So, I found myself in the unique position of being confused a few days ago. That, in and of itself, is not unique—plenty of things in this screwed up world can easily confound me, despite my IQ. What was unique was that I was standing in a wine shop when the glazed look came over my eyes. It’s a store I don’t frequent because I’m not usually in the neighborhood, so I wasn’t familiar with their “strengths.” But after about 5 minutes of glancing at the shelves I was able to surmise that their strengths were two: 1. Lack of service and 2. Piss-poor diversification. But I was determined to find SOMETHING to take home with me, and as you already know, that’s seldom a problem for me in any other wine shop in this galaxy. I eventually walked out with two bottles, but vowing never to return. One was a bottle of Gruet Blanc de Noir which is a nice domestic bubbly that I’ve had many times, and the other’s name has been relegated to the deep recesses of my memory, where it now resides with other forgotten details like my age and weight. But what I do remember about the bottle is its IMPORTER because that’s what got me to pick it up in the first place.
I’m always ranting about the wine industry’s reliance on the 100-pt system, primarily because it causes this catch-22 between retailers and consumers. Consumers who are intimidated by wine choice often use points as a crutch…something they can “rely” on if they have no idea what to buy. Retailers, in turn, feel the pressure to dangle numbers in front of the consumers simply because if they don’t, a customer may not be inclined to buy. What truly pissed me off that day is that the jackass behind the register, who was diligently digging for gold up his nose, didn’t offer to help me. It’s HIS store. No one will know what he’s got better than HIM. And this is coming from a wine geek. I want the dialog…I welcome the dialog…I appreciate the dialog. Because it tells me they give a shit about me, and the money in my pocket.
So what I decided to do was look at the importer on some of the bottles that I was torn between. It’s something I use as MY crutch on occasion, and I think it shows a hell of a lot better judgement than playing the numbers…that is, IF you know something about the importers. In my case, the hands-down crutch is Kermit Lynch. There are definitely others, but when I’m in doubt, if I see his name on a bottle, it wins out every time. Why? Because I TRUST him. Because his tastes and mine are very similar. Because I’ve learned that I like his choices.
My two cents on becoming a better wine drinker this week is this: Next time you’re surfing the web, distract yourself from the porn sites for 10 minutes and do a little research on some of the big wine importers. See what they have to say, and what their wine philosophies are. Then, next time you’re in a wine shop, take a chance on a bottle by a particular importer. See if you like it. When you’re done, go back to the top of this paragraph and repeat.