The Wine Guy with Guy Chatfield

Pretentious tasting notes are no help to anyone when it comes to recommending wine, writes Guy Chatfield

I THINK the best one I ever heard was on the Food & Drink programme that used to be on BBC2 about 20 years ago – “running through a field of hollyhocks, naked!”

Delivered with the usual flourish by the great Jilly Goolden, I have absolutely no idea which wine she was trying to describe, never mind the flavours and smells that she was trying to get over.
The thing is, I have used this example often over the years I have been doing training sessions for front-of-house staff, but always to demonstrate that this style of tasting note is just too much and plainly does not make sense.
Tasting notes play a vital part in selling the vinous delights on your list and if you get them wrong, your customer can potentially move from buying a bottle of wine that you have taken great care to select to choosing something less profitable.
I don’t have a magic bullet for this potential stumbling block, but I do have a couple of wee pointers that might be of use when you get around to freshening up your list.
Firstly, if it requires it, keep it simple – there is nothing worse in my mind than a list that is full of airy-fairy, pretentious nonsense (like the Jilly example!) especially when the environment of the place doesn’t suit it. Use simple descriptions that fit the style of your business – flavours and smells that the majority of your customers will identify with.
Secondly, keep it relevant – by all means suggest that a wine pairs well with a dish on your menu but avoid clangers like saying a wine goes well with spicy food when there isn’t a single dish like that on your menu or ‘great with a juicy steak’ in a fish restaurant. You may laugh, but I have seen both before….more than once!
Thirdly, put your own personality into it – either write them in the way that you yourself would speak or, even better, from the heart. I like nothing better than a note that personally recommends a wine – passion definitely sells!
So, let’s make sure the wine list is not an after-thought, as is often the case. Go on, I dare you to give it a go and even just write new and fun tasting notes for a couple of your wines.
I bet you’ll be surprised at how good it looks!