I’ve recently starting working as the Wine Manager for a large retailer and as you can imagine, one of the key parts of the job is to advise customers on various wine inquiries. This can be quite rewarding, but also challenging if you’re new to the store and still learning its selection. As for myself, it was my first day and I was doing all I could to acquaint myself with what seemed like an endless sea of wine.
A customer then walked up to me and made the simple request, “I’m having lobster tonight and don’t know what to get. Which wine would you recommend?”
Lobster in February? Lucky you, I thought. Well, as I’ve learned through prior retail experience, questions like these require creativity, but most of all, quick thinking. I once had someone tell me that the best lobster wine combo, bar none, is lobster and Vinho Verde. I instantly said that, then thought—oh, wait—maybe at a summer clam broil, but it’s below freezing outside!
His response: “I’m Portuguese. I know Vinho Verde. I want to try something else.” Okay, take-two.
Scouring my brain a little more, I thought of Viognier and showed him one from California. The thought of that and lobster made my mouth water, though he was a bit skeptical. “It’s got a fuller, creamier body that would match the lobster, especially if you’ll be dipping it in butter. Taste-wise, it’s dry, but fruity, somewhat tropical. Viognier is also very aromatic, meaning the wine gives off a strong flowery scent—you know, help cover up any fishiness from the lobster (kidding—didn’t say that).
“Hmmmmm… I don’t know. What else would you recommend?” Okay take-three.
At this point I was telling myself I need to eat more lobster.
“You’re definitely looking for a white wine?” I asked (just to cover all bases).
“Who drinks red with lobster?” Of course.
Okay… again, hmmmmmm… Ah-ha—my favorite wine pairing approach: “Why not try a local white, like a Vidal Blanc? You know, if it grows together, it goes together.” (I LOVE that approach to wine pairing!)
“Nah, I want something different.” Oh, gees… take-four.
“Are you looking for something unusual then? Exotic maybe?”
“Yeah, exotic would be good. You know, try something else.”
For some reason, I instantly thought of a South African Chenin Blanc. It just popped in my head. “How about a wine from South Africa?
“Ooh, South Africa?” Okay, exotic covered.
“Chenin blanc from South Africa is generally dry, but also full-bodied and creamy, which will match the texture of the lobster like the Viognier.” Of course, after I lead him over to the South African rack, I noticed most of the Chenin Blancs were labeled under the synonym Steen.
“Okay, [picking up a bottle] this is a South African Chenin Blanc. However, it says “Steen” on the label because that’s the name they often call it there…” Really, honestly—you asked for exotic, right?
I think by this point we were all a bit tired. So he asked, “Of the wines you mentioned, which one would you choose?”
“Hands down, the California Viognier,” I responded. He must have liked my decisiveness because he said he’d go with the suggestion. So, we moseyed back over to the California Misc. Whites section and I handed him a bottle of Cline Viognier. I hope he liked it.