Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where have all the descriptions gone?

I have a bone to pick with restaurant managers who make a wine list. Give a description. Not a long one, but something-even a phrase. Yes, I’m aware that some wines and some regions typically don’t need a description. However, some do. Chardonnay, for example, can be vastly different. Is it minerally? Buttery? Oaky? Crisp? The same with merlot. Is it fruit forward? Full bodied (for a merlot) or light and easy drinking?

This is especially true for blends. Now, if I have no idea what grapes are in it or the rough percentage of grapes, I can’t even fathom a potential description. So please, help me out. Give me a couple words.

Where does this plea come from, you ask? Well, Mr. Lush and I were at an Italian restaurant. We both ordered a cream based sauce. Keep in mind, Mr. Lush and I are not sauvignon blanc fans nor are we big pinot grigio fans. So, we’re looking over the wine list to come up with something that we’ll both enjoy while waiting for the food and with the food. Hopefully something a bit crisp, but not too much. A buttery creamy chardonnay wouldn’t cut through the thickness of the cream sauce, and I don’t recognize all of them and don’t want to take chances. Then I see a white blend from Hayman & Hill- Interchange. Well, my pasta is supposed to be spicy, so if it’s more Gewurztraminer/Viogner/Chardonnay based it would probably be fine with my food, if its more Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc based, it would be good with Mr. Lush’s food. It arrives, and it’s fuller bodied and rich, tad bit of crispness but not a lot, and goes fairly well with my food. (should my dish have been spicier, it would’ve gone better) Mr. Lush liked it, but said “its better alone than with my food”. He did enjoy it before and after his food, so all was fine in the end. (It is a nice wine, a good everyday drinking type blend. Just don't eat it with rich pasta-go for slighly spicy food instead.)

Now, I looked it up and the composition is:
47% Chardonnay
34% Sauvignon Blanc
7% Muscat Canelli
5% Malvasia Bianca
4% Semillon
3% Gewertztraminer

Description: Hand crafted blend then stainless steel fermented for freshness (with only a small component barrel fermented). Aged in small French oak for six months for complexity and softness.
Tasting notes are: Bright citrus and mineral acidity give the wine a fresh, clean backbone. Complimented by a rich and smooth palate to round out the tropical fruit characteristics.

Should I have known that it was a Chardonnay based blend, or that 60%+ was fuller bodied grapes, some sweeter, or that it was aged in oak, or that it had a rich and smooth palate, we probably would’ve ordered something else that Mr. Lush would’ve enjoyed with his food.

Yes, I can talk to a sommelier and get their advice, but why must we? Why can’t they give enough information to let people make a quasi-informed decision on their own??


LucyinStLou said...

A bigger concern, presumably the sommelier created the wine list so maybe he or she could describe the wine in the first place? In my experience, a wine really shouldn't taste better alone than with food. You know?

WineLush said...

But why MUST I talk to a sommelier? I really don't like to ask for advice and not take it, you know? And often they'll describe a few wines, but recommend the one that now that I know about it, I don't think I'll like it. Then I'm stuck with either not taking an expert's advice or having a wine I may not like. If you give me descriptions, just itty bitty ones, I can order on my own and make my own mistake or my own glorious selection.I guess I just don't feel we should have to either ask for advice or order blind. There should be a happy medium. Some places have it-like Big Sky's /Remy's list has little descriptions: Crisp pear, apple, subtly creamy texture. That's fine, something like that.

LucyinStLou said...

My fear is if they don't have descriptions with the wine then maybe talking to them wouldn't even help, you know? I'd assume if they were able to help you they would put it in their menu. For goodness sakes, they wouldn't even have to come up with the descriptions, the winery already does it!

WineLush said...

I don't think its a steadfast rule that to be in charge of a wine list you have to be a sommilier, so I suppose it could be that they just don't know...but really, like you said-the winery has the desriptions!

Presuming they could talk intelligently about the wine I guess its one of two things:
1)they are lazy
2)they want the power of you having to ask them about it. It makes them seem important. "I picked the wine and only I know about them so you simply must speak to me".

Either way, I don't like it.