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Reflections on a Winery

French champagne

French champagne

This post is more of a complaint that we seldom encounter. Yesterday, our hotel sponsored a wine tasting during the late afternoon. The representative from a local winery immediately poured a glass of sparkling wine. She told us that it was made from Chardonnay. All was well until another guest called it champagne. The winery rep quickly told him that it was a sparkling wine and not champagne. Again all was well. Then the guest asked what was the difference between sparkling wine and champagne. Her answer was, “the size of the bubbles.” I mentioned that this was not accurate, but my comments fell on deaf ears. She did not want to hear that only sparkling wines made in Champagne may be called champagne. She did not want to discuss bubble size. She simple said, look at the bubbles in your glass. They are small. That’s a sparkling wine.” We did not bother to try the other wines from the winery since the experience was rather sour. Wineries should realize that their staff is a reflection on the winery, for better or worse.

This wasn’t the first time we encountered a lack of information. Visiting a winery on Long Island, the person pouring the wines did not want to answer any of our simple questions such as what grapes were in the wine. Instead, he said, “I just volunteer to pour wines on the weekend and don’t know anything about them.” This was another negative reflection on a winery and we left.

It is important to point out that a negative experience is seldom experienced. We can count our negative and lack of information on two hands. What is more often the case, especially with staff that are new, is to be asked to wait a moment while they can find someone to answer the question. Then they stay and hear the answer. This is a good example of a teachable moment. At our hotel, the pourer had no interest in a teachable moment.

Then there are the hyperboles that we seldom hear. We were in a Virginia winery when a staff member conducting the tasting declared to a group of visitors from California that Virginia had almost as many wineries as California. In mathematical analysis around 250 is not almost as much as around 3,000. Just think of money instead of wineries. Another whopper came in Texas when our tour group was informed that American oak barrels are much larger than French oak barrels and hold much more wine.

Again these experiences seldom occur, but when they do, they do not place the winery in a positive spotlight. There is so much to learn about wine, a truly interdisciplinary subject, that one should always be opened to a teachable moment.

The more people learn about wine the more they will want to ask good questions and in return they should receive good information. If they do, they will undoubtedly want to return again and again to your winery.


One Comment

  1. ngb1988
    Posted April 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I live in Virginia and there is no possible way that we have more wineries than California! What we do have is the same wide variation in pourer knowledge. I went to one very large, well-established winery (that I won’t name) where the pourer didn’t know what defines a Port-style wine, nor was it on her info card! It was incredibly irritating. Then I went to a smaller, newer winery and the pourer there educated me not just about the wines he was pouring, but a little about wine in general. I even remembered his name because I was so impressed. If you’re ever in Virginia, check out 868 Estate Vineyards and ask for Tom.

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