This past weekend, nearly 50 VeritageMiami volunteers and students from Johnson & Wales University (JWU) got together to help a group of South Florida’s best sommeliers taste through 365 wines to pick the wines that are truly Best in Glass.
As I noted last week, Best in Glass is a wine competition that is judged solely by working sommeliers and the aim is to select wines that are good prospects for by-the-glass pouring in restaurants. To this end, the sommeliers are told the price of each wine and take that into account in their otherwise blind tastings, where they are unaware of the specifics of the wines they are tasting. This is actually how many of us consumers buy our wines, too – we are very price conscious, and that rather obvious element is something that is missing from most wine competitions that focus instead primarily on quality. I’m all for quality wine, but if I can’t afford it, a high-quality wine still isn’t going to find its way onto my table.
We’ll announce all the medal winners next week on the VeritageMiami website, so this week I want only to salute our sommeliers and the rather unique camaraderie they share. Most of our sommelier judges know each other but, because they all work late hours, they seldom get to spend time together. One of the great contributions Best in Glass makes, I think, is the opportunity it gives to the many JWU culinary students who assist us to see the collegiality these sommeliers from competing restaurants share. They have fun, they enjoy each other’s company, they tell stories, they show a great deal of surprise when many wines are unveiled (and a justifiable grin when they correctly guessed a wine, too).
I treasure my time with these sommeliers, too. They have a unique view of the wine business, and I wish more wineries and sales people understood that if they care to know what consumers want, spending a little time with a sommelier would give them tremendous insight. Some consumers are afraid to ask a sommelier a question for fear of appearing ignorant, but the reality is usually the opposite – sommeliers appreciate questions and want to know your budget when you are at their restaurant. They want you to have a good time, and a bad wine experience is just as devastating as a bad food experience. At a restaurant, the chef is in the kitchen and seldom interacts with a customer, but the sommelier is there all the time, and has every reason in the world to want us wine lovers to be happy.
I can’t wait to share with you next week what I learned from our sommelier judges about what wines they think will thrill us consumers. They picked an unprecedented number of gold medal wines, and I look forward to tasting those with you in the coming six months as we lead up to the kickoff of VeritageMiami on October 5!