Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Is it "What's In the Glass" That Counts?


Rebel Rose
 Share

Recommended Posts

As many of us know from perusing other wine forums and from conversations with friends, some people just don't want to know how the wine in their bottle got there. All they care about is it's perceived "quality."

As a producer, I think that's sad. It's like going to farmers' market and telling the vendor, "I don't care how you grow your **&^ strawberries," or "I don't care about where the )(*^^ mushrooms are foraged!" "Just give me what I want!"

I get this weird, emotionally knee-jerk response, like a shudder of revulsion.

After all, we baby our vines and wines into adulthood throughout the seasons. To us, each and every vintage is different, each vineyard is unique, and each wine has a back story.

For that very reason, perhaps I am out of touch with market sensibilities. Why do I bother to tell the story of Dusi Vineyard on our blog and on our website? Why do I bother to tell customers funny or enlightening stories about winemaking and grape growing?

Maybe, the next time a customer comes in and wants to chat about the vineyards, I'll just step back and say, "You tell me. It's what's in the glass that counts."

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, this may help you with a perspective. I myself only visit wineries whose wines I like. And, I go to great lengths (and distances) to visit. I like to hear all about their wines and their winemaking and I like to visit the vines and the cellar.

But as a consumer, I don't necessarily want to hear any personal involvement that may lead to bitterness (i.e. "Why do I even bother to tell the story...?") until I have tasted your product, and enjoyed it. If I like it, I'll want to hear your views on what makes it so good, and what you had to do to make the wine that's in the glass that's won me over. But if I don't like it, I'm not going to want to hear all that you went through, no matter how hard you worked, and no matter how much you sacrificed.

And I think that if I were in a situation where I stopped by a winery that I was passing, one that I did not know at all, and saw a sign that said "tasting today", I would definitely want to taste the wine before I heard a long spiel from the winemaker.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fair enough. And a good point, as well. I guess I just get the impression, perhaps erroneously, that some people never care and never will, beyond having the labels in their cellar and having their photograph taken with the winemaker.

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It may be due to how bombarded we are by marketing. After a while, its easy to feel like people are in for the hard sell. However, like Markk stated, once you can demonstrate quality, many will want to know more.

I'm almost always ready to listen to a producer tell about their products. Especially when you can tell that she is very passionate about them (as opposed to the hard sell). An issue I have is what do you do when the passion does not make it into the products? I truly love wine, but turn me loose at a vineyard, and I can nearly guarantee that I'll make a bad wine.

I often find the opposite problem - producers don't want to talk much. Perhaps people get tired of the same old questions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do we care about how our top quality Michelin Tires were made? or our Italian shoes? (how many of us really appreciate the miracle of the Goodyear welt?).

Isn't it enough for a wine maker that someone simply enjoys the wine? That you made a product that gives pleasure and that people are willing to buy?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do we care about how our top quality Michelin Tires were made? or our Italian shoes?

For a flippant answer, no. Tires and most shoes aren't painstakingly grafted, planted, watered in their first few seasons, trimmed, etc. just in order to get them established in the soil. The soil/site itself isn't carefully chosen for its mineral content/sun exposure, etc. And their vines aren't carefully tended each growing season, which comes with nail-biting during fall rain/hailstorms, etc.

I do understand what you're saying, though, JohnL, and I'm sure many artisan producers are happy when their products are simply enjoyed. But I'm also sure the extra layer of knowing the care and attention given to crafting that wine/cheese does mean something to many consumers in an increasingly mass-produced world. It does to me.

And just as many travellers go on cruises, visit 4 countries in 5 days and then can say they've been to Venice and Marseilles, etc., there are similar wine consumers who can show off the picture of them with the winemaker and say, hey, look how sophisticated I am - I know wine! Now pour me some of that White Zin, please, and microwave another pizza.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a producer, I think that's sad.  It's like going to farmers' market and telling the vendor, "I don't care how you grow your **&^ strawberries," or "I don't care about where the )(*^^ mushrooms are foraged!"  "Just give me what I want!"

I get this weird, emotionally knee-jerk response, like a shudder of revulsion.

After all, we baby our vines and wines into adulthood throughout the seasons.  To us, each and every vintage is different, each vineyard is unique, and each wine has a back story.

Well, I have to tell this story...

In the 1980's I stumbled (in a NJ wine store) on a Vincent Arroyo Cabernet that I thought was one of the best wine's I'd ever had - it had all the rich concentration and raw excitement of a rough-and-tumble Cahors (from the southwest of France) yet the flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine buyer for the store, who had been in Napa working the harvest for somebody, had tasted it and bought it for the store, a completely unknown new wine.

I then had some of his even more intense Petite Sirah, so under the pretense of a business trip I trumped up to get myself to the West Coast, I went to visit him.

It was then a tiny operation (I don't know how big it is now), and Vince was happy to see us. And I clearly wasn't somebody who'd stumbled in by accident to have a photo taken with the winemaker - I had called in advance to arrange a time for a visit, and even though they weren't technically open for visits when I was there, when I explained that I'd had some of his earliest wines and wanted to meet him, he told me to "come on up". And when I asked questions about the wine, he sort of shrugged, extremely modestly.

He was indeed flattered by our love of his wines (this was explained to me by a neighbor who had dropped by when Vince went down to his cellar to get one of his last bottles of his very first vintage for us to taste - the neighbor told me "I've never seen him do that before".

And still, he wouldn't talk about his emotional struggle with each vine, his emotional torment with each season's weather, or whatever hard work and sacrifices he had to make to produce wines of such extraction. He was thrilled that we loved them, and thrilled that we admired the balance of concentration and soft tannins, but he was definitely of the opinion that what was in the glass spoke for itself.

And the same held true for several subsequent visits. Yes, we got to tour the vines, and yes, we got to taste wines in barrels that were new for him never bottled before by him, and we got to taste the same wines from different types of barrels when I asked to do that.

And when I questioned something about one of his wines that I'd had, he brought out that exact wine and vintage in full and half bottles so that he could explain a point to me about the aging of the Petite Sirah grape.

But he never talked about himself, his struggles, his hardships, or his emotional involvement on "babying" his wines into adulthood.

And I appreciated his modesty. It made what was in the glass, which was remarkable to begin with, all the more impressive.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe hearing about wine is like hearing about someone else's kids. Sure, there's hard work and heartaches and heartbreaks and heartwarming moments and all but if this is just someone you're sitting next to on a plane you might not really give a rat's ass (as old Dad would likely say, particularly about expensive wine or strangers' children) as long as the little tyke is polite and well behaved. Same if it's just another tasting room on the day's itinerary or the fifth flight you've been through or you'd rather stare smolderingly into your date's eyes than hear about secondary fermentation and oak barrels -- just pour, lady.

The cynic in me suggests that 90% of all wine people -- no matter how much they love actually drinking the stuff -- are faking it when it comes to actual production, so people might actually have no clue what you're on about. And the customer in me suggests that you have to be a pretty talented spieler to keep the patter fresh all day.

Personally, I like to hear it (usually) as long as I have the time to ask a million dumb questions and an interlocutor who has the time and the experience to answer them, because secretly I want to know as much about wine as Daniel Rogov and it seems like learning the details is part of that. But the standard rap ("after a dry September this was harvested on the 15th at a brix of...") gets stale quick. Plus, an unfortunate percentage of the time you've got this earnest person in your face about pruning strategies and you're thinking to yourself, "I'd rather light twenty dollar bills on fire than buy this stuff," which always makes me feel guilty. It's like thinking someone's kids are ugly as they tell you how well Johnny's been walking lately.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mary, Hi.....

Allow me to answer your question with a question:

Would you rather have me taste your wines blind, report on the balance, structure, aroma, flavors, length, breadth etc and only then to add a note about the winemaker or to write about the charms of the winemaker and pay only partial attention to the quality of the wine?

Aha.....I think I gotcha on this one......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

All points well taken. And yes, Daniel you got me! :raz:

I didn't mean to give the impression that we clasp each customer by the ear and make them listen to a prepared speech before tasting each wine! :unsure:

These kinds of comments invariably come from label hunters, score bores. They laud the virtues of certain wines and vineyards, but when confronted with the possibility that their beloved wines are over the legal limit for VA or contain significant residual sugar, or were made with oak powder or Velcorin, then suddenly it's just "what's in the glass that counts."

Frankly, as others here have pointed out, it should always start with what's in the glass.

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Knowing your experience in the kitchen, Raoul, it would be my honor to have my picture taken with you.

After I lose 20 pounds . . .    :shock:

I have just finished reading "The House of Mondavi", the history of a dysfunctional family. Interesting read. If you haven't read it I have it in hard back and am willing to rent/trade it for a wine. Any interest? You could read it this winter between punching down must. The best part of crush for me, not being a winemaker, is that all the restaurants are easy to get into w/o a resrv. Every wine maker's to tired.

Raoul

"I drink to make other people interesting".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually think that many people who love wine do appreciate how it's made, and I think you're selling similar quality/artisan makers of shoes, clothes (well maybe not tires) short. There are many small clothing stores where people put their heart and soles (bad pun) into their product, as well as much of their time and money. Many many people drink two buck chuck, hearty burgundy and white zin, and probably most of them don't care how it's made, but many people also buy all their clothes from The Gap and don't care how or where it's made.

Vaughan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...