My favorite Paul Newman film is "The Verdict" and my favorite scene is the courtroom summation which Newman begins with, "So much of the time we are lost..." He then goes on to imply we are so beaten down by injustice in our society we are left feeling weak and in doubt of our own inherent ability to be just. Lofty ideas for a wine blog, eh?
I sometimes tell customers, "On the scale of important things in life, wine should not rank too high." My statement is meant to put the customers at ease with the subject of wine and not to intimidate them. It is an unfortunate truth that wine appreciation and the wine business itself, can lead to snobbishness amongst some of us and it's a trap we should all avoid at all costs. After all, this stuff really isn't all that important in the over all scheme of things.
Recently a vendor provided for me a taste of Arcos Salice Salentino, an Italian red wine from Apulia in the heel of the "boot" of Italy. I liked it and I liked its $12 retail price so I bought a case and poured it at one of our weekly tastings. None of my tasters liked the wine and I sold not one bottle. It was a shutout. In this business there are no returns. All sales are final and I was stuck with the wine. So three weeks later I tried it again and not only did I sell eight bottles, but my tasters sang out their praises for it. So what gives? Obviously it was a different crowd!
One of the worst things that can happen at a wine tasting is to have a self-proclaimed and vocal "expert" in attendance. That didn't happen at either of the Salice tastings but it has happened in the past. If that guy's personality is too dominant, then all of the rest of us must be wrong if we see it differently than he does. At the first Salice tasting there were enough tasters in the group who voiced their displeasure with the wine, that I believe others felt inclined to agree with them.
When this first Salice tasting failed so badly, my vendor told me to taste it out with other Europeans only and none of the over-the-top new world wines. Let's be honest. There is a real difference between the austere, high acid food wines of Europe and the jammy, forward-fruit cocktail wines of California and some of those over-blown concoctions are really centerpiece wines and everything else pales in comparison. In my second Salice tasting I included some of those kinds of wines but I put them at the end of the row. I tasted the Salice first, before the fruitier wines, and that did the trick.
While I admittedly prefer $12 European wine to $20 California wine, I have to admit, most of my customer base does not. Oddly enough at the second Salice tasting, I had a reversal of the Salice situation. In the lineup was a California wine that a customer had ordered cases of but returned because it was too fruity. I agreed with her assessment of the wine. I placed it in the middle of the row and it sold fine.
So in "The Verdict" Paul Newman ends his summation by admonishing the jury that on that day, they are the law; not the symbolic trappings of the law, but the law itself. In my case, my tasters are the experts; not me, not the critic in the wine/food magazine, not the wine textbook writer, not the guy on TV, nor the peer group, and especially, not the blowhard expert in attendance. Insecurity be damned! Believe in yourself and trust your palate. That's my verdict.
Please join us on Friday November 14th between 5 and 8pm for a tasting of French country wines with David Hobbs of Prime Wines. David has been doing this a long time so his presentation should edify. Having tasted the wines already, I'll just go ahead and predict the verdict...everyone is going to love these wines!
...and please become a follower of this blog so I don't feel so insecure.