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?

"DON'T BE SCARED OF A SOMMELIER IN A RESTAURANT".

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).

The SOMMELIER had a MISSION.

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.

PHILIP S. KAMPE
philip.kampe@thewinehub.com

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great insight.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article and useful advice.

Anonymous said...

I am a SOMM and appreciate your positive attitude.

wendy said...

Great post Phil! They know the list and may introduce us to some interesting items we would overlook.

fausto from umbria said...

Great phil we apprecete the sommelier work and your article is very nice.

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