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Pinot Grigio and White Zin Free Zones


Craig Camp
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I often hear restaurant wine buyers exclaiming that they won't sell this or that (see the off-topic chat HERE) wine because they feel customers will simply buy these wines and ignore other good wines. For instance, should the restaurant make the choice not to carry a pinot grigio because unthinking consumers will just order it OR should they be taking the time to find a great pinot grigio so their customers can learn the difference?

Should a restaurant be a white zin and pinot grigio free zone or should they just find better examples of these wines?

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Should a restaurant be a white zin and pinot grigio free zone or should they just find better examples of these wines?

And if we replace WZ and PG with Pizza here? Like a menu list, it's up to the restaurateur to define the character of his etablissement.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I briefly mentioned this in the other thread, but if that's what your customers want, then give it to them (A bit of friendly advice from the somellier as to alternatives they might like to try is fine though!). Education should be the province of wine tasting courses and maybe matched food/wine pairing menus.

Of course you could also try a bit of a steeper markup on those offending bottles, find out if your customers REALLY like it!

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Of course you could also try a bit of a steeper markup on those offending bottles, find out if your customers REALLY like it!

I think that is a terrific idea. A restaurant owning friend of mine certainly does too, marks up the "Liebfraumilch/Mateus Rose" end of the scale and has tighter margins on some of the more obscure but good wines at the bottom end of the price scale so that for those with knowledge, or prepared to take a risk, can always find something drinkable at the low cost end of the wine list. Also he does try to find decent examples of those wines requested by the "masses" and frowned on by the cognoscenti, so for example he doesn't stock Mateus Rose but does have a Provencal Rose which does have a bit of character and also gets him engaged in conversation with the customer which can allow for a little education.

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Before I dropped Pinot Grigio off my list, I stocked several. I tried the Jermann and the Schiopetto. Invariably, the customers who ordered them, and they were ordered way too often, didn't like them because "it doesn't taste like Santa Margherita". Well, DUH! The closest I come these days is the delicious Pinot Gris "Le Fromenteau" from Domaine Josmeyer in Alsace. Just because Olive Garden sells pinot grigio by the glass doesn't mean every restaurant in the world has to follow suit.

Mark

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Just because Olive Garden sells pinot grigio by the glass doesn't mean every restaurant in the world has to follow suit.

Look out, here come the "High Horse Police." :biggrin:

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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I, for one, totally disagree with the philosophy that a restaurant should tailor its wine cellar and menu to the lowest common denominator. If a restaurant does not find a white zinfandel or pinot grigio of sufficient quality that they feel matches well with their menu, there is no reason they should offer one. If the lack of such wines proves to be a barrier to repeat business for certain customers, it is up to the restaurant management to decide whether or not to make a change.

More important, in my opinion, is that the sommelier be friendly, approachable and takes the initiative in offering (and describing, if necessary) his or her services. I think a lot of customers who are unsophisticated with respect to wine are often intimidated by a 650 wine list and reluctant to seek the assistance of the wine professional. They feel like they are required to make a choice, and seek out something they know. In cases like Mark's where customers are choosing pinot grigio based on familiarity with the cheap stuff expecting one thing and being unsatisfied when they get something different, I think it makes sense to take pinot grigio off the list.

I don't know much about wine beyond recognizing a good one when I drink it. What I want is a sommelier who will find out what people are eating, ascertain a price range and never pressure for an upsell, incorporate whatever wine preferences the customers might express into the recommendation, and make a recommendation in such a way as to make the customers feel as though they participated in the decision. It doesn't hurt to make the customers feel as though they are being let in on something special and unusual, as well. It also doesn't hurt to present the customers with several recommendations from which to choose, so they feel empowered. If customers complain that there is no white zinfandel on the menu, the sommelier can easily ask what it is that they like about white zinfandel and say, "we don't have white zinfandel on our list, but if you like white zinfandel, you're really going to like this riesling, it's blah blah blah."

--

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AMEN Sam.

I don't expect the wine list at a restaurant to be like the local wine superstore.

Whether at a place like Citronelle with a sommelier, or at a lower price point with entrees between $20 and $30 and a waitor helping with wine,I expect a wine list that is selected to match up well with the food menu and the staff to have knowledge of at least two selections that would perform well with each dish (or one if by the glass). While no wine expert, if I see a wine list that seems inappropriate to the overall restaurant "theme", I begin to wonder if I'm really in the right place. If I'm in a Citronelle, not that I can afford it, and I were to see white zin I would really wonder if these guys gave a darn about their customers. On the other hand, if I see a Petrus in a lower end place, I wonder if they have any clue.

Especially at a mid to high price point, I believe that the first time that you can steer a cutomer to a more appropriate wine and provide an overall better dining experience, you have a repeat customer and one that will end up providing more revenue over the long haul than in trying to act as more of a "customer is always right" retail outlet and fulfilling every whim.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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First off, I agree with Mr. Kinsey. Well said.

My biggest complaint about restaurants and wine isn't lack of things I recognize on the wine list, it's lack of expertise. I hate getting handed a wine list, especially a long one, and then getting a blank look and mumbles when I ask for help in selecting to pair well with our dinner. I think the length of the list should correlate closely with the amount of knowledge they have about wine. Bottom line, a server should know what they sell or have an expert on hand who does. (I realize I'm preaching to the choir here :smile: ...)

More on topic, I might not put those "not recommended" wines on the official list, just have a bottle of sutter home or santa margherita in the back in case someone asks for it. Sometimes I really do want something familiar, especially if it would make my mother-in-law happier with her evening.

And for gosh sakes, don't mark UP the bad stuff. A lot of people assume higher prices means better wine (myself included). It would be awful to not know much about wine, order the high priced bottle and hate it, then realize later I'd been duped. Would turn me off completely from the place.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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I guess it really depends on the restaurant's clientele, philosophy and business model.

My mother (a woman with a not very evolved food and wine palate, although she would probably like to develop in that area) called me to ask me for a wine-by-the-glass recommendation for the following evening when she was going out to dinner with her girl friends.

"Where are you eating?"

"Cattle Company"

"Will you be ordering steak?"

"Probably, but maybe salmon."

"If you get steak, ask the server for a glass of cabernet. If you get salmon, ask for chardonnay." (I was guessing CC didn't have glass pours of Pinot, and mom needs to take baby steps anyway.)

"Cabernet or chardonnay, got it."

A couple days later...

"How was your dinner?"

"Fine. I had steak."

"What did you have for wine."

"Well, we had white zinfandel at Millie's house, and I got flustered at the restaurant so I just had another white zinfandel."

A point I'm making here (and Mark also makes it with respect to Jermann Pinot Grigio) is that we have leaps and bounds to go to become a wine savvy, or even wine drinking culture. That doesn't mean we use that as an excuse to give up, or, worse, pander. But a restaurant has to make a business decision as to how much wine education it wants to take on and how much it wants to offer"safe" choices for the average patron.

I think those decisions apply to both the restaurant's food and wine, by the way.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Mark, how wine-savvy is your average customer or is that a tough one to answer?

Most of my customers at least know what they like. That's a good start for me. My passion happens to be Burgundy and I enjoy showing people who ask for chardonnay what a great white Burgundy can taste like and how it can actually match with food. My list only contains domaine bottled examples of both red and white Burgs, so when someone says "I don't recognize any of these. Which one tastes like Louis Jadot?", thats where I swing into action and show them that Jadot, Latour, Drouhin are sort of entry level examples of the real thing. Sure, we serve white zin by the glass, but I also always offer both dry and sweet rieslings by the glass and bottle like Sam said. There's nothing wrong with preferring sweet wine. I get satisfaction from showing people a marvelous Mosel wine where sweet is only one dimension of the total flavor in addition to fruit, proper acidity, minerality, length and finish.

Mark

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I think that Pinot Grigio is one of the most under-rated wines and I must confess that it is one of my favourites. There is only one proviso and that is that it should be French rather than Italian.

Edited by ctgm (log)
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I think that Pinot Grigio is one of the most under-rated wines and I must confess that it is one of my favourites. There is only one proviso and that is that it should be French rather than Italian.

Agreed and there are been a dramatic improvement in some small estate Italians.

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So you can order a German or Austrian Pinot Grigio?

To confuse things even further, you might have to ask for Grauburgunder. :shock:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Kudos to Sam and Mark for explaining this all quite well. My additions to this would be that most restaurants (that aren't the late great Windows on the World RIP) do not have limitless storage space for products, no less for products kept in the appropriate conditions. What's purchased is dependent upon the Beverage Director's best idea of what goes with the food and what will please the customers, contrasted with what is a good value for both the restaurant and the customers. You have to be very choosy about what you are offering up, and certain items are going to fall by the wayside. Also, how much time do you have to devote to wine education, and is it more important to educate your customers or the staff? What limited time I have goes toward educating the staff. They're my eyes and ears out on the floor and giving them the appropriate tools to sell is what I consider to be a big part of my responsibility. They, in turn, can then use the tasting notes I provide for the wines as a basis to interact with the guests. The cool stories I know about a particular winemaker or a particular wine that the staff can relate are a great way for me to educate the guests with one degree of separation. Providing "tastes" of by the glass wines accomplishes the same purpose. Cusina is quite correct with the correlation of the size and scope of the Beverage program being directly proportional to the wine knowledge under the roof. As it should be.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Increasingly, I see a number of moderate to upper/moderate restaurants outsourcing their wine program to a distributor/retailer/consultant. My guess is that the restaurant feels they end up with a decent wine program but don't have the expense of actually having an employee do it. From an accounting perspective, I believe it turns fixed costs into variable costs.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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I just did a few searches on Sherry-Lehman's site and only American and Italian wines show up as Pinot Grigio's.

If you would like to hammer out the worldwide nomenclature of pinot grigio/gris lets start another thread as it is taking this one off topic. I think it is interesting enough for its own thread.

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