The SOMM Journal

February / March 2017

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Page 24 of 116

24 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017 Dear Good Somm Bad Somm, I recently fell in love with a wine that a sales representa- tive brought to my place. I was shocked and embarrassed when I found out that the wine had received tremendous press and very high scores from the "wine magazines." Now I am worried that I will look like a sell-out to my friends and peers. I just cannot, in good conscience, sup- port the "scoring process" and wine reviews if I want to be taken seriously. What do I do? Sincerely, Sell-Out Somm Dear Sell Out Somm, This sounds more like a self-confidence issue to me. The reason you're in the wine director position is because you have some serious skill. Have confidence and trust in yourself. Your instincts are there for a reason—don't ignore them. You are who you are because of your opinions and your palate, and now it happens to be in alignment with the press. Why be ashamed of that? I understand your concern. You're afraid that you'll seem like a fol- lower to your sophisticated somm friends and peers. As you grow and learn as a sommelier, it's important to focus on you. Don't be so concerned with how your peers may react. It's your wine program and it is a creative expression of who you are! The biggest truth about wine scores is this: Scores are meaningless if you're confident in your own palate. Sincerely, Good Somm Dear Sell Out Somm, I guess it's fashionable now for young, hipster somms to hate on wine critics. I hear it a lot. When you're not grooming your facial hair or plan- ning your next tattoo or trying to discover the next wine no one cares about from the new place no one's ever heard of, it's pretty trendy to demonize, tear down and throw stones at members of the wine press. And I get it. I really do. Once upon a time, I myself would get a Barolo buzz and pontificate about the "homogenization of the global wine pal- ate" and bitch about Michel Rolland. But guys like Robert Parker, Jim Laube and Anthony Dias Blue have been writing about, talking about and promoting wine for over three decades. They've been drinking wine since most of us "somms" were in Pampers. If any of us have even a fraction of the impact on a global industry that they've had, I'd be seriously impressed. Ask anyone who's ever been a wine rep or owned a wine store or run a program: Scores sell wine (whether we like it or not). And scores create the "wine collecting and drinking as sport" mentality among consumers that really allowed the wine business to prosper as it has. And scores have even given us a vibrant sommelier movement to counteract their impact! In Pursuit of Balance could be considered just as overbearing as Wine Advocate, but with the "pendulum of judgment" swinging back in the other direction. But that doesn't mean I'm going to tear down Raj Parr or complain about a California Chardonnay being too lean. If a wine is grown by sincere farmers who care about the earth and made by people who are devoted to their craft, I'm not concerned with the scores either way. Yours Truly, Bad Somm Dear Good Somm Bad Somm, My non-industry friends actually pay for their wine. It makes me feel guilty when they post something on social media they actually purchased. Yours Truly, Feeling Guilty for Free Wine Dear Feeling Guilty for Free Wine, The fact that you see your friends paying full price for wine and post- ing it to Instagram is an amazing thing! When a person shops, there's no doubt that they will pay full price for high-quality items—think about diamonds, perfume or a new car. And wine also holds its value and can appreciate over time. When we as sommeliers are given wine as a gift, it's a benefit that we receive for selling the wines. Don't feel guilty about it! You and I have worked long, hard hours at the restaurant, sacrificing our nights and our weekends to be ambassadors of fermented grape juice. At the end of the day, it's great news that the general public is willing to purchase wine at full price. Sincerely, Good Somm Dear Feeling Guilty for Free Wine, Please don't feel sorry for your friends that have to pay full price for wine. You should be envious of them because they can actually afford to buy wine! At least they have a job that allows them a few luxuries and are supporting our industry. And they don't have to run around some dining room all night playing servant, hoping to steal a sip or two of some Bordeaux they sold, then put it on Instagram as if they drank the whole damn bottle . . . Your friends actually did drink the whole damn bottle! And they probably feel sorry for you that you work in a restaurant. Who should pity whom? I could never afford a $400 bottle of wine, but thank Bacchus there are some people who can. At my age, I need the wine business to exist in the way that it does; otherwise I'd probably be slinging Long Island Iced Teas in a vest and suspenders at Applebee's or greeting shoppers at Wal-Mart. Yours Truly, Bad Somm Thank you again for the thoughtful questions. Hope you enjoyed our answers, and with any luck you are receiving the help you truly need. Follow us at @goodsommbadsomm on social media and/or visit our page

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