Guest: "What is Txakolina?"
Server: "It's a Spanish white wine. It just means farm."
Sometimes sommeliers, servers, or bartenders don't know the answer, so they make something up! What have you overheard at restaurants or wine bars that made you do a double take?
I think it's important to be cognizant that there are always people out there that know more and know less than you and to take everything with the humor appropriate. If it's an education seminar or class then by all means, correct the pronunciation, grape variety, or style with the humility and subtly that our profession has taught us. If it's a restaurant or retail setting with a guest, then realize what they mean, what they want, what they are trying to say, and get them the best beverage that meets their needs while allowing them to be the star of the evening. Knowledge is great when used to enhance a guest experience, not when it's used to make fun or belittle.
I don't know if this thread is moving that way, but kind of seems that way, and I would just caution against that. I've drank Egon Muller Scharzhofberger before and had no idea what it was, didn't know that DRC made marc, still thought it was "Y" and not yrgec until months ago when I heard it said outloud when a generous friend poured me some. And never during these times was I made to feel embarrassed or "wrong", simply a bottle of DRC marc appeared, we talked about scharzhofberger, and had some of the best white Bordeaux I've ever had. It's a really exciting time in the sommelier community and we all need to be ambassadors and raise the tide so all the ships follow.
I like that many of these comments are us sharing our own foibles
Exactly why I never bothered to correct the guest with his Burgundy-Cab even though I probably could have figured out a way to do it gently. Just let them think it was a lighter style or vintage, steered them to something safer that they would be comfortable spending more money on than another “risky” French bottle.
Now when it was my staff in the Riesling/Burgundy fiasco, and because the error was realized before the bottle was open, I tried to sort things out before opening the bottle just to be safe. That was more on correcting my staff than the guest anyway.
I still think it’s funny to picture one of my best servers talking to a table about this Riesling blend from Burgundy and whatever else he came up with. Just goes to show that if you can deliver your line smoothly and with confidence, you can truly sell people bullshit.
Oh man that reminds me of one of my more embarrassing moments. It kinda feels like therapy to talk about these things, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has mixed up regions or something before.
Two top is in for dinner and I can’t remember if he was the winemaker or owner of one of the top estates in Priorat but that’s what he was drinking and he definitely knew what he was talking about. I didn’t know any of this yet though, and they were drinking an older Clos Erasmus and his guest asked what grape it was while I was refilling their glasses. Idk if I got Priorat and Ribera del Duero confused or what, but my brain was thinking about Tempranillo from somewhere with more French oak and bigger extraction so that’s what I said. Compared it to Rioja, etc. He just stared at me for a minute before informing me that they grow Grenache and Carignan in Priorat and Spain isn’t just Tempranillo. That’s when he told me who he was and it became obvious that he knew what he was talking about. We somewhat pleasantly agreed that I should stick to the Napa Cabs and he could tell me more about Spain and Priorat, but that I should really read more about Spain too, especially since I was working in a steakhouse. He said there were some great values there but also world class wines and looking back now that guy was so right. He was telling his guest stories about Rene Barbier and Scala Dei and I couldn’t even remember the correct varietal. I just wish I had known more about Spain at the time, I really should have picked his brain a lot more than I did.