Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Respect!

Can anyone explain to me why the retail wine merchant is the Rodney Dangerfield of the wine business?

I mean, ok, I get it. There are a lot of uninformed, slovenly folks out there who happen to own licenses that don't really give a hoot about wine. They lack passion, imagination and a firm understanding about the how and why wine is the magnificent, lovely and essential beverage that it is. Perfectly comfortable to just pump out wine scores and sell on the merits of other palates rather than their own, they do a disservice to the wine world as a whole. It's very irksome to ponder...

I'm often invited to lunch or dinner by our stable of distributors and importers to meet and dine with various winemakers from around the globe. It's usually at a very swank restaurant in the city and I'm always thrilled and very appreciative to attend. The first thing that I notice upon arriving is the ratio of retailers to sommeliers. It's usually in the 4 to 1 range in favor of the somms. Not sure why I care or why I even mention this but I always perceive it as a (very tiny) disrespect to the power of the educated and effective retailer. What is usually more surprising to me is that many winemakers are in love with sommeliers and having their wines on the lists of great restaurants. Don't get me wrong, a great sommelier is essential to the dining experience and some of my best friends are sommeliers. But the somms themselves feed into this also. Can't tell you how many times I've met one and upon me introducing myself they ask, "What part of the city is the restaurant?" When I mention that it's a retail store AND in NJ (another no-no) they usually try to end the conversation as soon as possible and find another somm.

It's a bit of an ego thing on the winemakers part, that much I understand. But the bottom line is unless your wine is being poured by the glass, the great restaurant might go through a couple cases of your wine in a year. A good retailer can do five (or twenty) times more than that in a day. No one goes in a restaurant and orders a case of the same wine. Would be kinda nutty to do so considering the markup.

Show a little love toward your friendly neighborhood wineshop.

JCB the 4th

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