When I first started here at TWH several years ago, I immediately learned I would be helping customers whose wine knowledge and experience ranged from beginner to MW, or Master of Wine. If I didn’t already know a customer, a little conversation would give me a clue as to where they might be, but one never knows for sure. Though, as is policy for any retailer, all customers are treated with the utmost respect.
Earlier this week, two customers entered the shop. After greeting them, it seemed they wanted to browse on their own. I lifted my eyes from my flat screen from time to time to check on them, and all seemed fine. It’s a fact, smartphones are tools that all young people have, and one of these two gents was staring at his. A short time later, he walked over to me and asked if we carried a particular wine that he recently enjoyed and showed me a picture from his phone. I was surprised (and impressed) that the bottle was a Bourgogne Aligoté made by one of Burgundy’s most famous red wine producers. He raved and raved about it. I said we don’t, and proceeded to look for a local merchant who might carry it, using WineSearcher Pro. I found one, but it was pretty pricey. Which got me to thinking, if this producer thinks they can sell their Aligoté for $80 retail, we here at TWH are sitting on a bargain. A big bargain!
Considered Burgundy’s “other” white grape, Aligoté
once constituted nearly half of the white grapes planted in the region. I first heard of Aligoté my first month here,
at a dinner with one of David’s tasting groups. A white Burgundy had been poured double-blind (single blind is when one knows what wines are being poured, but not which is which; double-blind leaves the taster with no clue at all), the tasters all explained their rationale in thought and then took a stab at guessing what it was. One notable Bay Area wine personality’s guess was an older Aligoté.
This acted as the catalyst for some research I would be doing shortly thereafter. If a wine expert could confuse a Premier Cru white Burgundy with an Aligoté, I needed to know about Aligoté!
Wine research has two facets, reference material and liquid material. There’s enough written about Aligoté to give one a basic understanding of the grape and the wine it produces, but just like reading about how to swim, one must jump in! Luckily, we stock Aligoté from time to time, so it was time to jump. It smelled like Burgundy, it tasted like Burgundy, well what do you know, it WAS Burgundy. I found it to be less voluptuous as Chardonnay can be, with fresher acidity levels. I was told that there were austere versions of the wine which require a kiss of Crème de Cassis, creating the famous Kir. But fortunately, the Aligotés that we’ve imported over the years have been well balanced, fresh, and complex.
It’s been a really fun week here at TWH in Dogpatch, we’ve had some wonderful customer interactions! It’s always nice to hear a customer compliment our write-ups, and this week we received high praise from more than a handful of you! On another occasion, a neighbor was entertaining her sister who lives on the east coast, and after helping them with a bottle or two, after they left, but before they were in the car, the sister exclaimed, “they ARE pleasant!” He-he. Later that day, a regular, friendly customer who hadn’t visited us in a while told me that we were, hands down, his favorite local wine shop! He mentioned a competitor, and said that he had been there a couple of times, but couldn’t get the time of day while there. We had a fun conversation and afterwards, as I was helping put his wine in the car, he asked me what time it was. I told him around 5, but didn’t know exactly. He excitedly said, “See, I can get the time of day!” I looked puzzled. He repeated it gleefully. I still didn’t get it. Wake up, Pete.
All kidding aside, speaking for all of my colleagues, we are so grateful for counting all of you as customers and greatly appreciate your reading of our communications! Each and every interaction is precious to us, and we feel extremely lucky to be able to provide such service in this wonderful environment! To further comment on the aforementioned east coast sister’s comment that we ARE pleasant; how can we NOT be? Try the 2013 Paul Pernot Aligoté, it’s delicious! – Peter Zavialoff