Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. IV

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." – Confucius

My boss, Brad, convinced the powers that be to let me hire a trio of Italian specialists, as our Italian wine business had mushroomed in the past 10 years. Where it was once hard to sell Italian wine across the board, now Italian wine was tres chic, even with some French dining establishments. So, I went about the business of putting a team together. It went well, even if it took longer than my boss had wanted. I had the business of a tonsillectomy that got in between interviews and negotiations. But once we had that all sorted out, I had a good, solid, team.

Part of the mechanism of ramping up the validity of the team and their street cred was to enroll them in the Italian wine specialist program at Italian Wine Central. The head education honcho in my company wanted as many credentialed specialists as we could muster. It was so mandated. And the team got after it and jumped through the hoops. It was, and is, a terrific program, and one I recommend highly for anyone wanting to further their skills in understanding Italian wine at a higher level.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. III

“Ah, how the seeds of cockiness blossom when soiled in ignorance.”― Steve Alten, The Loch

Back from a working trip to Italy, I invited Segundo to a wine tasting. We had a winemaker in town and I was told he liked to rub shoulders with celebrity vintners. He accepted.

I knew enough to leave him alone when he was tasting. He usually brought a consort with him, to provide cover. I observed they liked to keep to themselves, to draw little attention to any observations they made about the wine, the venue or the other wine buyers in the crowd. Segundo’s lack of confidence saw to it that he was duly shielded from anyone who might know more about Italian wine, or wine in general. He usually avoided me in those situations. I would ease the sail in order to provide him with ample room for his maneuvering comfort.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. II

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” -  Wayne Dyer

For whatever reasons Segundo Sguattera ventured into the wine buying world, he did so without the proper preparation. I say this because everything he learned from the chef at Le Chant du Coq was based on a truculent foundation. Several of the veterans in the wine trade tried to welcome Segundo into a more amicable world, the one which many of us experienced, from the vineyard to the importer to the distributor. We were all part of a team, pulling to make sure the farmer’s efforts at the source wouldn’t be for naught. After all, the vigneron has to deal with the weather, with labor, with inflation, with competition, and with the changing economic and physical environment. At the end of the supply line, we want to give the producer a soft landing.

But Segundo would have nothing to do with it. I believe at the basis of all of it was his insecurity and ignorance. Which is folly, for who starts knowing everything? Or anything, for that matter? Segundo was a wounded creature from the get-go. His history and his ingrained maladies only served to further nourish a burgeoning inferiority complex, resulting in a boundless spate of anger, mistrust and furtive behavior. As I said, he wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. I reckon he, as well, felt that about himself. And his buying process reflected that.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. I

This is a tale about a most miserable wine steward

When Primo Sguattera first saw his son, Segundo, in the hospital, he couldn’t recognize any similarity between him and the newborn. He was so small, and remained that way into adulthood. Primo thought Segundo might not be his son, more likely the pairing between his wife and the weather-beaten scarecrow out in the corn fields outside of Tijuana where they lived.  But his wife swore she’d had no other man, even if Primo was less than the most desirable choice for a husband and a father. Fate had it that way.

Segundo’s mother, Maria Teresa, was a mother and a martyr. She had been named by her grandmother, who had the ability to sense the future. So, she prepared Maria Teresa for her future, giving her a name that would explain, in two words, her life to herself. That made for little happiness, if indeed at least there was some clarity to it all.

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