"You haven't got a clue, and you don't know what to do…"

by Katie Pizzuto on November 14, 2008

in Ratings,Wine,wine importers,wine shopping

shelfSo, 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 slynchomething 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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John November 14, 2008

I like it when they leave me alone. I hate when they hound you like you’re a shoplifter or an idiot that can’t pick a bottle without them holding your hand.

I don’t trust anyone named Kermit.


2 Katie Pizzuto November 14, 2008

I don’t want them HOUNDING me, but a simple “do you need any help?” would’ve been nice. Then I get the choice of telling them to piss off, or asking for a recommendation.

Kermit I like….it’s the “Lynch” part that’s tough.


3 Linsey November 14, 2008

There is a small green frog now crying because you dont trust him John!


Btw – think it goes without saying where ever you shop, in whatever store – a simple do you need any help then to be left alone if it is not required is good sales techniques. Hounding makes me walk from the shop!


4 Coupe 60 November 17, 2008

I have stormed out of stores …where the staff would not provide assistance…You are right, nobody wants to be hounded, but there are some places where it seems the staff seems to make themselves scarce on purpose.

Back in my college days, when I used to work in a pretty big wine store in Queens, NY, I would jump at the chance to work with customers, as I not only enjoyed the experience but felt I learned a lot as well.

And I would especially jump at the chance to help an attractive woman that came into the store.. Actually, those customers often received several offers of assistance from the Winestore staff… 🙂


5 Katie Pizzuto November 17, 2008

Agreed, Coupe…why work in retail if you don’t like interacting with people?!? Oh, and was that YOU I saw being arrested for stalking some years ago?!? LOL!


6 Alan Kropf November 18, 2008

I would’ve made a scene. A big scene, an early 90’s John Hughes’ movie-esque scene, and I would’ve started stomping my feet until I got what I wanted…


7 Katie Pizzuto November 18, 2008

@Alan…had there been some Psychedelic Furs playing or such, that would’ve been perfect, but it’s more fun to just look at the guy behind the counter as you’re paying and say, “Had you asked me if I needed help I would’ve bought 6 more bottles, including that yummy DRC you’ve got sitting in the temperature-controlled room. But I can see you’re too busy to handle ringing all that up, so I’ll take these two and go, thanks.”


8 Anthony November 20, 2008

Yeah a simple hi my name is kermit, do you need any help I also like. Especially when its a new shop.

The other day i went into an old shop called Brewers World which now was bought out by Bottle King. As soon as I went in an employee asked me if I needed any help. So, Since the store was rearranged I said yes and (kermit)lol showed me to the areas I needed to go for some Malbecs, Louis Jadot and Macon Villiages which I happened to be looking for at the time.


9 Cory Cartwright November 25, 2008

Kermit Lynch is always good, as is Louis Dressner (if you’re into funkier natural wines), Michael Skurnik who employs the incomparable Terry Thiesse, Neal Rosenthal who is Kermit’s chief rival, and Charles Neal who has an amzing book of offbeat french wines. Cheers.


10 Katie Pizzuto November 26, 2008

Couldn’t agree more, Cory….all of the ones you mentioned are importers that I turn to faithfully, because I know and trust their tastes….and I LOVE the funkier wines!!!! Will have to hunt down Charles Neal’s book and put it on the xmas list! Cheers.


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