Shelf Talker Stupor.
Chapter One, Part One.
The ink was still wet on my Wine & Spirit Education Trust final exam when I opened the doors to my new wine store so you can imagine my frustration when the first customers didn’t march in and ask me about trellis systems or microclimates.
It didn’t bother me that my customers didn’t care about things like yeast autolysis (the removal of unsightly facial hair from yeast organisms). What bothered me was that I had just spent a small fortune on a superfluous wine education.
I soon learned that most people are only marginally interested in wine. The average wine drinker doesn’t age or decant wine before they drink it. When they buy a bottle of wine, it ages on the way home and breathes on the way down.
I’ve found people are looking for something better than the mediocre plonk served at the company picnic, but simply don’t have the time to study the subject. That’s why they come to me, I am their wine consultant. I taste thousands of mediocre wines every year so they won’t have to. These people put their palates in my hands every day. Not literally mind you, I love my customers but I draw the line at root canal.
Most of my clientele appreciate the tasting notes or wine reviews on shelf talkers, but those less versed in wine terminology are sometimes put off by the lingo. I’ve seen the look a thousand times. Someone stops to read a shelf talker and soon their stare glazes over. “Shelf-talker stupor” may be the leading cause of beer drinking in America. Symptoms include a dazed, confused look as victims try to decipher the shelf talker wine jargon. Eventually they throw up their hands and decide it’s Miller time.
One day I spotted a couple of familiar faces trying to make sense of the shelf talkers. As it turns out, the two guys were Sylvester Stallone and Andy Rooney.
Andy cocked a bushy eyebrow and said, “Hey Sly, did you ever notice how these wine reviews don’t really sound like wine at all? Here’s one that says this wine ‘offers a bouquet of new saddle leather.’ That doesn’t really sound like wine now does it Sly? Why is that? Why don’t they just write that it smells like wine?”
“I dunno Andy. But I know sumthin’ ‘bout leather, ya know what I mean? Just take a loogadiss jacket.”
“And here’s another one Sly. How can a wine have ‘voluptuous texture?’ I ask you Sly, can a wine feel voluptuous? Can it really? I thought women could be voluptuous, but wine, I just don’t know.”
“Let me astcha somthin’ Andy. Yous knew some women back in the day?”
“Oh you betcha Sly. Now Betsy Ross, she was voluptuous. Did you ever notice that about Betsy Ross Sly?”
“Yo, absolutely Andy. She was like yous said, voluminous.”
“And did you ever notice how these descriptions say things like ‘this wine has impeccable pedigree.’ My goodness Sly, what does that mean anyway?”
“Yeah, it’s like they put these here wines up on a pedicure or sumthin’.”
“Why don’t they just write that it tastes like wine Sly? Why is that?”
Andy may not know his Alsace from his elbow, but you probably have a good idea about what type of wine you prefer. Perhaps you favor Merlot over Pinot Noir, Italian wines over California wines, or bottled Chablis from Burgundy over bag-in-a-box Chablis from California. I can almost hear Andy closing a segment on 60 Minutes with, “Did you ever wonder why they put wine in a box that looks like a milk carton? Don’t you just hate it when you get confused and pour milk on your cornflakes?”
The reason you prefer one type of wine over the other is because the different grape varieties used in wine production smell, taste and feel different from one another. Wine critics have learned how to recognize and describe the different aromas, flavors, and textures of wine, and this blog will help you to recognize and describe these attributes just like a pro. In no time at all you can become the pretentious, know-it-all “wine expert” you previously despised.