A chat with Julia Hallman, general manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge this week about the shelf talkers that I had been busy rewriting. The time between taking the old ones down and putting the new ones up gave me a chance to see what the response of our clientele would be to their temporary disappearance. The result of our little experiment: shoppers really do rely on them.
So now the question becomes what these signlets should say. There‘s not a lot of space to work on business card size tags (example at left). Julia noted that based on what she had been hearing constituent grape variety/varieties are the most sought-after data. This started me down a road I’ve trudged before: just what is it consumers are thinking when they ask “What kind of wine is this?”
It’s a question that has its origin in what I have called elsewhere the fog of wine: that disturbing combine of mystery, doubt, and anxiety all of us feel at one time or another as we try to find our way through the thickets of place names, soil types, cultivars, and flavor profiles wine confronts us with.
Though it seems natural enough now, clearing the fog by focusing on grape varietals is a relatively recent phenomenon. The likely reason it took so long: the wine industry’s deep, historic aversion to transparency. For centuries wine was distributed via brokers and negociants whose business it was to blend stocks of wine into saleable condition while completely obscuring the process by which they accomplished this.