"The Hardest Part" is the title of a short article by Matt Kramer in the November 15, 2014 edition of the Wine Spectator magazine. In short, Kramer says the hardest part of his job is convincing people to try little known wines from places foreign to their customary choices. He says, "Familiarity breeds contentment" and it's that oh-so-human fear of stepping outside of one's comfort zone that makes his job so difficult.
Excuse me, but as a wine writer Kramer can always change topics. Moreover as a writer, he doesn't have to produce sales numbers for what he writes about (although the cynical side of me wonders if he does). As a wine retailer I live and die by what I bring into this little store. Gainesville is a small pond in which to fish and if your bait is wrong you go home empty handed. And believe me, big mistakes in purchasing can haunt retail shelves for years.
I get what Kramer is saying though. Wine appreciation is all about getting excited about a new wine discovery and we all do it, don't we? For my customer base it often happens at a restaurant or on vacation where the food and/or atmosphere can prove conducive to breaking down the barriers of personal convention. This allows for the new experience to re-write what came before and a new normal to emerge.
For us in the wine business it's not much different. We taste a lot of wines daily it seems, but the vast majority are so predictable they really don't need to be tasted at all. Because of the mass marketing of wine today, it seems we know what they are going to taste like without actually tasting them. Maybe we're hoping for a surprise.
I believe my suppliers like this account because I can sell wines that others can't. That's because I have thirty five years+ in the business and have developed an appreciation for what the more arcane wines offer. That and I'm a lousy businessman, a soft touch patsy, with the haunted shelves of bad purchases to prove it!
But what Kramer is really saying is that once we have tasted great wines from far off lands, we want others to experience them too. It's not enough to know within oneself that something is good; we feel we must spread the word.
Sometimes I will ask a supplier what is the most memorable wine he has tasted recently. I get good results from that approach. If you were to ask me I would say it would have to be the 2010 Valduero Crianza from Ribera del Duero, Spain. To taste that one along with many more, join us here on Friday the 30th of January after 5pm when David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Cellar Selections leads us in a tasting of fine European wines. Then on Friday the 6th of February, Dmitry Paladino of Ultimate Wines offers a survey of Leese-Fitch California wines along with Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and Not One Iota Pinot Noir, a couple of centerpiece selections from California and Oregon.