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Know Your Customer

By Michael Schiaparelli · April 11th, 2007 · Fermentations
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When I worked in a wine shop, most customers were open-minded, eager to learn and willing to try new things. But there were other "interesting" customer types that we all recognized:

Cherry-Picking Loners: These folks never want help or ask questions; they aren't rude but just drift through the shop, looking at everything, searching for highly rated, allocated bottles just waiting to be recognized. We didn't generally point these bottles out to customers, knowing someone would eventually get that frisson -- that shiver of excitement -- from discovering a hidden gem.

Blow Hard Know-It-Alls: These guys love to vomit wine knowledge all over the staff. Funny thing is, they don't usually know as much as they think. A customer once demanded to know where we kept our "Southern Italian Barolos." I explained that all Barolo comes from Piedmont in Northern Italy, but he condescendingly informed me I was wrong. "I just got back from Southern Italy," he barked, "where I drank local Barolo for weeks!" I suggested he might have misunderstood something he had heard. "Maybe they bragged that the local wine was 'the Barolo of Southern Italy' the way someone might call a Hyundai the 'Cadillac of Korean Subcompacts.' " He scoffed, insisted I knew nothing and swore to never to shop with us again.

"I Don't Know Anything About Wine, But..." Folks: These customers frequently come armed with a list of Bordeaux First Growths and California Cult Cabernets, drunkenly scrawled by some "wine expert" friend on a cocktail napkin. "Where are these?" they innocently ask. We'd show them what we had, and the pricing -- which can easily exceed $300 for such bottles -- would shock them.

Big-Gift Guys: I love these guys. They always need a gift for some wine lover's birthday -- a best friend, father-in-law, boss. "Something that'll impress him," they loudly insist. "In a big bottle!" Of course, I'd always ask what they wanted to spend. "Money's no object," they say dismissively. Sure it's not. I remember taking one guy into our wine room and handing him a double magnum (3-liter) 1982 Chateau Margaux. "Here. He'll know what this is, and he'll be speechless at your generosity." He turned the bottle over gingerly, eventually asking, "How much?" "$7,100," I said, waiting for the predictable reaction.

"Are you nuts?!" he grunted. "I ain't spending seven grand on a bottle of wine!" Taking it back, I apologized, "Sorry, I thought money was no object. Now, how much do you want to spend?"

SIDEDISH
Jalapeño's recently opened in Aioli's old space on Elm Street serving "Mex-Mex" favorites like burritos and tacos. ... Finneytown's Portofino Pizza is serving up Greek and Italian food in Northside as of last week, including gyros, dolmas, pasta dinners, pizza, lasagna and Greek cookies. ... Fusion Martini Bar and Bistro in Hebron is hosting Salsa Night on Tuesdays from 7-11 p.m. Diners can munch on items from the eclectic menu to Latin sounds then dance away their dinner from 9-11 p.m. (Lora Arduser)



CONTACT MICHAEL SCHIAPARELLI: michael(at)

Cherry-Picking Loners: These folks never want help or ask questions; they aren't rude but just drift through the shop, looking at everything, searching for highly rated, allocated bottles just waiting to be recognized. We didn't generally point these bottles out to customers, knowing someone would eventually get that frisson -- that shiver of excitement -- from discovering a hidden gem.

Blow Hard Know-It-Alls: These guys love to vomit wine knowledge all over the staff. Funny thing is, they don't usually know as much as they think. A customer once demanded to know where we kept our "Southern Italian Barolos." I explained that all Barolo comes from Piedmont in Northern Italy, but he condescendingly informed me I was wrong. "I just got back from Southern Italy," he barked, "where I drank local Barolo for weeks!" I suggested he might have misunderstood something he had heard. "Maybe they bragged that the local wine was 'the Barolo of Southern Italy' the way someone might call a Hyundai the 'Cadillac of Korean Subcompacts.' " He scoffed, insisted I knew nothing and swore to never to shop with us again.

"I Don't Know Anything About Wine, But..." Folks: These customers frequently come armed with a list of Bordeaux First Growths and California Cult Cabernets, drunkenly scrawled by some "wine expert" friend on a cocktail napkin. "Where are these?" they innocently ask. We'd show them what we had, and the pricing -- which can easily exceed $300 for such bottles -- would shock them.

Big-Gift Guys: I love these guys. They always need a gift for some wine lover's birthday -- a best friend, father-in-law, boss. "Something that'll impress him," they loudly insist. "In a big bottle!" Of course, I'd always ask what they wanted to spend. "Money's no object," they say dismissively. Sure it's not. I remember taking one guy into our wine room and handing him a double magnum (3-liter) 1982 Chateau Margaux. "Here. He'll know what this is, and he'll be speechless at your generosity." He turned the bottle over gingerly, eventually asking, "How much?" "$7,100," I said, waiting for the predictable reaction. "Are you nuts?!" he grunted. "I ain't spending seven grand on a bottle of wine!" Taking it back, I apologized, "Sorry, I thought money was no object. Now, how much do you want to spend?"

SIDEDISH
Jalapeño's recently opened in Aioli's old space on Elm Street serving "Mex-Mex" favorites like burritos and tacos. ... Finneytown's Portofino Pizza is serving up Greek and Italian food in Northside as of last week, including gyros, dolmas, pasta dinners, pizza, lasagna and Greek cookies. ... Fusion Martini Bar and Bistro in Hebron is hosting Salsa Night on Tuesdays from 7-11 p.m. Diners can munch on items from the eclectic menu to Latin sounds then dance away their dinner from 9-11 p.m. (Lora Arduser)



CONTACT MICHAEL SCHIAPARELLI: michael(at)cincinnatuswine.com
 
 
 
 

 

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