Learn about Wines in Tokyo

Monday, 8 June 2015

The 7 Habits of Highly Annoying Wine People!



From sommeliers who insist on calling their wine list ‘curated’ to hosts who serve red wine that’s too warm, the annoyances that can drive WSJ wine columnist Lettie Teague not to drink
 
 
WINE IS A BEVERAGE meant to bring pleasure, perhaps even joy. And yet, for me, some aspects of wine can make it much less enjoyable. Some of these irritations are small, some are much bigger—from waiters who unceremoniously dump the contents of a bottle into customers’ glasses to wine shops that sell every bottle by means of a numerical score. Here are my top seven wine-related pet peeves. Perhaps you have one or two of your own?

1. Wine-dumping waiters 
I’m not the kind of person who lingers long over a meal. I once managed to eat a five-course dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant in less than two hours. (And that was in France!) But I want to set my own pace: I don’t like to be rushed along by the staff, and I especially dislike it when a waiter takes hold of my bottle and dumps the contents into my glass without asking whether I’d like more—or not.
The bottle is mine; I’ve ordered it and I will be paying for it soon (though clearly not soon enough for some waiters), so I should be able to control how much or how little goes into my glass or the glass of my guest. I hate a glass that’s filled to the top. It’s impossible to swirl the glass without slopping liquid over the rim or to get an aromatic impression when there’s no space for your nose inside the glass.
Most of all, I know that dumping wine into glasses is calculated to get me to order another bottle—fast. This may work sometimes, but I think overt manipulation of a guest rarely ends well. When I encounter this kind of aggressive upsell (that’s what it is) I might not order a second bottle, and drink water instead.

2. ‘Curated’ wine lists
When did a sommelier become the restaurant equivalent of a museum director or an art-gallery owner? I’m talking about the fact that just about every sommelier today talks in terms of curating a list, seemingly unsatisfied with the perception that all they do is buy and sell wine.
The word isn’t even particularly accurate. For example, I’ve yet to meet a sommelier who has mounted a wine exhibition. Secondly, the word is so puffy and self-important, it undoes the notion of wine as a democratic drink, as well as sommeliers as an approachable professional group.
A wine list, after all, isn’t a gallery catalog. It is a sales document and hopefully a profit center for the restaurant. And sommeliers who believe otherwise aren’t doing their job.

3. Pseudo-collectors
Some people are real wine collectors, men and women (mostly men) who are seized by a passion to own and drink particular wines. They share their favorites with friends and add new vintages to their cellars over time. Perhaps they collect first-growth Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet, Brunello or Oregon Pinot Noir, but whatever the region or the wine, they will strive to know much about that particular place and its producers, and perhaps even pay them a visit.
And then there are the buyers who aren’t really collectors at all but men and women who are chasing after wines with famous names or impressively high scores. These pseudo-collectors join every mailing list of every famous producer they can and spend more time talking about how a bottle has increased in value since they bought it than how much they enjoyed the wine with friends. They don’t want to take the time to understand a wine or region in depth but instead flit from one place or name to the next, seeking the wines that others want too. These kinds of collectors are the wine-world equivalent of serial daters. They like the thrill of the chase but not the commitment.

4. Wines served at the wrong temperature
The temperature of a wine is incredibly important and incredibly easy to overlook. When white wines are served too cold and red wines are served too warm, attractive attributes are suppressed and unattractive attributes are exaggerated.
Aromas and fruit are hard to find in a very cold wine (acidity is about all that’s detectable), while the alcohol is often exaggerated and the fruit dulled in a wine that’s too warm. White wines should be served chilled, red wines should be cool.
I’ve had wines that are too warm or too cold in countless restaurants and private homes and found that the latter is more readily addressed (you just wait for the wine to warm up), not to mention better understood. When I’ve announced, “This wine is too cold,” people grasp the problem, but if I ask for ice cubes to swirl in a glass of too-warm red, I often get suspicious and/or incredulous looks from people who have never witnessed this technique. You remove the cubes after some four or five seconds; it’s a remarkably fast way to bring the temperature down.
In fact, this just happened recently. A man stopped me, ice cube in hand, at a party and said, “You do know that wine is red?” He asked his clearly rhetorical question in a horrified tone. Yes, indeed I did, I assured him. He kept his distance the rest of the night, and kept right on drinking his nice, warm glass of red wine.
            
5. Wine shops that rely on scores
In a wine shop about 20 minutes from my house, every wine on the shelf or in a box boasts a numerical score. Sometimes the numbers are awarded by wine critics at wine magazines, but just as often they’re rated by the (faceless) store management. “Manager’s pick: 90 points,” the sign reads in very large type.
But I don’t know the manager or his taste in wine, so I’m loath to take a chance on a wine based on his numerical score. Is he giving it a big number just to make a sale? Maybe if the manager and I had a conversation I might be more inclined to trust his generous numerical assessment.
Actually, I don’t want to read numbers from anyone when I go wine shopping. I want to have a conversation with the staff about how a wine tastes and smells to find out if their palate aligns with mine, and then I’ll try a recommendation—based on their words, not their numbers.

6. Tasting-room staff who tell you what you’re about to taste
A winery tasting room can be a great place to learn about wine and the style of a specific winemaker or winery, but sometimes the staff gets carried away by what they perceive to be their job. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a tasting-room worker describe, in minute detail, exactly what a wine drinker should expect to find in his or her glass. And this is all before said taster has had a chance to swallow a drop. “You’ll find notes of peaches, pears, plums and cinnamon toast,” the tasting-room associate will explain to the customer, who will invariably declare that he or she also finds those very same notes. Or perhaps the taster will be hopelessly lost and conclude that wine tasting is a skill that he or she lacks.
It’s much better for the winery staff to talk less about subjective sensations and more about objective facts, such as whether the wine is tannic or soft, or high in alcohol or not. This information helps educate tasters, and is a lot more useful than a bunch of names from a fruit basket.

7. Wine educators
Are we now at the point where there are as many wine educators as there are wine drinkers in need of an education? I’m convinced we are close to parity—at least judging by the number of self-declared wine educators I’ve met. They’re often hyphenated professionals: wine salesperson-educators, sommelier-educators or wine writer-educators (never mind that I thought wine writers were by definition educating their readers).
A wine educator isn’t licensed by any particular governing body. Sometimes wine educators are “certified,” although the source of the certification isn’t necessarily specified on their business cards. (A credential can even be acquired via an online course.) These educators—many of whom hold “educational tastings” for large sums of money for corporate clients—seem like the wine-world equivalent of a life coach.
As far as I’m concerned, the most lasting and certainly most enjoyable sort of wine education is obtained by drinking widely and often, in the company of others. Reading wine books—and maybe even wine columns—and traveling to wine regions help, too. Basically, when it comes to wine education, I’m a big believer in a self-taught wine drinker.

Source: http://www.wsj.com