ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why do wine shop employees feel compelled to force a wine from a tasting on a buyer? I went to my local wine shop to buy a wine that the salesperson said I wouldn’t like, and I should try another from the tasting. I did and didn’t like it at all: too hot, too lean, too austere and the polar opposite of what I wanted. My tastes are more New World and more fruity when it comes to Pinot Noir, and this employee wouldn’t take no for an answer! The shop has good prices and I bought what I wanted anyway.

—Paul M., Arlington, Mass.

Dear Paul,

If you walked away from a wine transaction feeling this way, that salesperson did a terrible job. No one should feel guilty or defensive about his or her preference for wine. While I don’t know exactly what went down, I imagine your salesperson focused on the commission for the sale in front of them, and not on creating a relationship with a potential return customer. Sometimes a producer will do a promotion with a restaurant or wine shop that rewards people who sell their product with a prize or even a trip, which can make a strong sales pitch particularly suspect.

In defense of the wine shop, I imagine offering free samples of wine can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they can start a conversation with their customers about wine. On the other hand, there is always the potential for some people to take advantage of the opportunity for free glasses of wine. We also have to be respectful as consumers. If someone downed 4 or 5 free samples of a wine and then said it wasn’t to their liking, they might deserve to be questioned on why they didn’t purchase a bottle.

—Dr. Vinny


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