So You’ve Only Ever Smashed Boxed Wine
How To Talk Wine With Customers (And Sound Like You’ve Tasted Wine Out of A Bottle At Least Once).
While you might be a pro at drinking wine, talking about wine to someone who is dishing out money for it is a whole different story.
Not everyone gets the chance to taste a huge range of wines before landing a hospo job, and understandably so.
We’ve all been the green horn, but don’t let that be an excuse. Talking about wine can be really simple if you start off on the right foot.
If you’ve only tasted boxed wine, this is your new action plan (so when your customer is eyeing the Bordeaux section of the wine list and swirling their glass like nobody’s business you swoop in like you’ve got your shit together):
Step 1: Know your list.
Even if you have no idea whatsoever what a Riesling from Tasmania tastes like, at least know it’s on your list and it’s in your fridge.
Get yourself a copy of that list and learn it. What grape? From where?
Want to be stuck tableside reading the menu with the customer to know what the hell they’re talking about? I didn’t think so.
You can thank me later.
Step 2: Try and taste stuff.
For the first time in your life studying = drinking.
And you thought all those times “studying” in your student days were for nothing.
Most bosses encourage tasting product to get familiar with it for the exact reasons we’re talking about here (re: not looking like an idiot). This is obviously up to them and you should definitely ask first, but what a better way to show your enthusiasm, learn AND maybe have some sips.
Even better if you can taste it with someone who knows more than you and can explain what it is they’re tasting so you can begin to recognize flavors, bodies and textures.
Step 3: Tell yourself you know what you’re talking about.
Seriously. Confidence is key. Want to know the worst thing that can happen? You have a good chat with the folks at the table and you’re absolutely stumped by a wine question and then you’re fucked.
No, I’m kidding. You humbly say “You know what, let me check on that for you.” And you go ask someone else if you can’t find the answer yourself and everyone’s happy.
Step 4: Ask questions.
Asking questions helps you narrow down what the customer is looking for in a wine and if you listened to Step 1, you’ll know where to point on your list and seem like you know it all! Everyone leaves happy, see!
Some easy questions to ask:
White or red?
Seems obvious, but it’s not. What if they’re looking for a rose?! See, not so simple.
Light bodied, medium or full bodied?
When you learn your list, learn this too – Sav Blanc, in general, is going to be lighter bodied than Chardonnay, Cab Sav fuller than a Pinot Noir and so on.
What do you usually drink at home?
Either they’ll want what they always drink, or they’ll want to try something new. Either way you’ve eliminated at least one wine.
Some things you’ll only get over time. In an effort to speed that up, some pro tips.
Have a wine key. Not every bottle has a screw cap.
A lot of people misidentify “sweet” wine, confusing floral notes for sweetness, so keep that in mind if you’re learning tasting notes and that pops up.
Speaking of sweet: Riesling is not always sweet. In fact, most of it is not and the good ones, despite having residual sugars present (which are present in most wines), are well balanced and incredible.
It is always about what the customer likes. It doesn’t matter if you think red goes with steak and white goes with fish or if you find the wine they want to be horrendous. It’s their money, it’s their wine. Serve it with a smile.
So that’s that. It’s pretty simple to be wine-competent. Just arm yourself with a dash of knowledge and confidence and get those glasses pouring.
Then, go home and break out your goon sack, because who are you kidding? It’s still just as great!