'Good' is a four letter word

So what is the most terrifying word known to wine snobs, most wine retailers and fine restaurant wine folks?

The word is "good!" That's right, I've seen wine writers, wine sellers and winery owners turn pale over this word.

The scenario is this; a patron walks into a fine restaurant, sits down with his or her date and looks over the menu. When the wine list arrives, the diner turns to the wine guy who is standing there with the white bar towel over his or her sleeve and asks, "Is this wine good?"

What exactly is the professional wine person to say? This happens to me every week at the cellar and I don't know how to reply. Yes, the question is asked in all seriousness but answering it is a tough proposition. Lets look at this just a little deeper.

"Good" is, of course a relative term in every sense of the word.

What is good to the consumer might be not so "good" to the wine seller or to the date at the table. What I think people are asking is this; "Will I like this wine?" This is also an impossible question to answer but I do believe that it is what the person is asking. We can then get some handle on the question by then asking the person what type of wine they prefer. This gets us closer to the "good" word but it isn't perfect. What this does is put the feelings and wants on the person who wishes the wine and not on the person who is the provider of the wine. This is a big move in the "good" question because now we are putting all of the "stress" on the person who wishes to buy the wine. The answer in this situation can be a very complex one and might take the wine professional some time to unravel what the consumer wants.

To explain what "good" or "liking" wine requires is a vocabulary that can be encoded and decoded. In other words: Both the provider as well as the consumer have to be on the same page when using descriptors. This can be a real trick. What might be too fruity or overwhelming in the nose or aftertaste cannot always be defined clearly. The best thing for a provider and consumer to do is come to grips on a wine or set of wines that both are familiar with and play the deductive logic game. Most wine providers, retailers and winery folks are familiar with many, many wines. I always ask the consumer what kind of wine they like to drink. If I know this wine, which I almost always do, I can then get a grip on where this person's palate comes from. This is the best way to purchase wine as well as to sell wine. Finding a common ground is the way to go regardless of where you are on Planet Wine.

It is vital that the wine consumer never be shy in explaining what she or he likes in a wine, or the label that makes them comfortable.

Sometimes, and this happens quite a lot, folks can get uneasy about admitting they like Two Buck Chuck (well, this is just an example) and be reluctant to tell a waiter at a fine dinner house that this is what rings their wine bell. Hey, you are not there to impress the staff, be honest and tell your wine professional what it is you like to drink. If you are not honest or feel anxious you might not get the taste sensation that you want for the evening. There are many wine slots to fit in and there are many "like wines" that are what you are used to drinking sitting on the shelves and hiding on wine lists. Remember, it is your hard earned dollar so being "surprised" by a wine that you might not be expecting can come as a huge financial and palate shock.

Explore, but stay at times within what you know you like and all will be just fine.

See you next week!

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