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Wines and consumer behavior

Published on -3/11/2014, 3:03 PM

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A  recent survey of retailers is a great study of consumer behavior. Conducted in October by the Beverage Media Group, the survey unveils the pet peeves of retailers who have to deal with ornery customers. It is hilarious and probably identifies each of us more than we are willing to admit.

Here are some of our favorites:

The Rhetorical Browser who asks the staff, "Is this wine any good?" What's a retailer going to say? That we made a mistake when we ordered this wine?

The Impossible Dreamer who wants a wine to go with steak and chocolate cake.

The Rambler who wants to talk and talk about a wine he had but can't remember.

We are sympathetic to Rhetorical Browser. Tom was at a fine restaurant in Michigan recently and was intrigued by a wine but didn't recognize the producer. So, he asked the sommelier if the wine was any good. Her response: "Do you think we would put it on the list if it wasn't any good?"

She thought she was funny; Tom thought she was demeaning. Maybe it was a stupid question, but he just was trying to start a conversation. He probably should have asked her to just describe the wine, but then he probably would have heard, "Do I look like the producer to you?"

Slack wineries

We weren't familiar with Slack Wineries until a chance encounter with one of its representatives, Lauren Horlock. The winery is located in Ridge, Md.

Slack Winery produces still and sparkling wines from a number of grape varieties, including cabernet franc, montepulciano, sangiovese as well as the semi-obscure white variety petite mensang. Typically, petite mensang is grown in southwest France, where yields of only one ton per acre are common. This thick-skinned, small-berry variety can be left on the vine until the end of fall when it is harvested and fashioned into a sweet wine.

Hurricane Irene in September 2011 caused a lot of damage in Maryland, including decimating the ripening grape crop statewide. The warm humid conditions after the storm allowed botrytis to form on some of the relatively undamaged petite mensang grapes at Slack Winery and the wine makers decided to turn their lemons into lemonade. The result which we tasted is a classy and lovely sparkling wine, Slack Southern Roots ($15 per 375ml).

The wine offers a yeasty, grapey nose and honey fig flavors in the mouth with a hint of sweetness that is balanced by the bubbles and acidity. This is a great beverage wine, or would be a terrific accompaniment to a fruit pie or appetizers that have a sweet element such as brie cheese smothered in fig jam.

Wine picks

* Vina Eguia Reserva Rioja 2009 ($19). This Rioja, made entirely from tempranillo grapes, is a steal for the price. Bold aromas of herbs and vanilla give way to a round and dark-fruit driven wine with big flavors and long finish.

* Austin Hope Grenache 2011 ($42). Made by the Hope Family Wines of Paso Robles, this delightful grenache is surprisingly complex -- grenache rarely is complex. Lots of layered fruit, including plum, cranberry, raspberry and nuances of vanilla and spice.

* Patz & Hall Zio Tony Ranch Chardonnay 2011 ($60). Count us among Patz & Hall's loyal fans -- not just because of its spectacular pinot noirs but also because of its big chardonnays. This one from the Russian River's cool Green Valley is full-bodied with long-lasting and layered fruit.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column for newspapers for more than 20 years.

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