Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wine Lullaby

I met a friend the other night at a wine bar. Not a place that is well known on the internet or among wine people for its great list, not well known for anything except as a neighborhood place. A good place to meet a friend and enjoy a glass of wine together.

I was waiting at the bar for my friend to arrive and three people sat down next to me. They told the bartender that they had just eaten dinner and would now like to drink some wine. They looked at the list and the bartender came back to ask what they'd like. "I don't know," one of them said. "Tell us about the wines you have."

"Well, what kind of wine do you like to drink?" She asked.

"I like red wines that are big but not too dry," he said.

"Well I have something you might like," the bartender said. It's not too dry and it has a bit of leather to it. Would you like to taste it?"

"Sure," they said, and the bartender poured them each a generous taste.

I could be wrong to feel this way, but my guess was that the customers wanted to enjoy their wine, they were not wine connoisseurs, but they were interested in wine and want to interact with the server about wine before making their choice. When you begin offering tastes, more tastes of more wines might follow, and the whole interaction can take quite a bit of time. This is not an easy moment for the server, I would think.

Some discussion followed the tasting. "I like this, what is it?" One of them asked. "It's a Faugères," she said. "I like leather," one of them said, and lots of giggling ensued.

This group of three people went on to sample three more red wines, including a Douro, a Chateau La Rame Bordeaux, and something else - I cannot remember what. All wines that would retail for something like $15, all poured for about $8 by the glass. Lots of back and forth, smiles everywhere, the bartender patient and engaging. The Faugères was actually re-tasted. They each chose a different wine, thanked the bartender, and were happy.

I must say, I enjoyed watching this tremendously, and I had a front row seat. I was impressed with the bartender. She clearly enjoyed this interaction too, enjoyed her work with customers. And yes, the bar might not have made as much money on the sale because something like two or three glasses of wine were poured for free as tastes. But the customers were happy, they enjoyed the experience, and perhaps they will return.

If you're reading this blog you probably read other things about wine, and you probably drink a lot of wine, maybe even collect wine. The bulk of the wine sales business doesn't involve us, though. Most of it is between retail clerks and servers, and customers like those three people. It was nice to see that it still works smoothly, and it was oddly calming to me to see that anyone can go into a NYC wine bar and take pleasure in talking for a while with a knowledgeable and patient server about $15 bottles of Douro and Faugères.

All is safe in the wine world, now go to sleep.


steve said...

As a business person, I love this story! These customers learned about wine, enjoyed their stay, bought (presumably) at least $24 of wine which cost the bar maybe $8 (including the samples), and will probably return, as well as talk up their experience. To me, this is exactly why one might drink wine in such a setting, they got their money's-worth and the bar got customers.

Glad to hear all is well!

Clotpoll said...

It is a beverage of civility, after all is said and done.

CT said...

Great story! That's all it's really about...connecting with other...sharing...


Do Bianchi said...

isn't it what it's all about, Alfie? I love eavesdropping on other people's wine orders, too!

Missing you BrooklynGuy... and thinking of you...

The Wine Mule said...

Every rep who talks a bunch of blustery crap about "brand-building" needs to read this story.

Clotpoll said...

Fellowship, community and goodwill are all concepts that are branding-resistant.

People in the wine business who treat it as only a product tend to end up selling things that never transcend the quality of mass-produced product.

Ben Wood said...

Brooklyn guy and all of you,
Thank for giving us this great report on the safety of the wine world. This type of transaction will earn you a lot of positive energy, and hopefully our three heros (the consumers) will be back to this bar to taste some more wine, and have another enjoyable evening.