Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SOMMELIERS are our FRIENDS by Philip S. Kampe

Presently, I am taking a WINE AUSTRALIA course in New York, taught by SUZANNE BARROS (We call her SUZY). Her knowledge and flexibility in style makes her a Special Teacher. But, I am not writing about her.

The four month course is comprised of SOMMELIERS, who work in New York's TOP 25 Restaurants. There are 15 people in the class and I am the only journalist.

What I have learned about Australian wines cannot be measured. Sure, I now appreciate Australian wines more than ever. And I learned how well the Aussie's work with the GRENACHE and SHIRAZ grapes. I learned how wonderful the PORTS are and how they can compete with the "SACRED PORTS" from Portugal. But, that is not why I am writing this

I am writing this because I learned that SOMMELIERS approach wine interpretation on a much higher level than the person who sells, buys or dreams about wine. Like a biologist, SOMMELIERS dissect each nuance, drop by drop.

What has that taught me?


They are your FRIEND, your ALLY.

Their job is to HELP YOU.

Today I tested my newly found conclusion. I was invited to a luncheon at a Fancy NYC restaurant and was given a menu and an option to order whatever I wanted. It wasn't a wine luncheon with a winemaker and an importer/distributor focusing on their products. It was a normal business lunch that involved a presentation unrelated to the wine world.

The waitress walked over and asked for our drink order. I asked to see the wine list, which was immediately handed over to me. I studied the TWELVE page Wine List for ten minutes and then, tactfully, asked if there was a SOMMELIER on staff. The answer was YES!

There were eight of us and ordering a bottle or two of wine could have been a ritual that had no bounds. We didn't want that to happen, so, we talked, as a group, and set-up wine goals in a business like fashion.

What we decided to do as group was to set a price limit on a bottle.

Working with a SOMMELIER is not considered a weakness by a wine person, but, it is considered a strength. SOMMELIERS are knowledgeable and passionate about wine. They want to share their knowledge with you, the customer.

What we did was simple. We set a price limit, told the SOMMELIER that we wanted two bottles of PINOT NOIR and a bottle of CHARDONNAY that is not too oaky (all within our price category).


What we did was to empower the SOMMELIER and flatter him at the same time.

The result: THREE BOTTLES of wine that met Robert Parkers 100 point expectations.

Due to my wine class, I learned first-hand that SOMMELIERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS.

Take advantage of their astute palates when ordering wine.

Maybe you can drink a bottle that tastes like a Robert Parker 100 point wine at a fraction of the cost.

We left a special TIP for the SOMMELIER, because his choice made the difference between an average bottle of wine and an EXCEPTIONAL one.

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