The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 21 of 119

WHEN YOU REACH A FORK IN THE ROAD, take it. That would be the facetious way of look- ing at the age-old question facing every somme- lier: Do we focus on selling popular wines—the Rombauers and Silver Oaks of the world—or do we concentrate more on wines that we truly love, which perk our interest, but are less familiar to most guests? I'll make no bones about the fact that during my quarter century as a sommelier or in restaurant management, I fell into the latter category. Yes, there were many distributors and suppliers who hated that: Why, they would ask, would anyone not want to sell wines that are easy to sell? At the same time, I counted many distributors and sup- pliers as my best friends—those who represented the more unique, often trend-setting, wines. You make your choice and live with it. No matter how you choose, though, it's still a business. Even somme- liers who focus primarily on wines they love must adhere to the most basic rule of restaurant wine manage- ment: that each selection serves a purpose—be it making guests happy, complementing specific dishes, enhancing your restaurant's image or, at the very least, contributing to sales and profits. The principle applies, whether you are sell- ing a predictable Rombauer Chardonnay or unknown Enfield Chardonnay, a safe Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon or an adventurous Aryros Santorini Atlantis. So let's look at pros and cons. First, the pros of wine programs focused on popular choices: • Guests are comfortable. • Sales can be very good. • Not a lot of thinking involved in the manage- ment process. The negatives of safe, popular choices: • Not much distinguishes your restaurant from others. • Guests can easily compare your pricing with that of your competitors. • You and your staff are less stimulated. The advantages of focusing on less familiar, adven- turous selections: • A surer way of distinguishing your restaurant from competitors. • Increased focus on wines complementing your cuisine on a sensory level (thus enhanc- ing guests' dining pleasure). • Higher percentage chance of guests achiev- ing "unforgettable" experiences. • More markup flexibility (with less chance of price comparisons) when wines are unfamil- iar to guests. • More thought going into your wine program. • Chance to teach your staff something new almost every day. And the negatives of unfamiliar wine selections: • Guests are less comfortable. • Need to work harder on staff training and merchandising of wines. The bottom line should be to fulfill the needs of your guests, the restaurant, your staff and yourself—and only after all of that, to please dis- tributors and suppliers. Make your choice, and then do it well! { bottom line } Every Sommelier's Hard Choice THE PROS AND CONS OF SERVING WINES YOU TRULY LOVE by Randy Caparoso 22 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015

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