Everybody has seen this guy. Why is it always a guy? It just is. At least for today. This guy...
This guy walks in to the restaurant or wine tasting, tiny dick wavin' all over the place for all to see, thinking he looks like Hugh Johnson but in reality resembles something closer to an intoxicated Will Ferrellian type in a movie like Old School. Or the fellow pictured above.
He is not liked by any. He is only tolerated by some. He knows little about wine other than he has had wine on a few occasions before.
He needs therapy. The things he says about wine should never be repeated by any misguided followers of his (it's amazing who people will follow these days...).
I'm here to help. Here's what he says. And what you can say instead to sow some more wholesome seeds of wine speak.
1.) "You got any big cabs?"
What it means: "I'm extremely narrow-minded and one-dimensional and assume that because I once enjoyed Cakebread for $100/bottle and it was "smooth" that it must be the pinnacle of wine and since I've drank it I've reached wine Nirvana."
What to say instead: "What are you pouring that you're really excited about?"
Why it will make you look good: The one thing sommeliers love to do more than drink is talk. And they love people who are willing to listen. Ask them what they think is cool or exciting, and they'll be in your back pocket.
2.) "I don't want any (insert grape varietal here)."
What it means: "I feel sophisticated because I obviously know enough to know the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff only I'm too stupid to actually have a clue so I just repeat things I heard someone else say without realizing that they, too, had no idea what they were talking about." You know, I once had a "high-roller" tell me he didn't want to taste any Syrah, then I sold him 3 bottles of it and he was drooling over it. He had no idea, and I proved to him that his pre-conceived notion was limiting his own experience.
What to say instead: I've really enjoyed (insert specific wines) in the past, could you recommend something that I might understand and enjoy based on that?
Why it will make you look good: Sommeliers don't always *need* to be pushing you into totally uncharted territories. They want you to have a good time. Even if the bottles you speak of are commercial or modest, it gives them an idea of your existing comfort zone, and makes it easier to push off in an approachable way. Nothing is more satisfying to a good sommelier than expanding someone's view. It's like your baby taking its first steps. When you get excited about what they pour for you because you're comfortable that it will resemble your pleasant past experiences, they'll be proud of you for branching out a little, and you'll get better service.
3.) "French wines are great" or "French wines are terrible" (or any country or region's wines)
What it means: "I have no idea what I'm talking about but I heard someone else who also had no idea what they're talking about say it and I didn't know any better so I said it, too."
Are you seeing a trend in the "what it means" section? We are, too. There are no blanket statements like this in wine that are universally true, and there are redeemable and delicious wines from almost every corner of the world. There's good, great, and awful wine from everywhere.
What to say instead: "What countries and regions have been surprising you with interesting wines lately?"
Why it will make you look good: Wine is grown in so many places that we've never heard of or never thought grew grapes. Sommeliers love to discover new and obscure and underrepresented wine regions, and they cherish the weirdos and nerds who also want to discover them. We want to have friends out there in the uncharted waters. Get out on the edge right from the beginning. It's more fun here.
4.) "I love blends."
What it means: "I have no idea what I like but I this blending this seems cooler than just having one grape lol." How the hell do you even know what you like if you've barely tasted wine and can't actually describe one tangible thing about it other than you like it or dislike it? Would you say to a mechanic "oh ya I love that kind of motor oil and I hate V6 engines" if you had no idea what you were talking about? Don't answer that.
What to say instead: "Could you help me understand the history and theory behind blending grape varietals?"
Why it will make you look good: Pretending to know is not sexy. Seeking information and understanding while realizing that this practice makes you stronger, and does not make you appear "ignorant"...now THAT's sexy. It's like a guy who is willing to confidently and politely ask for directions before he's lost...and ALSO listens to the directions without interrupting! WOW! Is this real life?
5.) "What are you doing after your shift?"
What it means: "I'm married and also a greasy douchebag."
What to say instead: "Thank you for the fantastic service." *leaves appropriately generous tip*
Why it will make you look good: Hey, if you're single, you can always go back to the restaurant. If she was into you the first time, she'll at least remember who you are. Don't be a creep, don't be a dick. You can still be honest...politely, and NOT DURING SERVICE. Figure it out. I'm not a dating coach.