It goes without saying that when it comes to wine, the taste is front and center. But what about the story behind a bottle of wine?
It may come as a surprise to you to say that I’ve actually dropped wines from a wine list, in favor of a similar tasting wine with a better story behind it. That will probably seem like a ridiculous notion to most people; but let me explain, I have my reasons.
I truly believe that a great deal of consumers still believe that the wines they are buying come from quaint little Mom and Pop family-owned wineries, who have been tending to the same vines for generation after generation, hand-caring for each individual grape, and making less than 400 cases a year.
Maybe this is a little exaggerated, and I’m not saying that these types of operations don’t exist (apart from the 400 cases part), but don’t expect that type of story to be tied to every bottle you pick up!
As a perfect example of this, I am often asked “Could you tell me a little bit more about this wine?” as said consumer fondles a $8 bottle of Pinot Noir.
The thoughts that are going through my head are something along the lines of:
“Why yes Sir! This Pinot Noir is mass-produced by a huge corporation who don’t actually grow any of their own grapes, they buy them from a multitude of other vineyards. Chances are that even though the label says Pinot Noir, they have blended in some other fuller bodied grapes to disguise the thin and cheap Pinot grapes they are using. They have also probably used some type of additive (such as Mega Purple) to achieve the color the consumer is looking for, and oak chips (which is basically sawdust) to give a faint perception of complexity. And even though the label bears an artistic rendering of a beautiful 10 acre vineyard with a small farmhouse attached, my guess is that the actual operation is a 500,000 sq ft concrete building. However; it’s a great wine for the price!”
These, of course, are the thoughts that are running through my head, and certainly are never vocalized. My actual response goes more like this:
“Why yes Sir! It’s a great wine for the price!” hoping and praying that they don’t ask for any more information than that.
My point in choosing a wine with a “nice story” for a restaurant wine list over another is to give the customer what they want. But the point I am trying to make is that you shouldn’t ever expect that if you are buying a wine at what would be considered a “bargain basement price,” that it should automatically be accompanied by a cute little story.
Also, just so you don’t get the wrong idea about me, I don’t want you to think I’m against large winery operations. A lot of my favorite value brands of wine are probably made in 500,000 sq ft concrete buildings, and as much as I love the story behind a bottle, I can’t say that I have ever actually tasted a good story it.