Friday, April 10, 2015

Does a wine bottles shape matter?

We've heard it a thousand times...

Customer: "I was at a friends house and they were serving a wine that everyone really liked but I can't remember what the name was, can you help me?"

Me: "I can certainly try"

Customer: "I know they shop here so I thought if I walked around I might recognize the label. But you guys have alot of stuff and so much of it looks alike."

It is the start of many conversations throughout the course of a typical day, or week on the wine floor here at Harry's.

I have certainly been in the situation as I am trying to remember a wine I have had and you have probably been there too.

The good news is that we have exercised this muscle many times so we each have developed a group of questions that help us to help the customer in need....

Mine go like this:

Red or White?
Do you know which varietal it was?
Do you know its counrty of origin? (Spanish, French, American, etc...)
Was the bottle shaped like this?
or this?

A few questions that help to narrow the search quite a bit in just a minute or so. 

That last question which may seem innocuous enough but it actually tells quite a story. In the world of wine there are two primary bottle shapes and really only four in total. (not 100% true but for argument sake it is close enough). Some of these bottle shapes, in some regions, are mandated by law and do not offer any flexibility. For example, if you are a french wine maker and you are in the Bordeaux region, there is one option. and the same holds true of any french wine growing region.
Here are the four basic bottle types:

In the United States the rules are not law but we do tend to follow the lead for the most part. A Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay are packaged in a Burgundy shaped bottle almost 100% of the time. While a Cabernet or Merlot almost always come in a Bordeaux bottle. When you begin to look around any wine shop you will notice that the rest of the world stays pretty much in line with that thinking. in fact it is easier to point out the countries that don't necessarily "follow the rules" than those that do.

 Some people reading this will know that the Burgundy region of France produces two wines, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Notice the bottle shape?

Now look at our American sections for those varietals.

Bordeaux uses Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec (along with a couple others) for reds and Sauvignon Blanc (Semillion too but lets keep it simple here). Notice the bottle shape.
And the Amercan counterparts...
Argentinian Malbec...
The Kiwi's aren't as regimented when it comes to varietal and bottle shape. In fact, our shelves show that the Burgundy shaped bottle (Chardonnay) is the most popular right now for their Sauvignon Blancs (although a few of them are using the "correct" Bordeaux shape)
In Italy it is more of a north/south thing with the northern part of the county using primarily (not exclusively) the Burgundy shape and Tuscany and areas further south using the Bordeaux bottle for the most part.
Rosé seems to break all of the rules as you can see in this picture so we are going to leave them out of this discussion right now and just go with the idea that if a customer is looking for a Rosé, we can narrow it down to about 100 bottles in one section of our store and start there.

As I indicated earlier, it is not a perfect science and there are exceptions to every rule but it is a very strong starting point and eliminates about half of the bottles in the store each time the question gets answered.


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