One positive aspect of this now protracted recession (double-treble dip!) is the inevitable flushing out of certain sommeliers. I am happy to see the back of some sommeliers whose only qualifications seem to be blinding self belief, a French accent, and the inclination to become extremely insulted by the term “Wine Waiter”. Ability to use a corkscrew competently or furnishing of impartial wine advice is secondary. There was one gentleman in particular who brought this noble profession into disrepute. I encountered him on a number of occasions during the boom years. He was at best condescending or came across so, but maybe that was an attitude garnered to cover his poor English.
He seemed to provide answers to questions you hadn’t asked him.
On one particular night I noticed how a quite significant number of my fellow diners were being recommended the same wine. This was an obscure offering from a little known district in SW France. And Quell Surprise! It was then recommended to us! It wasn’t cheap at 25% more expensive than house wine—25% better than house wine? Hmmm! I’ll come to that.
The story was good and well told, however completely unoriginal,
know the winemaker….exceptional site…..micro climate…..old vines…..hand picked……only the best grapes go into this wine……. Oak barrels…….small limited supply…..we got just a few cases…….you’re going to buy sucker!
His lip curled around his pronunciation of the grape varieties and into a description of the “terroir,” firmly reminding us that there is no English translation for the word “terroir” Grapevines grow in the ground all over the world, I thought, reminding myself that there is no French translation for the word “Bullshit”
It is difficult to refuse a passionate story especially when the wine list wasn’t offered to us. The wine was austere, too young, mouth puckeringly tannic and frankly, going nowhere. Yet my meek attempt to draw his attention to this exposed his weak command of English. Cue another more detailed version of the story and what the winemaker says.
So we finish our meal, pay leave the sommelier a half bottle or so for his end of shift tipple.
More importantly, just because you have a French accent does it mean you know better than a native of a non wine producing country, which wine they like to drink?