The SOMM Journal

October / November 2015

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Page 18 of 132

18 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 { bottom line } I RECENTLY SAW A FACEBOOK POST BY THE EDITOR IN CHIEF of a major wine industry magazine. Her words: "In P-Town I asked a bartender, 'What's the style of your Falanghina?' I wasn't familiar with the variety, so I was hoping she could tell me something. Her answer : 'What's the style? It's Falanghina!' As if I asked her what water tastes like. So instead of taking the opportunity to educate me, she gave me the 'Duh, everyone knows that' response." This was obviously the case of a server who either didn't know the answer, or is just in need of attitude adjustment. The problem is common enough, and one of our perpetual challenges in the industry. It's hard to keep servers up on training, and maybe even harder to find ones with ideal attitudes and intelligence. Yet the simplest, most effective solution is very much within our control: wine lists with actual descriptions. For example: "This is a dry wine, comes from Campania, has mineral, citrus, licorice flavors," etc. It's not just guests who find this helpful—it's also servers, bartend - ers, managers and even other wine professionals. Face it: We all walk into restaurants and find wines on lists that we haven't a clue about. Falanghina and Ribolla Gialla, most of us may know, but not all of us can wax philosophical about Ànima Negra, Biancolella, Assyrtiko, or even Norton or Maréchal Foch. As sommeliers we can dig it, but . . . Help! I've heard just about all the reasons why restaurants say they do not include descriptions on wine lists. Some say it's superfluous. Many others don't like the aesthetics—they'd rather their wine list look nice and, well, list-y, rather than it being helpful. I suspect many sommeliers don't bother writing in helpful hints on how wines taste because they are simply lazy. I get that, but it's still ironic that the bigger the list, the more help any guest, whether a novice or industry professional, needs in the way of descriptions. Imagine, say, retail stores with no shelf talkers, or buying a car or appliance without infor - mation beyond sticker prices. Most consumers do not automatically know that Spätlese is medium-sweet and Kabinett less sweet, unless it also says Trocken or Halbtrocken on the label. Yes, it's a chore to put down exacting descriptors, but knowing degrees of sweetness, tartness and body are still crucial to guests who are most apt to benefit from the informa - tion: the casual drinkers who have as little experience with Riesling as I do about Assyrtiko, but would sure appreciate a good, light, fruity wine. So today's message in a bottle: Write the damned descriptions! You might even enjoy it. Some guidelines: ■ Short, simple descriptors are as easy for you as they are for guests. ■ Laser in on differentiating sensations (for example: this Chardonnay is "big, fat, tropical and toasty," whereas that Chardonnay is "light, tart, steely and citrusy"). ■ Tell them what they're unlikely to know (Ànima Negra is a "wild, earthy red wine made mostly from Callet, a native grape of Mallorca"). ■ Share some in-house knowledge ("Chef loves this Pinot Gris with our crab cakes in spicy beurre blanc"). ■ Add personal touches ("We discovered this rosé during our last, hazy trip to Santorini"). WINE DESCRIPTIONS ON LISTS ARE HELPFUL IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE by Randy Caparoso On Helpful Messages in a Bottle

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