Responsibility of the Wine Experts

Ask I've always thought of ASK.com as a search engine masquerading as a font of information for the search engine illiterate. That's a little harsh and I'm probably wrong about it.

The other day an representative from ASK.com sent me the top ten wine questions asked at the site. Here they are:

1. How many calories are in a glass of wine?
2. How do I make wine?
3. What is port wine?
4. How many bottles of wine are in a case?
5. What is marsala wine?
6. What wine goes best with chicken?
7. Who is the god of wine?
8. How long does wine last once opened?
9. How do I remove red wine spills from carpet?
10. What is the best way to open a bottle of wine?

Eye these questions real closely. Are they not the exact questions you'd expect of a group of folks with little or no knowledge of wine but who drinks and uses wine? Perhaps the exception is question #7: Who is the God of Wine? Lucky no one asked me that question as I'd probably say something flippant like, " 'Third Eye Blind' of course."

The think is, I have to share what struck me as I read through the top wine questions that ASK.com got: I really need to remember NOT to be flippant or condescending when I'm asked a wine question by someone who is without knowledge of the subject. Those of us in the industry and who spend most of our time with folks that have deep knowledge of wine never confront these questions. So I know that when I am asked something like "What's the best way to open a bottle of wine" I might at first be taken about by the ignorance of the questioner.

I can't help be taken aback by that. But I can help rendering a response that isn't condescending. The point is, among the many things that those of us who work in and around wine should remember is that we can really help turn a person off to wine by the kind of responses we give to the simplest questions.

Message of the Day: Patience, Kindness and Helpfulness Is Part of the Job!!

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  1. Chef E - March 22, 2010

    Great piece- Thanks for posting this, I already figured you are an all around good guy, maybe even fun to talk too, so keep the nose down 🙂

  2. Mark's Wine Clubs - March 22, 2010

    How to open a wine bottle? Napoleon army style with a sword of course! Oh wait, that was champagne?
    I’ve read a number of places that we should all be writing our websites at a high school level (or lower if possible) so that we don’t turn off any readers, I wonder if that same premise works for wine organizations….do regular people really wonder about this stuff? Or are the Ask users just a bit behind the curve?

  3. K. Mahoney - March 22, 2010

    I just opened up my Northbay Biz publication and guess who I saw? Possibly one of my bookmarked bloggers. Great interview!

  4. Doug W. - March 22, 2010

    If we do not help the next generation of wine drinkers and most importantly those who will buy the products. How can we sustain sales and an intrest in the products we feel are so important? Yes my kids have asked some of those questions, well not who is the wine god.

  5. Christy Frank - March 22, 2010

    I think regular people absolutely wonder about these things. I remember a statistic from the Constellation wine genome research project…something about if you’ve ever had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, than you’re actually among the wine elite. It’s not so much that the general public is so far behind the curve – we’re just extremely ahead of the curve. And tend to spend most of our time with other that are ahead of the curve.
    I don’t think this means we need to dumb down are writing. On my blog, assume that if you’re reading it, you’re interested enough to either know what I’m talking about or go find out. But if someone walks into my store and asks for Zinfandel – and it turns out they mean the pink kind – it does no one any good to roll my eyes. Better to point out a nice, juicy rose or a great Riesling with a bit of sweetness. Every day I’m reminded that I might be all that stands between a customer and very happy wine drinking future. And that’s actually not a bad place to be.
    Great post! BTW – how many calories are in a glass of wine? No, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.
    -Christy

  6. David Cole - March 22, 2010

    Tom, these are questions I get often when working a tasting event or pouring for a dealer. I think one of the reason folks don’t end up liking or appreciating wine, is because “wine people” talk down to them. I’ve always felt that there are no stupid questions that can be asked about wine. Folks that asks question are curious and it’s our chance to enhance, educate and win them over. To have more fans of wine and the wine life style so to speak. It also doesn’t take $100 bottle to impress someone, unless they are just a pretentious a-hole. So helping educate these people on wine, wine quality is our job as winemakers, winery owners, staff etc.
    The wine business needs to take the “Poker” strategy. Look how fast poker has grown these last few years! The strategy is simple, there is a level in poker where everyone can come in, $1 tables, $5 tables or $100 tables. The folks at the $100 are often looked to for advice and teach the other folks. I see in the wine business to many folks at the wine level $100 talk down to the other tiers. This doesn’t keep people engaged and want to drink more, buy more or collect wine. I think this hurts us all.
    Thank you for sharing the questions, it gives us all a chance to look in the mirror and ensure we are being ambassadors for all to follow.

  7. Charlie Olken - March 22, 2010

    Tom–
    I am not surprised at the questions. After all, would we really expect questions like “which is the best value in Napa Valley cult Cabernets”, or “why does Rose Champagne cost so much more than equivalent Brut bottlings”?
    And judging by the endless array of questions I get asked at our Christmas and Fourth of July neighborhood parties, I don’t see many folks afraid to ask questions. What I see is a desire for knowledge that we all feed.
    Of course, one of the problems is that I do not know the answers to ASK Questions 7, 8 and 9. And the answer to ten might be “twist to the left two turns”–or is that considered condescending?

  8. Gary "Iron" Chevsky - March 22, 2010

    Funny to have stumbled on your post, Tom. Not sure if you know – I actually was a founding team member of Ask.com from 1996 to 2006, and much of the question answering technology was my creation. Indeed the most popular questions were the most generic and seemingly stupid (for instance, “why is poop brown” or “why did the chicken cross the road?”). Little did I know back then (when I didn’t care about wine) that our paths would cross in this fashion! Cool topic.
    Best regards,
    Iron Chevsky.

  9. Mike Dunne - March 22, 2010

    These aren’t questions from people who drink wine, but questions from people stumped in the middle of a game of “wine trivia” who desperately seek an answer so they can get this damn contest over and get to bed.

  10. outdoor security camera - March 23, 2010

    Yes, It’s right… You have to manage all these things…

  11. Scott - March 23, 2010

    That list can’t be right. Where is “Why can’t I order wine from a store in another state?”

  12. Steve Heimoff - March 23, 2010

    The god of wine is, obviously, Ehren Jordan! But seriously, it always strikes me that the more comfortable people feel with wine, the less snobby they are. The snobs who like to show off their knowledge are just insecure. And by the way I don’t know the answers to 1 and 9!

  13. Ms. Drinkwell - March 23, 2010

    “Those of us in the industry and who spend most of our time with folks that have deep knowledge of wine never confront these questions.” Very true, and this is at the heart why the vast majority of people who read wine blogs are other people who write wine blogs.

  14. fredfric koeppel - March 24, 2010

    when I was a college teacher of creative writing and used to serve on panels and do workshops, people in the audience could be counted on to ask these questions: 1. do you have a favorite place to write? 2. do you write at a certain time of day? 3. how do you prepare yourself for inspiration? 4. should i write about what i know or what i imagine? None of these questions actually has anything to do with how writing of any sort gets done, yet they had to be answered carefully and seriously, without condescension, and the case is also true with the questions and topics that Tom mentions in his post. if we are snide or cynical or sophisticated, we will lose people who may truly want to learn about wine and how to drink it and relate it to their favorite foods and the culture of their homes. beginners have to begin somewhere.

  15. Approach Guides Wine - March 24, 2010

    Very interesting and good to keep in mind when doing marketing/PR. I saw another article recently that you might find interesting: How Wine Lovers Use Social Media http://bit.ly/aR7Gjv
    – Jennifer

  16. casey - March 24, 2010

    That’s awesome that you mentioned Third Eye Blind as I always think of them first at mention of “God of Wine”
    It still is my 2nd favorite of all of their great songs (#1 is The Background)

  17. Thefoodforwine - March 31, 2010

    q4: Last time tried Chicken with feta cheese. Paired with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (2009) New Zealand!

  18. Karl @ MyWinePal - March 31, 2010

    Yes it is amazing the questions you get that you think are quite obvious, but for many people, they really don’t know. I’ve had people ask me if a bottle of wine in front of them is red or white wine, or if they sell red wine in the wine shop I once worked at. Many don’t know really what they want, so you need to draw out their needs, like asking if the wine is for a party, what kind of food they were going to have with the wine, if they like red or white wine, etc. I can then help them find something they like. It makes me happy to help people.

  19. Clenbuterol - September 30, 2010

    If this info is trustful you can focus on it while making a pr campaign

  20. arizona advertising agencies - November 8, 2010

    great set of questions. got everything covered.

  21. Juliet Johnson - July 26, 2011

    What you know may not be on the same level with that of another person. Just be grateful that you can be a good source of knowledge and wisdom for these wine enthusiasts.


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