Thursday, October 03, 2013

2007 – The Second Tuscan Coming

How many times has it happened to you? You’re in some place where you are just backed up against a wall and have nowhere to go but straight on through it? In the wine business, we’re in the “O” of O-N-D and already it seems like we’ve been at this for a while. We’re backed up against a wall and we still have three months to go.

“This” being the state of affairs, this wine business, getting people to pop a bottle with their Chicken Scarpariello or their Vegan Lasagna or just some doggone leftovers that they just won’t throw away. Some wine to go with that? “This” being that time of the year, the last three months, when a lot of wine is sold, purchased and drank.

No matter what you do, you will inevitably come up with someone who has an objection to buying your wine, your line or you. They’re not paying attention, they don’t care, they’ve already made their decision and you are in their way. Sound familiar? It’s the transaction we do over and over again in life. And there doesn’t seem to be a cookie-cutter approach to it.

I’m in a store all dressed up in an Italian suit and a crisp, starched white shirt, tie-less. But I look like someone official. I see some folks over by the Brunello section looking for three bottles of Brunello. “We need 2007,” the lady says. I tear the section up looking for three 2007’s. They’d already found three but I must have made some kind of micro-facial twitch. They looked at me as if to say, “We don’t want these?” They were cool, laid back folks. I really wanted to help them. They were a little bit skeptical. But they were engaged. I found them some 2005 and at a real good price. Great, small producer. Eight years old. Should be drinking really well about now. “But how is the vintage?” one of them asks. It wasn’t 2004, or 2007, but it’s the right wine for the next few days.

They could have taken the more expensive 2007’s. But somebody will buy those wines anyway, they have a following. The three bottles I plied into their hands were unknown gems, they popped out from nowhere. They were meant to be. And this couple was receptive. Win-win.

I’ve been having folks ask me for Italian wines that are varietally driven from another point of view. What it is, people are coming from drinking Cabernet and Chardonnay and they want to try Italian versions. What to do? Do you show them and sell them the Italian versions or try and take them to Sangiovese and Verdicchio? Those earlier clients, when they questioned about the 2005 versus the more attractively reviewed 2007’s, I finally looked them in the eye after they questioned me and told them bluntly, “Look, I’ve been doing this for 30+ years. I was born in California. I’ve been writing a wine blog religiously for eight years. I’m not going to give you a crappy bottle of wine. What is it about what I am telling you that you don’t want to believe? It’s only a bottle of wine, it’s not like when we make this decision the Italian and American governments will all of a sudden jump out of the funk they’ve been in. It’s a bottle of wine.”

With other folks less trusting, I would have just handed them a bottle of oaky chardonnay or a Tuscan IGT red and sent them on their way. Because they weren’t ready. And they’d go away happy. Or at least happier than me.

They aren’t ready for Soave or Verdicchio or a classic old style Chianti or an Aglianico. They want pillows of comfort.

I saw it today with an old client. His palate has gone from Tuscany and Sangiovese to Argentina and Malbec. So when I showed him a delicate Barolo, he wasn’t moved. I wrote about this some time ago, about when men age some of them want a bigger wine a faster car and a younger woman. He was with a group of men at the power table, all pretty much self-absorbed in their importance. Drinking a (2007) Super Tuscan at mid-day when the temperature outside was 92°F (in October). These guys weren’t going to budge. One chap was waiting for a “business associate.” He handed the restaurant owner a pile of cash and told him he needed another bottle of "that Super Red". He went outside and fetched a well-dressed woman, almost mowed me over while discreetly shuffling her inside, quickly. No sale from me. He wanted what he wanted and no one was going to get in his way. He was betting the 2nd bottle of 2007 Super Tuscan would herald in a second coming. Or at least an afternoon delight.

It’s wild out there. And it’s showing no signs of letting up. Wait till they get their hands on the 2010’s.

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