The Grapevine

Compare and Contrast: Judging Wines on Their Own Merit

December 12th, 2017

Does every Pinot out there have to measure up to the greatest Burgundies? [level-members]

I would never argue in favor of not having benchmarks against which to judge, well, just about everything, we do ourselves and the wines we sell a disservice if we hold them to the loftiest of standards.

The trick, then, is to create other benchmarks. California Cabs are nothing like Bordeaux reds, and they are judged on their own merits. And there’s a similar split between “new world” and “old world” styles in cabernet, as well.

Can we go further than that to create categories that are kinder to wines with less lofty price tags? I think you can, and I think it makes sense to talk in broader terms of, say fruit, or acidity, or crispness, or any number of other taste attributes that are, in the long run, more helpful to most wine consumers shopping anywhere between $12 and $40 a bottle.

So how do you speak about wines in your shop? And h ow do you organize them? By country? Would you consider re-organizing to focus on attributes other than geography? Some shops do exactly that and do quite well. What’s most interesting is how naturally doing so would seem to lend itself to the kinds of conversations you have with wine neophytes as well as those you’d have with more knowledgeable consumers.

In other words, “everyone” knows French wine, but they don’t necessarily know what “French wine” means. So change the way you talk about wine to focus on concepts that have more meaning for more of your customers. [/level-members]