People often think that being a sommelier consists of drinking wine all day and then talking to guests of the restaurant all night. Sure, there is some truth in that. I am lucky enough to taste a great deal of wine, but I also have to do a lot of research about the wine independently. In this day and age, I am thankful for the internet as a resource tool.
Most wineries have a website, making it easy to learn more about what is in the bottle. However, many of these wine sites are consumer-focussed and/or purely marketing and lack any sort of the technical detail I require as a professional sommelier.
There are waiters to train, other sommeliers to discuss with and most importantly, paying guests that ask questions. When it is 9pm on a Friday I need to know whether or not that Riesling is sweet or just how juicy that Shiraz really is. Is there enough acidity to stand up to the braised lamb shoulder?
If I want to completely geek out about a wine and learn about the clones of each variety and what vineyard they are grown in, I should be able to find that out with a click of the mouse. Wineries are kidding themselves if they think flashy web sites are all people are interested in.
There is a laundry list of things that are helpful for any sommelier or serious wine drinker; the more information there is available the better off we all will be. We are, obviously, trying to enjoy and share wine.
In this day and age of corporate transparency, it seems to make sense that wineries would want to lay out as much information as possible.
www.Winery Website Wish Wist:
- Dates the harvest happened, and if you have been making wine for more than 5 years, please have technical details about previous vintages.
- If you regularly taste back vintages (as I assume you should), please have notes about what stage the wine is at and how they are progressing.
- Maps are fantastic. No matter how small you are at least have some sort of an aerial view of your vineyard. If you have own or purchase from different vineyards in your area show maps of them and talk a little about who grows the grapes. Site matters.
- The grower is as important as the winemaker and should be recognized too. Tell us about winemaking practices: sustainable/organic/biodynamic.
- Short videos are the way forward. If a winery can make a video that is short enough for the viewer to watch quickly, with the winemaker talking about the vintage, the wine, the winemaking techniques, it would be a bonus.
At the very least, please have a PDF tech sheet for each wine. There are people that print and file such things and use them as training tools. I often say that the being a sommelier is like being the midwife of the winemaker. We are making sure that the wine is in the most ideal condition possible when first poured into a glass for a guest.
Of course there are many other details that may or not be needed, but from where I drink I crave these details. And wineries that are serious and proud about their wines and where they came from should also be interested in such details, and getting the word out to the world.
Bookmark These Winery Websites
In my opnion, the best winery website (with interactive maps, detailed tech sheets and a short video of the winemaker talking about each wine) isRidge.
One of the most comprehensive BC winery websites is Orofino Vineyards.
For all the dreamers out there, one of the best Bordeaux websites is Mouton. There is lots of info here plus great stories about each artist.
Most champagne houses rely on flash and music to try and get their point across. However Pierre Gimonnet & Fils is one that has fantastic information and is easy to access.
Vietti has great pictures of the labels, plus notes and PDF’s on back vintages
Antinori provides detailed maps and information on all their wines.
Great info here on biodynamics and loads of info about the appellation and wine on the Coulée de Serrant site.
Good effort by Brewer-Clifton winery to make a short video about each wine.
Detailed, great maps and interactive video maps on the Sea Smoke website
Kistler Vineyards shows that it’s all about the soil in the vineyard here.
The iconic and ironic Bonny Doon Vineyards gives us a fantastic video about the virtues of the screwcap.
Originally published here in Eat Magazine