Wine Know-How

A suggestion of the wine steward, it is important to listen to a wine waiter or steward when he offers his advice. Thirty + years ago I was in a small town in France, it was a town named Gordes. It was famous for the Vasarely museum but I wasn’t there to see it. I was there to drink wine from the region and in particular Rayas.

The first encounter was with a sommelier that pushy and he tried to insist that I drink what he proposed. Now you need to understand that some sommelier need to sell wines, and treat most tourists that same way. While others feel out the client and try to access his/her knowledge and taste to test the waters to offer them a wine that will be an experience.

Last night we encountered a very young French waiter who was enthusiastic and he offered us what he called “one of his favorite wines” which we had never tried. It is difficult to know whether or not the waiter has wine knowledge or not, and I am afraid many do not. In addition, many have a limited experience and budget and do not get the opportunity to taste a broad enough spectrum of wines.

The difference between a sommelier and a wine waiter is an important difference in knowledge and education but from time to time you can find a waiter that understands regional wines better than you think.

The one experience that sticks out in my mind was the first Rayas sip in Gordes. The restaurant was not a restaurant, and the owner was the owner. The name was artisanale de comestibles and inside was a man in his mid fifties or more who was beyond passionate. The space was not more than 20 square meters with a table or two. I sat down and ordered the plate of the day and looked at his list asking, “what do you recommend” and he replied, “what are you looking for” and I said “something exceptional”. He turned his fingers and eyes to the ceiling and said excuse me, as he turned away and departed the small shop.

When he returned I understood he had been in his cellar and he showed he a bottle he cradled very carefully. I could hardly see the label as it was so dusty. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I smiled and said sure.

The wine blew my mind and it was a 1978 Rayas, a red wine that I had never heard of or tried. I offered him a glass and he almost cried. From that day onwards, I almost always offer a glass to a sommelier or waiter if he is sincere.

Life and wine is a wonderful pathway to new experiences, meeting people and sharing your passions.