My first official wine job was as sales employee in a local wine retail shop. Countless are the times customers kind of knew what they were looking for, but just couldn’t remember the exact name of the grape or wine. Some of them recalled just part of the label text. Like the young lady asking for the same bottle she bought a few weeks earlier. The problem was she couldn’t remember the name, she just recalled that it mentioned ‘apple lotion’ on the label. The only bottles containing apple as ingredient were Cider and Calvados and we didn’t sell any cosmetics, so ‘lotion’ wasn’t a clue either. It took me a few minutes to realise that instead of the two English words she thought she had read, she must have read the French ‘Appellation’ as in Appellation Contrôlée (AC). Since AC is used for French denominated wine regions, and thus appears on most French wine labels, it was going to be a very long search for the right wine.

Other customers were extremely consistent in ordering the product of their choice with an incorrect name. Like the elderly woman asking for her weekly bottle of ‘Twanny’. Tawny port was her preferred wine.

And numerous are the times I have been asked for red Chardonnay (technically impossible) and white Merlot (technically possible, but not very common).

Then there is the pronunciation of the innumerable grape varieties, wine regions, wine styles, wine- and winery names. Most wine consumers are just interested in the liquid, not so much in the provenance, let alone in perfectly pronouncing their favorite wine.

I happen to be very interested in foreign languages and think I can manage pretty well when talking about the main wine producing countries. However, I am sure that many Hungarian and Greek winemakers won’t have a clue what I am saying when trying to pronounce their local grape varieties.

And then we haven’t even talked about the wine lexicon used by wine professionals (tertiary aromas, diurnal range, véraison, botrytis, carbonic maceration, autolytic flavours). I can very well understand that the average wine drinker feels intimidated by it. It’s a wine word jungle out there.

As much as I like to educate people on wine, I think we should embrace the Twanny and Apple Lotion drinkers, interested in just the contents of the bottle and the enjoyment of drinking the (for us so fascinating) grape liquid.

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