Opinion: Things that catch my eye

Other: Business, Opinion

I was asked tonight what made me list a certain wine and it got me thinking about the sometimes byzantine route with which a wine catches my eye. It turns out theres a good many routes to doing that, many of which might be quite routine, sometimes they might seem whimsical, but there is always a seriousness behind them.

The vast majority of the wines I have listed over the years are introduced to me. Whether this is by the supplier coming in with samples, me running across the wine at a tasting or event I have attended or a colleague introducing me to something they think im going to love.  There can sometimes be an element of trust involved with this method, for example if Ive loved three out of the range of wines made by producer X, Im often happy to take on trust that Im going to like the rest of their range. This sometimes leads to some pleasant surprises when one of the untested bottles is sold and I get to try it for the first time. This is where the relationship with your supplier is key, over ten years of dealing with one national supplier I have built up a level of trust with them to the extent that I am happy to take on new listings without trying all the wines. And so far they havent supplied me with one duffer, despite several opportunities to do so.

There are probably about a dozen or more wines on our list now that I have listed for “novelty” value. Quirky labels, funky names, unusual grape varieties or combinations. “Some Young Punks”, Alpha Box and Dice, Little Beauty, it has to be said these are generally new world wines that have something a little different about them. A desire to be different, to stand out from the crowd. I have been desperate to get hold of a Canadian wine called Blasted Church for many years now. I love the story behind the name, the quirkyness of the labels and the ballsyness of their winemaking, despite the fact i have never actually tried any of their wines. They have a feel of the Randall Grahm about them that just makes them so appealing to me. My desire to list them is as strong as ever.

Today Ive spend the best part of the afternoon trying to track down an Italian white from Abruzzi, purely on the recommendation of my restaurant manager who happens to hail from that region of Italy. The packaging has a little quirky feel to it in that tasting notes are wrapped in straw and wrapped around the neck of the bottle. That has a childlike appeal to me, that is setting me off on a new search to find it, try it and hopefully list it.

Ultimately, for me the wine has to be saleable, and apart from the taste of it, there are a few key elements that give it that “S” factor. Number one is a story. As an example we recently listed a small boutique grower champagne – Marie Noelle Ledru. I wrote a small synopsis about it in the winelist, noting that she basically tends to the winery herself with only her cat for company. People actually started asking me for the one lady and her cat champagne!! So story is crucial for adding a connection, making it seem more personal to someone that just another bottle of wine. A story adds background to the experience, but it must also fit in with the menu, for that is the prologue to the story. The menu is the opening gambit in the theatre of dining out. The menu sets the stage for the gastronomic experience that is about to happen. Once the stage is set the story can be told and the audience can be hooked in.

Those are the key factors for me that help to determine what I list, and I think that over the last eight years they have helped me to discover and enjoy some spectacular wines. I hope they continue that journey!

About Author

Garry Clark

Currently the sommelier at a five-star hotel in the North West, Garry has previously worked at Gleneagles, Amaryllis (Gordon Ramsay’s Glasgow Restaurant), Malmaison in Glasgow, Hilton Glasgow, and several Moat House Hotels. Wine aside, he’s a keen amateur photographer, a part-time gadget freak and computer geek, and an enthusiastic bread baker. All that and he’s still on the right side of 40 (just!).

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