by Mark Oldman
Story by Vincenza Di Maggio
There are two kinds of wine enthusiasts. There are the wine snobs, those who have perfected the ever-so-gracious swill of the wine glass (utilizing just the right amount of wrist action), are scandalized by the mere thought of putting an ice cube in their wine, and who can’t resist using words like “spoofalated,” “obsequious,” and “malolactic fermentation,” – terms that anyone not a member of the insider world of wine might confuse with a foreign language.
There are these people, and then there’s Mark Oldman – whose book Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, winner of the 2011 Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award, proves that this sort of wine personality is rare; and a welcome exception to the rule.
Let’s face it; the majority of our guests are not wine experts. Oldman sympathizes with those wine lovers who find themselves at a loss when it comes time to order from a wine list. He says, “How is one supposed to choose, make a $30-50 investment within 30 seconds, based on what producer name is? Sometimes I look at wine lists and shake my head. How is someone supposed to know how to order with just the basic information?”
In his book Oldman put together a list of “Brave New Pours” – unfamiliar wines that are either on the cutting-edge or worthy of rediscovery – and is clearly descriptive in his explanations of the qualities of each wine type. The book is filled to the rim with insightful findings, such as his discovery (wine snobs continue reading at your own risk) that some red wines are actually better when “shocked” or slightly chilled in an ice bucket, and his innovative deduction that rose’ wine is underappreciated or, as he so hilariously puts is, “Is misjudged as the vinous equivalent of Mariah Carey’s hemline or Donald Trump’s hairline. It is guilty not by association, but by pigmentation.”
Through his book Oldman invites the reader into the coveted insider world of wine and dares them to “drink bravely.” He says, “I see myself as a bridge between the pros and 99 percent of the wine drinking public. My passion is to give the casual drinker the opportunity to have fun with and experiment with wine.”
Oldman’s infectious personality spills onto the pages of his book as he takes the reader on a wine tasting from the greatest wineries around the world all the way back to his family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. The Stanford graduate ingeniously uses hilarious anecdotes, vivid analogies, and illustrative descriptions to attribute a personality to each wine type, offering the reader a taste before ever even taking a sip.
For example, refer to his description of Aglianico wine, a wine with a “square jaw and a mean streak” that, according to Oldman, would ideally be savored in George Clooney’s personal study. Oldman details the qualities of the wine in this excerpt from the book, “Aglianico is all about old-school masculinity – a big, rich, son-of-a-bitch that doesn’t really care whether you like it’s powerful display of sour cherry and black currants and scents of tobacco, tar, leather, or bitter chocolate.”
Oldman also cleverly includes thoughtful quotations from 144 “Bravehearts” – from chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse to Bill Nye (aka “The Science Guy”), from CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to actress Hillary Swank, from hip-hop star Busta Rhymes to actor Antonio Banderas – admired celebrities who share their vinous preferences and whose opinions we trust.
After each wine profile Oldman includes a convenient summary chart that comprises of a graph on which he maps the price and “adventure-level” of the wine as well as includes other useful information, like the weight of the wine and suggestions for foods that best accompany the wine and a pronunciation key – a detail that Oldman adamantly encourages be included on wine lists. Oldman fervently says, “I feel strongly that pronunciations are the brick wall from preventing most of us from trying new wines. Nothing’s worse than when you order that wine and the bartender or waiter repeats it back to you with a different pronunciation. Basically saying I’ll give you this beverage or pour but you pronounced it wrong. It pierces your heart.”
Oldman also advocates for educating staff members in the wines the establishment offers. He insists, “Bartenders and sommeliers are really the ambassadors for drinking bravely. Their reaction and their knowledge and their empathy will determine if someone has the confidence to venture beyond the usual suspects.”
Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine is the key to discovering the insider world of wine, a world your customers yearn to be a part of. Incorporating the wines Oldman highlights in his book onto your establishment’s wine list, and including a clear description of each wine type is a subtle way of inspiring customers to experiment with a wine outside of their comfort zone and differentiating your establishment from the competition.
We recommend using Oldman’s book as a guide to broadening your vinous horizons and introducing your clientele to a distinctive selection of wines “beyond the usual suspects.”