Choosing a wine
August 15, 2009
Have we got to the point that we worry too much about the presentation and too little about the wine? Is the label so important? Does the shape or color of the label tell us anything about the wine? In Italy we have a saying that says good looking labels are made to hide poor quality wines. This is not always the case nowadays, but it has some true. Simply look at the cheapest wines and then the most expensive, which have the better looking labels? I bet the cheapest. We should not generalise, though. New world wineries have a complete different attitude towards label. Their wines have always been made thinking as the good looking label necessary, or maybe is the fact that their wines do not have the story or history of old world wines. For old wine wineries, all it matters is the wine, what inside the bottle, everything else is unnecessary.
I can understand that when looking for a bottle of wine in a supermarket's aisle, considering that the tasting notes seems to say the same for all wines, the only difference is the label and we assume that the better looking as the better wine, but not in restaurants, even if now supermarkets are starting to stock normal label wines on the shelves to deceive their customers, on the premium range, giving the impression that they are buying a small production wine, restaurants are now going the other direction.
A couple of days ago I have received a call from the manager of one of the restaurants we supply complaining about one of the wines we supply them with. It took me a few minutes to understand that the complaint was not about the wines itself, but was about the label. There was nothing wrong with the wine but simply the manager thought that because of the label the wine would not sell. I have to precise that the label has nothing wrong, it is simply the combination of a classic wine and a small producer.
This call left me speechless and shocked and the only thing I could say was that if he was not happy about the label I would have arranged for the wine to be taken back. I was also amazed to hear that the manager was happy to pay a bit more for a better label, without even taking into consideration what was inside the bottle. After the conversation, I agreed to take the wine back, I started thinking about the call and I felt disappointed, because, if restaurants, are starting to buy wines by the label, it will be the end of wine as I know it.
Restaurants are, supposedly, the place where customers are guided in their wine choice and don't get the chance to look at the bottle until the wine gets to the table. Wine is no different from food, would you prefer a fantastic presentation dish with no flavour or a not so great looking but with plenty of flavours? So, what to look for when buying your wine? Origin, producer and grape. Read the back label instead of stopping on the front one. Don't be scared of bad looking labels, you may will find an hidden gem.
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