Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sometimes More Is Just....More.

Now I know lots of people, my brother being one of them, that think if you are at all picky about wine that you are a snob. Not quite sure why it’s so much more so with wine than any other preference, I mean someone can tell everyone they don’t watch network television, won’t eat at chain restaurants or only listen to indie music and that is viewed as a preference, mention you don’t like a certain kind of wine and here comes the, “Oh well, aren’t you particular?” complete with exaggerated and elongated snooty face. Trust me, as the French wine buyer for our store I hear it all the time, “Oh look who has come to grace us and taste California wine?” tossed about with a chuckle, often with a hand poised in the air with pinky finger extended, or the “Ohhhh that’s right, you only like French wine” again with nose in the air, snobby voice stretching out the word, “French” and hard raised eyebrows. Hate that shit. Like truly. I’ve said it hundreds of times before, I don’t think French wines are better than other wines, they are just what I prefer. And I honestly believe that anyone who makes those snoot faces and implies that French, or any old world wine really, wine drinkers are being snobs are actually saying more about their own insecurities than anything about the person they are trying to make to feel like they are being a snob for what they like. Plus I’m an advocate or great wine, from anywhere, just so happens that my palate leans towards the old world wine therefore that has become my focus, both in the shop and when I’m drinking at home. There’s defensiveness to that kind of verbiage and thinking that is not only annoying, it’s getting down-right insulting. Hey, they make all kinds of wine, from all reaches of the world, drink what you like and lay off the name calling of people that drink other than you do…okay? Sorry, bit of a tangent there…

So, for me, when it comes to wine, food and even music really, I like things simple. I’m not a bells and whistles kind of girl, not in the least. I like clean, simple and restrained flavors and find myself somewhat grossed out when I’m sitting in a restaurant looking at a list of dishes, all of which have about ten too many ingredients. Sure it looks dazzling to see, “Oven roasted chicken breast, stuffed with ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted garlic, caramelized onion, topped with creamy Marsala sauce and Parmesan crust” and where some folks might be impressed with the number of things offered on one plate, to me it looks like a big ass mess with no focus. That whole, “More is better” thing isn’t better to me….it’s just more. Give me a great roasted chicken breast with a simple, well prepared sauce and I’m a really happy camper, throw a bunch of shit on a plate and try and wow me with volume, and I’m out. 

“442?!” that’s what I blurted out this morning as I selected the Champagne/Sparkling Wine button on Total Wine’s website. They have 442 sparkling wines?! I felt my heart thumping away as I began to scroll through the “selected” offerings, feeling like my little bubbly department must look woefully puny to consumers in the face of 442 options. It was deflating as hell looking at that number but as I continued to scroll through the giant list of bubbles another feeling took over, one very much like the way it feels to look at a menu full of shit you don’t wanna eat. All those options and there was not one bottle of sparkling wine that I would buy to take home and drink. Not one. Rather astounding really, and then it dawned on me, those wines weren’t selected at all, they were amassed. I figured out the focus of the department, or stores actually, to have more options than anyone else. Not better options mind you, just more of them. It’s a business model that is clearly working, that chain is becoming a scary beast that is gobbling up consumers and freaking small stores like ours right the fuck out. They’re big, pretty, impressive in scale and can offer 442 sparkling wines along with 664 Chardonnays, not to mention they do seem to train their staff, at least a bit, on the bajillion skews they stock, but much like Costco or any other big box chain, there isn’t anything all that special there. There just can’t be when you have to stock over 70 stores, period. Some consumers will be dazzled by the “more” of it all but I’m banking on those folks that want, crave, and need better.  

That bit of depression that hit me when I saw that 442 slipped away as quickly as it hit me. We freaked out when BevMo started moving into the area and this monster is even scarier but I have to believe that just as there will always be those restaurants offering simple, clean, focused dishes that can survive the Olive Garden that moves in down the street, that a store like ours, one that has the opportunity to stock truly special and interesting wines, can educate consumers that more isn’t always better, well that we too will not only survive, we will create even more passionate wine lovers. That being said, a little word of mouth certainly helps so should you happen to be talking wine, please feel free to slip in the name of your wine blogging buddy's shop, help us stay around to assist the next wave of wine lovers.

If railing against mediocrity makes me a wine snob, well this time I’m okay with that.


Romes said...

Totally agree, hence I have stopped shopping here at home where the selection is sort of enh and just order from you where the selection is ahhhh!

Hope you are doing well - miss you!

Samantha Dugan said...

That is so friggin cool and I love it when you call and just tell me to, "Make it go" as it were. Very flattering and lots of fun. I miss you too sweet lady.

webb said...

I used to love going to Total Wine and just being amazed at all the wines, but then I realized that I never really liked anything I bought there. Back to the small wine shops for me. If Wine Country had a branch here - hey, there's an idea! - I would be a regular.

Valerie said...

Prefer the small shops myself - especially when the owner says, "I carry grower Champagne & small producers." Just like the Jelly selection at the supermarket - thousands of choices, but all crap with sugar & chemical sweeteners. I end up looking for the boutique imports where the focus is on the fruit. Want the same thing with my wines ... wait ... you know what I mean. xo

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It's shops like Wine Country that truly carry the torch for wine. Your kind of hands-on service (oh, man, do I love your hands-on service) is what creates the culture of wine, the love of wine, the passion of wine. Total Wine sells alcohol and creates the illusion of bargain shopping. It, too, supports the wine industry as a whole. But it does nothing for the tradition, culture, passion and beauty of wine. Folks that shop there are essentially missing the point.

442 sparkling wines? Wow. Is the chain owned by The Coneheads?

I love you, and I'm in dire need of hands-on service.

Samantha Dugan said...

They do have an unbelievable number of skews, just not much there that is really any good. I just hope lots more people do as you and realize that there aint much there there. How cool would it be if you were a regular at my shop? I'd love it...

Perfect analogy with the jelly and yes love, I do know what you mean. Can't wait until you and I meet....might be dangerous.

Ron My Love,
Kills me that you can say in one blog comment what I was trying to get out with my whole damn post. Fuck, you are amazing. I've got the hands and I'm trained to serve....where are you?! I love you handsome.

Selyndria said...

I <3 the Wine Country. I am a wine snob. I love amazing wines that make my heart sing and brings fire to my blood. Only wines that are crafted with the love and passion for the land and the vine seep into my soul. I can only get them from you.

Thomas said...

Need I profess my agreement?

My only concern is that I am not a fan of the phrase: "French wine," nor for that matter do I like "Italian wine," or "California wine," and so on.

Each region and each producer should get more respect than that.

Samantha Dugan said...

Very sweet of you to say and it is our pleasure to continue to search out those wines that will continue to enrich your meals, parties and add pleasure to your life. Thanks for your overwhelming support of The Wine Country!

I have to agree but as you know, these things are often broken down into verbiage like that. I am guilty of contributing, got to work on that.

TWG said...

SKUs, they probably don't even carry that many, just have distributor access. It's not just Total Wine, plenty of stores have no choice.
but the good stores are wonderful, if few and far between.

Sara Louise said...

You had me nodding along from the opening sentences of the post, Why does being particular about wine make us snooty? I'm not an expert but I know what I like and what I don't like and I don't think that makes me all pinky in the air. I'm the exact same with beer and tea and pretty much everything.

Samantha Dugan said...

They are and sadly, until people realize that 442 kinds of, "Meh" isn't really all that impressive, there will be even fewer.

Have no idea. I think it has something to do with the aura of refinement that used to be attached to wine, kind of crusty thinking but the whole snobby thing kind of stuck. Pisses me off.

David Waddington said...

Thanks for the attitude. Total is opening in Dallas just up the road from us, almost to where Spec's opened their 120th store. We've gone from 'big local bad boy' to 'small and local,' just like that.

Fightin' the battle one customer at a time.

Samantha Dugan said...

Scary right? Keep up the good fight there mister and you are far from alone.