11 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Friday, March 16, 2012

On 5:09 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine   No comments

by Melissa Sutherland Amado | Director of Marketing & Wine Buyer | On Twitter: @melissa_ful


Pinot Grigio has an exhaustive (albeit derisive) track record, and a general grip on the Italian white wine category, despite the country’s seemingly innumerable autochthonous grape varieties. But even in the face of derision, and an almost universal assessment that “all Pinot Grigios taste like water,” a comparative tasting demonstrated, surprisingly to customers, the very opposite. In fact several customers who, we were told, rarely (if ever) drink Pinot Grigio (or any Italian white wine), were wide-eyed and chatty about differences in taste.

I chose six Pinot Grigios from Italy for yesterday’s line-up: two from Alto Adige, three from Friuli, and one from Sicily. They varied in price, from $9.99 to $29.99. Below, I’ve listed the tasting order along with brief descriptions.

Zesty, minerally, fresh, and bright – Terlano is solid – No ifs or buts

Beguiling nose, fruit, and minerality – Decidedly weightier, pleasant bitter note

Note/rationale below

So much focus and finesse – utterly balanced – an exciting wine to drink! Biodynamic and organic

Owned by the Planeta family, the vineyards in Menfi turn out a rounder Pinot Grigio with a tropical profile

A ramato Pinot Grigio that stands alone – Find my thoughts and notes here

We grouped the Pinot Grigios lightest to fullest. Out of the gate, my aim was to inject the tasting with excitement and surprise. I wanted a counterpoint to the mineral/zest-driven Terlano, and chose the La Viarte to fit that mission. I would say that each customer, after tasting only the first two wines, and sensing such a dramatic difference between the two, understood the need to strap in – it was going to be an experience. 

The blind bottle is something new we’re working into the Comparative Series, and customers have responded enthusiastically. Our blind pick is the same variety in the line-up, and from the same country, so what a customer is working to determine blind is a producer and price. While guessing a producer is hard (even for us!), we inform the customer that the wine is a big brand, so at the very least, the mind can map something known regardless of prior experience. The reveal comes at the end of the tasting, via a secret card that shows producer and price. For this tasting, we chose the 2010 Santa Margherita. As an afterthought, and all in good fun, of course, I only wish I had video of some of the dramatic expressions. 

The last three Pinot Grigios further challenged taste memories and biases. Especially revealing (and moving) were instances of watching and listening to a customer’s perception and opinion transforming, from dislike, to surprise, to stunned enjoyment. It’s not hard data, but empirical observations such as these can help tap into emergent data, often sparking ideas applicable to other wine-related contexts. We’re always learning from, and with, our customers.

Our Comparative Series continues every Thursday in March and April, from 4 to 7PM on our 2nd floor. Next week, we explore organic Chianti Classico producers with guest educator Tracy Ellen Kamens. We hope you can join us. 

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