Introducing Wines: Fun And Lame

I have been debating whether to write about this or not, so please forgive me. Introducing wines at wine dinners looks glamorous and fun. It certainly can be, but … it also can be pretty lame. This may be something that no one but me ever thinks about, but because I do it so often, the difference between fun and lame becomes even more apparent.

Here is what bugs me about the quick announcement of a wine with a big group. More often than not, I have only a minute or two to talk about it. With such a short amount of time, how can I be expected to sound the least bit intelligent and educated about the wine? It is sometimes maddening to try to distill a vigneron’s toil of a year and the wine’s elevage into three or four curt sentences. Even if I just mention the wine to talk about its flavor and how it matches with the dish, it is a mere snapshot of the wine’s essence. If I do only that, the wine loses its context.


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Made in Provence under the guidance of Richard Betts, this Granachebased Rose is just plain delicious | Photos from Roberto Viernes

And there is always the challenge of holding the crowd’s attention. Believe me, I try to be as entertaining as possible. Sharing its producer’s or its region’s rich history always is fun for me, but it can take up a lot of time, and looking into the past is not always a key to unlock the present. Some people couldn’t care less about history, in any case. The romance of wine is certainly engaging, but again, most of the time I am cut short from delving too deep.

As all of us know, it is much easier to command people’s attention before they drink a glass or two or three. I always wonder by the third glass of wine if guests actually are listening or not.

In fact, sometimes I feel badly for interrupting their fun just so I can get in a few words about the wine. The din of conversation always grows over the course of a wine dinner. Wine definitely is the greatest social (and verbal) lubricant. Sometimes I have to talk over them fairly loudly just to hear myself if the crowd is extra-large or particularly rowdy. And, frankly, I care more about people having fun and enjoying themselves than actually hearing the name of the wine. Besides, the name of the wine usually is listed on the menu.

Any questions? Forget the questions. Large numbers prevent people from asking questions publicly for fear of shame and seeming ignorant. People asking me questions after the event is very rare, as well.

It is so much nicer when I am given enough time to really give the full story of a wine – to give flesh to the bones. I actually can show my passion for the wine and really do the wine some justice. Bringing more to the wine than just its name and vintage is really what introducing a wine is all about.

Recommendations: 2012 CF Muller Thurgau ($19). This is made by one of Germany’s superstar winemakers Paul Furst in the region of Franken. It has an intriguing nose of spiced flowers and citrus, with flavors bordering tropical fruit such as pineapple and papaya. It is a beautifully refreshing wine that is great with anything from the sea. 2012 My Essentials Rose ($14). Made in Provence under the guidance of fellow Master Sommelier Richard Betts, this Grenache-based rose has a gorgeous nose of flowers and fruit that lead to a delectably balanced and buoyant texture. Its greatness lies in its ability to satisfy thirst and flavor without being overtly serious. This is just plain delicious.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.