Monday, April 25, 2005

A Tale of Two Tastings

I had occasion to have two different tasting experiences this weekend that I thought I would share. They were within a couple blocks from one another but a significant distance in terms of the experience. I was downtown and intended to head over to the new Whole Foods for a few things. The new store at their corporate headquarters is out of this world. A mecca for food lovers. It’s the pinnacle of grocery stores – with price tags to match, of course, but it really is awesome. Anyway, it’s a couple blocks to walk from the new Whole Foods down to the Austin Wine Merchant. They do Saturday afternoon tastings and it was a nice day for a walk anyway. They were tasting the following French wines from MANCIAT-PONCET.

2003 Mâcon-Charnay Les Chênes $13.75
2003 Mâcon-Charnay Vieilles Vignes $16.25
2002 Saint-Véran Vieilles Vignes $17.50
2002 Pouilly-Fuissé Les Crays Vieilles Vignes $24.99

All of these are Chardonnays from the Mâconnais, and I’ll save saying more about these wines and which one I walked out with for a future posting. But for now, let me get more to the point of just highlighting the difference between the tasting at Whole Foods and the tasting at the Austin Wine Merchant. You can be the judge of which one you’d rather go to.

First of all, the Wine Merchant had nice glassware that was of an appropriate size such that it gave you an opportunity to swirl & sniff. Then they also had a wine encyclopedia out on the table turned to the page for the Mâconnais region. I’m a map guy and I always like to know where in the world the wine comes from. I also like the fact that they thought I might actually be interested in that and that they didn’t assume that I would already know. Finally, the person doing the tasting had some knowledge of the wines and could give you their take on them and point things out on the map.

Whole Foods up the street didn’t have quite as much attention to detail. There were 3 Australian wines, only one of which I tasted. (The $6.99 Shiraz.) There was nothing like a map and the wine was poured into a tiny little plastic cup – about half the size of a bathroom Dixie cup. Ok, so no big deal, it was a $6 wine anyway. But I think you understand where I’m coming from. One of these was a much more enjoyable experience that resulted in a sale.

I have nothing against Whole Foods. In fact, they have a great selection of wines there and the guys behind the unbelievable cheese counter were extremely helpful. It just seems that in what is otherwise an awe-inspiring display of gastronomy that they’d do a better job of it in the wine department.

There is the matter of scale involved too, I suppose. The Wine Merchant had maybe 3 or 4 other people in the store at the same time as me. Whole Foods probably had at least 100 times that in the store. Despite the fact it’s out of the way, I’ll likely make another Saturday excursion to the Austin Wine Merchant though.


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