The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 148

22 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 { bottom line } IN THE WORLD OF RESTAURANT WINE management, we all know that programs driven by classic wines and well-established "prestige" brands can make sense—if own- ership supports the cost of inventorying them and your cuisine is a natural fit. But if the conventional approach does not work for you for reasons of cost, food or simply because it is not how you wish to compete, then it makes sense to explore the alternative wines of the world. "Alternative" means exactly that—wines that offer dif - ferentiating sensory experiences, often made from lesser-known grapes, unfamiliar regions and/or unconventional approaches to viticulture and production. The thinking is simple: offer wines with potential to appeal to guests' sense of wonder and adventure— the exact same approach driving our most talented chefs. If you don't try, you can't fly. Resistance to the bolder approach, how - ever, can be hairy. Or snippy, gathering from three widely read blogs recently posted by Stuart Pigott, a well-known British wine journalist. Pigott's diatribes, collectively enti- tled "The Rise of the Hipster Sommelier," vents rage at "young hipster somms of NYWC [New York Wine City]," suffering some kind of "collective delusion." In Part II, Pigott cites the "Fancy Wines" of NYC sommeliers, deriding them as "Obscure Objects of Somm Desire," particularly "those made from the ancient Savagnin and yet more obscure grapes like Poulsard." To Pigott, this is the "vinous equivalent of snake oil," sold with an atti - tude akin to "vacuous wine waffle and the sound of windpipes meaninglessly rever- berating to portentous statements . . . We are the Hollow Men and Women of Wine!" Part III ("Awesome Hair and the Death of Delicious") purports to be an exposé, taking us into the world of NYC somme - liers mindlessly chasing "so-called 'natural' wines, meaning wines that in the cellar where they were made were allowed to behave like badly brought-up teenagers who seldom wash or shave and ignore the everyday rules of polite behavior." Should the guilty be quaking in their "hipster" heels? Hardly. Journalists like Pigott reek of rhetorical conceit and self- righteousness more oppressive than any Savagnin or Poulsard, even if these wines were being forced down people's throats. The inference that guests are too stupid to know better is misguided enough. That there is something wrong with wines that do not fit into your own perception of what constitutes quality or interest is the height of self-delusion. Who is to say an unruly Poulsard is less, or more, acceptable than a cleanly coiffed Pinot Noir? Oh, we hear it all the time—that "natural" wines (particularly biodynamics, which Pigott dismisses as "black magic") are just excuses for flawed or dirty winemaking. Funny, we also often hear that conventional wines are excuses for boring wines, bereft of soul or identity. Exactly who are the "Hollow Men and Women of Wine"—sommeliers hinging on predictability, or sommeliers aspiring to more unusual experiences? There is no right answer, which is exactly the point. Bottom line: It is always smart to do what's best for you, your market and guests, your chef and cuisine. Yeah, criticism can sting, but are you helping or hindering your business? If the results are resounding success, there's your answer. To hell with critics—they're not walking your floors, buffing your glasses, itemizing your costs and sales—and especially journalists with little inkling of what it takes to compete in the hospitality industry. Should "Hipster Somms" Be Quaking in Their Heels? PHOTOS VIA THINKSTOCK by Randy Caparoso

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - August / September 2016