For this column, I will do something different. Lawyers have lawyer jokes, anecdotes, and tales, and so do doctors, athletes, and other professions. How about those in the wine trade? And enough of the “wet dog” and “cat’s pee” aroma comments, or the murderous mispronunciation of French wine labels. Below are three short tales for wine aficionados…
WINE DESCRIPTION EXPERT
A Food & Beverage manager was in conversation with his best friend Frank in the lobby of his hotel. He said: “Frank, wine sales people nowadays are not very knowledgeable about wines. Many come here to sell me wines, yet they have very little wine training. They cannot even describe their wines during tasting. How sad!”
As Frank was about to make his comment on the subject, a young lady wine representative came to their table, escorted by the F&B manager’s secretary. “Sir, Liza is from ABC Wines, Inc., and she has an appointment with you now to present her company’s wines,” said the secretary. “Yes, I remember, please take a seat, Liza.” The F&B manager gestured to Liza to take the seat across him while Frank was on his right. “What wines are you here to present?” “Sir, I brought you two samples: a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay from Concord Winery as you requested. I already e-mailed you our prices and terms, and am hoping you will consider these as your Wine of the Month next month. I just came to leave the samples for you to taste at your convenience,” Liza said politely. “Why don’t we just try the wines now. My friend Frank is also a wine enthusiast with very discerning taste. I want him to judge the merits of your wines,” replied the F&B manager. He immediately signaled a waiter to bring glasses to their table.
Liza kept quiet but was obviously a bit uneasy. “Since your white wine is not yet chilled, I will taste the Chardonnay a bit later. Let us taste your Cabernet Sauvignon, and I also want you to tell us what you think of the wine.” Liza took out her corkscrew and was very adept at opening the bottle. She poured an ounce or so in each glass, and handed them to Frank and the F&B manager. The F&B manager took the glass and started swirling. He then looked at Liza and asked, “Well, what do you honestly think of this Cabernet Sauvignon?” At first she blankly stared at both gentlemen, then took a whiff, then had a little sip. “This wine is very fresh, lots of blue berries on the surface, it has nice bouquet of cedar and vanilla…” As she was speaking both the F&B manager and Frank were speechless. “…then on the mid palate, there is cassis, medium bodied, semi-dry with long jammy finish…” The F&B manager’s jaw dropped. “…and while it can drink well now, it can still develop tertiary flavors if kept three to five years more.” So ended Liza. The F&B manager then went on to whiff and quaff the wine, trying very hard to get the elements described almost effortlessly by Liza. “Wow, you are right… I get the aromas you described, the cedar, and the finish. That is amazing Liza.” Liza turned red from the flattery, while Frank just nodded in agreement.
Soon after, Liza bade them goodbye. “Sir, I have another sales call. I will call you tomorrow and find out if you like our Chardonnay too.” They shook hands. After she left, the F&B manager was still bemused and said, “Wow… That Liza is something else. She is probably the best wine sales agent I have encountered so far. This industry definitely needs more wine professionals like her.” Frank reached for the Cabernet Sauvignon left by the agent and turned to the back of the bottle, and after a few seconds, said, smiling: “Hey you’re right! The industry does need more people like Liza – Those who are good at memorizing the tasting notes written at the back label!”
SNOOTY BORDEAUX WINE
A proud French Bordeaux wine stands in the shelves of a small downtown wine store. The Bordeaux has been in the store for a few years already, and has been dusted regularly by the shop owner to keep the bottle clean and attractive for walk-in customers. The Bordeaux bottle has seen many of his fellow wines, notably the cheaper ones, go off the shelves and get sold. So he told his perennial shelf partner, an Italian Chianti Classico, “The recession must be so bad that only the cheap Australian and Chilean wines are being sold, and here we are still waiting to be picked up.” The Chianti replied “Yeah, it is sad. I want to be drunk soon, as I am more than mature enough to be enjoyed. Staying here gives me no purpose.” The Bordeaux was sarcastic: “The problem with you is that you are desperate to be bought. On the other hand, I am not worried. There is a wine connoisseur out there who will drop by this store, and pick me over all the rest of the wines. He will savor my aromas, and appreciate my complexity. That day will soon come. I just feel it.”
A few months later, the Chianti Classico was put on sale by the owner at 50% off its regular price. The Chianti was excited. “Hey Bordeaux, I am finally going to be sold. Someone will drink me over dinner, maybe with a good pasta dish.” The Bordeaux was not impressed. “It has to take a huge sale to get you off the shelves. How can you be happy with that?” The Chianti was upset at the comment but soon forgot about it as a customer indeed came and bought him. On his way out, the customer told the shop owner: “This is a great price for a Chianti Classico. I will cook spaghetti marinara tonight and serve this wine slightly chilled. My wife and I will enjoy this bottle immensely.”
So the Bordeaux once again was left behind, still confident and on the wait for a wine connoisseur to come. But more months passed and nothing happened. Then one day, the shop owner picked him up. The Bordeaux let out a sigh of relief, saying to himself, “Wow, I never thought the owner would be the one to consume me. He surely knows best and I am the best wine for his exquisite taste,” thinking he got his wish of being appreciated. Then, the owner brought him straight to the kitchen and told his housekeeper: “Hey, remember you wanted a cooking wine? Here, take this one. It is past its prime and nobody wants it!”
TESTING A WINE SNOB
A wine shop owner invited his snobbish wine friend to a wine tasting. Often criticized by the wine snob for having lousy wine taste buds and for amassing an inventory of very mediocre wines, the shop owner was determined to expose his friend’s so called “impeccable” wine palate and came up with an elaborate plan. He invited the wine snob to taste an expensive old grand cru Chateau wine he had been saving. His plan was to ask his friend to taste the wine and describe it. But instead of just letting his friend enjoy the wine, the shop owner decided to add an extra ingredient – black pepper – to the wine to test the wine snob’s sensory acumen (since the old wine would have sediments anyway, the pepper should just blend in). Just before the tasting, the shop owner inconspicuously added a pinch of pepper into a glass and stirred it in before handing it to his friend. To his own glass, he added nothing. As they were about to taste the wine, the owner sipped from his glass first and impishly said: “This is an expensive wine which got 95 points from Parker, but it is vastly overrated. I detect too much black pepper in it, and I don’t like it at all. It is rubbish. Do you agree?” The wine snob casually sipped the wine, then and gulped it all down immediately. “There is nothing wrong with this wine. In fact, since you don’t like it, I’ll take the bottle.” So the wine snob left hastily, expensive bottle in hand.
“What just happened? How come I feel like the one duped? I just lost a $400 bottle of wine!” the wine shop owner wondered. As he was sipping the wine that was left in his glass, he saw his pepper shaker right at the edge of the table. “Oh sh%#! I was so excited to pull off the trick, I forgot to hide the evidence! Curses!”
The author has been a member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, and other wine-related concerns, e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Twitter at twitter.com/sherwinlao.