September 15, 2016
Random Thoughts About Wine Buying/Tasting
I have a few random thoughts about wine that I would like to share with you. On their own each sections isn’t enough for a post but together they should be worthy of your time.
How to be a good wine store customer… Buying wine in a store involves communication by the customer and an understanding of the wines intended purpose by the sales person. IE if I walk into a store and simply ask the clerk for a “good wine” what do you think I’ll get? Probably nothing close to what I really want. However if I walk into a store and say “ I’m having grilled pork chops tonight with stuffed peppers and corn, I want a red between 15-22 dollars and I will show you three pictures from my phone of wines I had recently that I like “ . I’m betting the second technique results in a more interesting suggestion from the sales representative. Try it and see what happens.
A better wine salesperson might even inquire if you intend to eat outside as the wind will blow off a lot of aromatic elements in the wine. In that case I would probably recommend a bolder wine for Al Fresco dining and a more mild wine for indoors.
How to be a good customer and get the good stuff. Occasionally wines will be released in small quantities and are highly sought after, think collector’s items. How do you think those wines are distributed in the marketplace? Typically wine agents /wineries prefer those products be placed on high visibility restaurant wine lists and distributed through retailers that support that brand throughout the year and buy across a wide product range ( IE don’t cherry pick) When the retailer gets the wine there can be waiting lists, release dates or price premiums for the best stuff. If this is something you are interested in trying and collecting a good strategy can be to find a favourite person at your favourite store and give them as much of your business as possible. People do business with people they like so if a sales clerk has a case or two of something really special they will often have the discretionary ability to decide who gets access to those bottles. I always found a way to accommodate my best customers.
Wine tasting strategy. You have two very powerful tools when trying wine at a tasting or in a restaurant/winery, #1 your brain #2 your smart phone camera. It’s pretty obvious you need cognitive skills to taste wine but not so obvious why you need to take pictures. A lot of people take written notes and while it’s a good idea for journalists I think it’s a poor idea for consumers. In my past life I had many exchanges with customers that wanted a specific wine but couldn’t remember it, occasionally I ran across a customer who took notes but left them at home or the office. I never ran across a customer that didn’t have their cell phone with them. Take pictures of the bottle. Take a picture of the menu. Take a picture of the tasting sheet at a public tasting or winery. All these pictures are powerful tools in remembering the wines you like and helping you find them again.
Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food.
September 15, 2016
“Cellar organization”. Two words than can put a smile or a frown on your face depending on the type of person you are. There are a few compelling reasons to keep your collection documented and organized. When you have a plan for your collection you might as well stay organized so you know which vintages you have and which ones you want to purchase. It will also help you avoid keeping wines past their “ best before date “. Having an inventory will also help you plan tastings and make it very easy to insure your collection. One of the best ways to keep track of your collection is www.cellartracker.com . Cellar Tracker is the most sophisticated online inventory management system I know. It has integration with your subscriptions to Burghound, For The Love of Port, Purple Pages, Vinous and many more. When you enter a wine in your inventory if another user has entered its information the program auto fills all the relevant info with you having to retype the entries over and over. It can give you reports on value, as well as the years suggested for drinking and many more metrics. The system supports multiple cellars as well as futures purchases, bar code creation and restaurant use as well. You can export a copy of your inventory to an Excel spreadsheet for offline access and Eric does super regular backups off all the data entered in the program. The site founder Eric Levine is a former Microsoft employee and is amazingly responsive to suggestions for improving the program. This multiplatform system currently is the defacto tool for all your cellar organizing needs. Suggested payment for use of the Cellar Tracker Program is $40 per year for under 500 bottle, $80 for 500-1000 bottles and $160 for a 1000 bottles or more.
The next best way to organize your system is to simply take pictures of your racks and shelving with a smart phone. This is by no means a substitute for a full inventory nor would it be acceptable to an insurance company to document your collection. However a full set of pictures plus a folder with all your receipts might do the trick. The advantage of this system is that it requires very little effort and can be managed as long as you don’t have too many bottles. The downside is you may have a hard time finding specific bottles and you may occasionally keep a bottle too long. One way to reduce the risk of keeping a wine too long is to indicate that a wine is ready to drink on the end of the capsule. I use these to indicate wines ready to drink http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/112912/Avery-Removable-Round-Color-Coding-Labels/
The last method is no organization or inventory at all. Upside is you save all the time and energy spent cataloguing your cellar and you have the serendipity of finding wines you have forgotten about. This is not the best option if you have a poor memory or are a completely type A personality but does allow for a certain flow to your collection. You will likely keep wines too long and suffer the disappointment of wine that is over the hill. You might even end up with this. But think of all the time you will save.