that we're lost. The same applies to reviewing a wine list. We don't want to appear confused as our eyes wander through Italy, France, Spain and Chile, among others.

Second, I think we're all afraid the sommelier will select a bottle outside of our price range, and we don't want to appear cheap. However, what's important to realize is that the sommelier will work within the price range you indicate. Good wines come in all price points.

As I write this, I realize that these two reasons for refusing the help are for me personally. So, what are your reasons? Do you use the valuable sommelier resource, or do you tend to shy away? Have you had a great/bad experience with a sommelier that you'd like to share?

The mic is open...sound off.

Later in the week I'll post some tips on how to work with a sommelier, whether at a business lunch or at an anniversary dinner.


MyManMisterC said...

yeah you definitely look at it as the same instance when you are in a store and looking for a certain product. I seem to know a lot about cigars, but I have no problem walking into a store and asking a shopkeeper what's good, why is it good, what can I expect from it.

An educated consumer is the best customer, just like Sy Syms has always said

Grape Nut said...

I like to find a couple of selections on the list, then tell the sommelier, "these are the bottles that I'm considering, what is your opinion of them and or would you suggest something different." That way I learn a little from the sommelier, but also test my skills out. I did that the other night, and was directed to a cheaper bottle that was amazing.